ASU Outdoor Programs receives top honors, national award
Appalachian State University’s Outdoor Programs received the David J. Webb Program Excellence Award at the recent Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) National Conference held in in San Antonio, Texas.
The award is presented annually to a nonprofit outdoor program, which has made outstanding and noteworthy contributions to, and achievements in, the field of outdoor recreation and education.
AORE, considered the definitive association focused on university outdoor programs, presents the national award to the institution that best represents the values of the association.
The award acknowledges ASU Outdoor Programs as one of the national leaders in collegiate outdoor programming.
“Being selected by our peers is quite flattering,” said Rich Campbell, associate director of Outdoor Programs. “It’s really a testament to our student staff. Their commitment and skills are top-notch, and we rely on them to implement so many of our programs and services. To be recognized among universities of all sizes, nationwide, across all categories is really an honor for us. We strive every day to be the best that we possibly can, and to be the program recognized by AORE in 2011 is humbling and quite exciting.”
Appalachian has a lengthy involvement in AORE history. In 1990, Appalachian hosted what was then known as the International Conference on Outdoor Recreation. Since that time, students, staff, and faculty members from Appalachian have presented numerous educational sessions and research symposium presentations. They have also served on multiple committees as chairs and members.
Outdoor Programs’ mission is “to promote discovery through student-powered adventure,” and its core values include diversity, adventure, education and development, Campbell said.
This summer, Outdoor Programs led its first “Source to Sea” program, where students paddled a single watershed from its source on Grandfather Mountain to the Atlantic Ocean. The program also completed its seventh month-long expedition to New Zealand. Last year, the program received $10,000 from the Polartec Challenge Grant. That money is being used to provide scholarships for students who cannot afford Outdoor Program trips and services, to extend the instructor development program, and expand environmental stewardship programs.
Outdoor Programs is dedicated to using research and assessment to continue informing and improving its student development programs by studying issues, such as carbon footprints of outdoor trips, cultural competency of trip participants and barriers to participation of diverse student populations on their trips and programs.
Regular programs for students include skill-based clinics, challenge course team-building activities, rock climbing, paddling and hiking, as well as overnight, weekend and semester break programs. The month-long domestic and international expeditions provide students the opportunity to receive academic credit for their adventures.
Campbell said Outdoor Programs strives to minimize its environmental impact by practicing “leave no trace” environmental ethics, preserving green spaces, minimizing waste, incorporating service, planting trees, purchasing carbon credits where appropriate and emphasizing reduce-reuse-and-recycle practices.
In addition to serving the needs of students at Appalachian, Outdoor Program also serves the Boone community. One of its new initiatives is the Appalachian Adventure Achievement Award (A4), which recognizes local youth who excel in outdoor pursuits and give back to their community.
Outdoor Programs sponsors the Blue Ridge Parkway Corps, which is a group of volunteers who spend weekends preserving local hiking trails. They also host an annual climbing competition, one of the largest annual screenings in North America of the Banff Mountain Film Festival, and one of the region’s most prestigious photography competitions, the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition.
During the 2011 conference, graduate assistant Keith Crawford was awarded one of two Student Literary Awards, which recognize one undergraduate and one graduate student with excellent writing skills. Recipients of the award receive a scholarship to attend the next year’s national conference.
Crawford’s literary work, “Theoretical Orientation and Philosophy of Group Work,” is a personal reflection about how he has helped groups and teams develop based on published theories. It also reflects on the leadership styles he has taken on as an outdoor educator.
“This award means a lot to me,” Crawford said. “It’s a combination of my experience in the field along with academics. The best kind of learning is when you can bring your different experiences together in a coherent way.”
The mission of AORE is to provide opportunities for professionals and students in the field of outdoor recreation and education to exchange information, promote the preservation and conservation of the natural environment, and address issues common to college, university, community, military and other not-for-profit outdoor recreation and education programs.
To learn more about AORE, visit http://www.aore.org. For more information about Appalachian’s Outdoor Programs, visit http://www.op.appstate.edu or call (828) 262-4077.