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What Is Outdoor Leadership?

By Missy Levine-Student

One of the most common questions I am asked when I'm talking about my major is; What is Outdoor Leadership? Having been faced with this question more than once, I have realized that there is more than one answer. I have also realized that the answers will vary greatly depending on who you ask and what their interests are. For the sake of this article, I will describe what I think Outdoor Leadership is.

Outdoor Leadership is fun. In the curriculum we learn how to lead and effectively use group activities and games to encourage teamwork and trust. This concept is genius. People like to have fun and people generally do not equate learning with fun. As a matter of fact, in my studies in this program, I have often thought "This can't be real. We are having way too much fun to be learning anything." Well, we are learning something, it goes far beyond the technical and philosophical aspects of Outdoor Leadership. We are encouraged to take a closer look at ourselves. We examine our spiritual, as well as our intellectual beings. And the most incredible thing about it is we are doing all this while we are having fun.

The people in the Outdoor Leadership major are like family to me. We have experienced so many different things together, some of which have involved sharing ourselves. I don't know what the dynamics are like in some of the other academic curricula at Warren Wilson, but in Outdoor Leadership we have laughed, cried, and encouraged each other just like in a family. The faculty provide a basis for learning, encourages us through positive feedback and even gets on our case when we are slacking off, (in and out of class).

While there is much to say about the program philosophy, somehow I think it is important for people to understand that there is something really big happening in the basement floor of Carson. We are growing and learning together. I am so glad that I have happened into this extremely fun and demanding major.

Quotes from Students and Community Members:

"There are a couple of classes in the Outdoor Leadership curriculum that I think every student at Warren Wilson College should take before graduating. They are Organization and Administration of Adventure Education and the other is Program Planning and Design. These classes prepare you for the 'real world' in Outdoor Leadership or any other field."

"Sitting in Australia reading the course descriptions I had lots of expectations and hopes of what life would be like at WWC and my major in ODL. It was exciting and a character building experience that has given me a new set of skills to use today and in the future."

"During my time on the Instructor Development Practicum course, I learned that I can't always know where I am and where I am going, and if all I live for is to look to the future, then I really never enjoy where I am and when I am there. Annette, my instructor said breathe. On this course I learned some technical skills, that I'll probably use forever. The group dynamics made me more patient and trusting. But, I learned to breathe on my Outward Bound course and now I'll be breathing forever."

"The experience I had on the Instructor Development Practicum course is one I will reflect on for a lifetime. I have had mixed feelings about the philosophies and teaching style of Outward Bound, but my curiosity makes me eager to learn why people are so drawn to this type of experiential adventure education. I have written and rewritten this essay three times. My thoughts tie themselves up like tiny bowlines. With each day comes reflection and clarification; opportunity to grow and reveal the words of a thousand essays. This course has offered me the experience to have walked a path of understanding and compassion, built bridges of communication, and opportunity to embrace the challenging fears that may live in the history of future days."

" I want to officially thank you for all the great work the students did on the Asheville Middle School Adventure Learning Program. From the very start, the students were not only involved on an academic level but more importantly on an emotional level - they really wanted to make a difference in the lives of the 6th graders. The life skills taught by the WWC students will make a difference in each of the 6th graders lives for years to come and WWC is be applauded for providing a life changing experience for 300 young people." - Tom Heck, Asheville Middle School Adventure Learning Program Director

" I am pleased to report that Karen has successfully completed her internship with Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge. She did an outstanding job exhibiting thorough competency in all aspects of our program including wilderness travel logistics, group facilitation, outdoor education and winter safety skills." - Paul Schurke, Director Winergreen Dogsled Trips & Arctic Adventure Travel

"Eli arrived with a solid conceptual foundation in the philosophy and the theory of experience-based education. His Internship centered on the Death Valley course of the Athenian Wilderness Experience Program. In every way, Eli excelled. The only suggestions I could make for furthering his pursuit in outdoor leadership, is to have him keep doing exactly what he is doing. It was invaluable to have him and I hope he will return to work with AWE in the near future." Arlene Ustin, Director of The Athenian School Wilderness Program.

"Since Brooks has arrived in May, she has been assigned to numerous duties, including Sea Kayak Eco-tour guiding and Eco-tour promoting. Not only has she taken theses jobs head-on, but has also kept a positive attitude while continuing to do outstanding work for the company. We have enjoyed having Brooks work with us and would love to see her back."- Megan Jones, Touring Manger, Kitty Hawk Sports

"First, let me thank you for allowing Alpine Towers Inc. the opportunity to establish this internship program. The goal of the internship was to allow Carob the opportunity to experience different facts of the challenge course design/install/train business. Carob brought a variety of excellent skills to our company and was given latitude to explore specific interests available with our industry. Several of his major accomplishments included preparing and editing our summer newsletter, adding in the installation of a new design for a hospital client, adding in the development of a large challenge course for Chrysler corporation, crating a series of challenge initiative sketches that will be tried on future courses, and mastering our desktop scanner for archiving graphics."- Joe Lackey, President, Alpine Towers Inc.