Get into elements with Adventure Alaska

Photos courtesy of Ryan Wolosyn

Hopefully every Seawolf student has had a chance to get away from the classrooms and late night cramming sessions at least once or twice during their time here to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

And what a playground we have up here in the 49th state. No matter what season we’re in, there is never a shortage of activities to take part in and get hooked on.

So how is it that UAA, the campus with perhaps one of the biggest backyards in the country for its students to play in, doesn’t have an outdoors program for students to partake in with their fellow Seawolves?

Well, there is in fact such a program, and it has been right under all students’ noses for a while now.

Adventure Alaska may be the best-kept secret around campus. The time has come however, to unveil the new program and let all students in on the fun.

Started in the fall of 2010 by Molly Liston, a recent UAA graduate of the Health, Physical Education & Recreation department (HPER), Adventure Alaska was long overdue for a school like UAA.

“It’s been my dream and goal to head up an outdoor program,” Liston said. “I travelled to Colorado last year and was so inspired by the fact that almost 90 percent four-year universities have outdoor programs and wondered ‘why don’t we have anything like that here, we’re in Alaska’, so I decided to start one.”

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The project, which was started as part of Liston’s internship, got off the ground last Semester with a bit of help from a couple UAA departments.

“I had guided before but never had done any of the administrative things so I had to start from ground zero with (Adventure Alaska) and got support from Commuter Student Services and the HPER Department,” Liston said.

The collaboration saw four trips last season in which students had the opportunity to go cross-country skiing in Hatcher’s Pass, rafting on the Matanuska River, and rock climbing in Turnagain. These initial adventures got nothing but praise from those who attended.

“It’s an awesome way to meet people through the school that you wouldn’t otherwise meet. It’s also a way to get out and see different parts of Alaska and do fun things that you wouldn’t normally get a chance to do,” said Jeff Crompton, a senior geology major who went on the rafting trip. “Everyone had that common interest in wanting to be outdoors.”

The concept of getting to know new people in an outdoors environment was one of Liston’s hopes in helping provide a sense of community here at UAA through the common interest of enjoying our landscape.

“It was nice because you got to know (other students) with something you were all doing together and were interested in, we all had that in common,” said Sabrina Peplow, a junior HPER major.

According to Peplow, Adventure Alaska provided not only a great and affordable way to get outside, but the whole experience was made better from Liston herself who doubled as administrator and guide for the trips.

“She was really professional and definitely knew what she was doing,” Peplow said. “She kept safety a priority and let us all know what the safety precautions were and helped make it a lot of fun.”

So with so many positives coming out of the program, why hasn’t Adventure Alaska yet taken-off here around campus?

“I think that’s the problem we face here with everything is just getting the word out that there is something good going on for commuter students,” said David Murdoch, who is the UAA Commuter Student Services Coordinator who has helped team up with Liston and even taken part in going on trips. “I think we got some good momentum for next year and it’s going to pick up.”

Students now can sign up for the trips the same way as they would for their classes. The site in which students use to organize their course schedule, UAOnline, has all 10 trips Adventure Alaska is offering for the Fall 2011 semester. The non-credit courses can be found under the Physical Education and Recreation (PER) section.

“We are gearing towards commuter students because they are the students right now, but it’s also open to alumni and faculty,” Liston said when talking about who all can sign up and be one step closer to one of the many adventures the program has in store starting in September.

Of course, let us not forget to mention the fact that one of the main goals is to make these trips easier on the wallets of college students. Daylong trips such as rock climbing, hiking, and cross-country skiing cost students as little as twenty dollars. Good luck finding a better deal that gets you more bang for your buck than that.

Now that you’re planning to go sign up for the course, it’s time to discuss what all you will need to buy for your journey away from campus into the Alaskan wilderness.

Almost nothing.

All the gear for the trips is provided for students who sign up. Whether you decide to go rafting, glacier ice climbing, or backpacking, the program will provide you with the necessary gear to tackle the elements, safe environment in which to put your mind at ease, and the experienced guides to help you along the way.

“That’s really the great thing, students don’t need experience or the gear,” Liston said. “All students need is personal clothes, a lunch, and a smile.”

Still not sold on the concept? How about the fact that Liston aims to expand her staff with fellow students who share her love for the outdoors and give them hands on experience in leadership.

“We do have a vision and to give back to the UAA community even more, my goal is to eventually get students, with a full-time staff member alongside them, to start leading the trips,” Liston said. “It’s going to make them more professional, better trained, and it promotes personal growth.”

So now that you have all the information you need, it’s time for you to get out for a study break. Let Adventure Alaska help you go forth and create your own Alaskan tales of the great outdoors.

Editors Note: Adventure Alaska courses start in September and run through December. For more information, email Molly Liston at [email protected] or go online to www.uaa.alaska.edu/hper and click on the link to Adventure Alaska for more information on the upcoming trips.