Into the wild, student leadership in the backcountry

Leadership opportunities exist in many forms at Gettysburg College. Watch the video and learn about the student leaders of the Gettysburg Recreational Adventure Board.

For the 26 student facilitators of the Gettysburg Recreational Adventure Board (GRAB), leadership takes the form of planning and coordinating backcountry expeditions for their peers. January 2012 saw the culmination of hundreds of hours of planning and training as eight GRAB student facilitators led student groups on three separate week-long trips: kayaking to Tybee Island, Georgia; backpacking across Cumberland Island, Georgia; and rock climbing at Enchanted Rocks, Texas. Student facilitators planned every logistical detail for these trips, from flights, rental cars, and accommodations, to what the group would need in the field for food, water, and shelter.

“I’ve been challenged in ways I couldn’t have imagined, whether it’s kayaking the ocean, climbing a mountain, or being on a cliff peak in Arizona,” said Annie Valentine ’12, a GRAB student facilitator. “I’ve designed and implemented my own expeditions and experiences, things I never thought a college student would be able to do.”

John Regentin, director of Experiential Education, and Kris Nessler, associate director of Experiential Education, train the student facilitators on the backcountry skills, such as map reading, fire making, and weather evaluation. Regentin and Nessler also teach them how to lead groups under the Full Value Contract; an agreement that defines how a group will operate through the practice of open communication and shared respect. "These programs are designed to highlight the concept of shared vision," Regentin said. "Participants are provided with enough information to make informed choices about what they would like to see happen during their trip, and if all goes well, everyone has a say in the framework of the experience."

GRAB student facilitators lead dozens of excursions each semester, from day trips that include hiking, climbing, and kayaking, to trekking expeditions in Ireland and Italy, and mountaineering in Peru. This year marks the inaugural Expedition Institute, a multi-part challenge that culminates with five students sea-kayaking across the Baltic Sea for six weeks. GRAB and the Center for Public Service also offer the pre-orientation Ascent program for first-year and transfer students.

Find out more about GRAB and the Office of Experiential Education.

View photos on flickr.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.


Posted: Fri, 24 Feb 2012


Inspiring young people. Wish we'd had the program 40 years ago.

Linda Harmer Morris - 1974 | Posted Feb 28, 2012 12:44 PM




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