While PSU is definitely an urban campus, that does not mean that we vikings aren’t all about getting into nature. Wanna go to the coast? Sure, it’s just 90 minutes away. The mountains? Go hiking around Mt. Hood or in the Columbia Gorge. Feeling aquatic? Paddle out onto the nearby Willamette or Columbia Rivers.
“I love the access PSU has to wild spaces. It was one of the big reasons I wanted to come here,” says Jacob McCoola, a second-year graduate student in the Leadership and Sustainability Education program.
“Portland was the perfect fit for me. I had always wanted to live in a big city, and not only did Portland seems like a very cool place to live, culturally, but it had such unique closeness to the outdoors.”
Jacob, who spent two years as a naturalist in Colorado and has an intense fondness for outdoor education, is able to complement his degree program (the only one of its kind in Oregon) by working with PSU’s Outdoor Program.
The Outdoor Program, which is in its 50th year, is a resource center aimed at getting students into the outdoors by offering day hikes, weekend camping trips, rock climbing excursions, and much more, all of which are led by students.
“It feels like half of my education has come from working with the Outdoor Program.” Jacob wants to continue using the skills he is gaining through the Program into life after college as an outdoor and sustainability educator.
“It’s the oldest university outdoor program in the country.” Jacob is not only an Outdoor Program Trip Leader, guiding students through explorations of the outdoors, but also the Program’s Outreach Coordinator.
“Being a trip leader is an amazing experience, and really helps students, myself included, gain leadership and management skills.” Any student, regardless of major can become a trip leader by completing the Outdoor Program’s Wilderness Leadership Development program (WiLD). “We get trip leaders from all over the university. We’ve had environmental science majors, linguistics majors, music majors. Anyone with a passion for the outdoors can do it.”
This inclusivity doesn’t only extend to the staff at the Outdoor Program.
The Program isn’t just for students who have experience in the outdoors, but for students seeking to learn new skills, broaden their knowledge of being outside and get to know their fellow students.
“We strive to make our trips and events accessible for all students, regardless of ability.” The Program often collaborates with the Disability Resource Center on campus to find ways to include all types of students in Outdoor Program trips.
“We recently had an awesome paddle boarding event out on the coast that we designed so that it would be inclusive for students with disabilities. It was great and everyone had an amazing time.”
Jacob’s advice for students who want to make use of the Outdoor Program is simple.
“Come on a trip, any trip! I can’t think of a better way to meet people and form a real sense of camaraderie. Plus, it’s an adventure, and who doesn’t want that?”