How outdoorsy are Whitman students?

Hanna Ory

Whitman has a reputation for being filled with granola-eating, teva-wearing, love-to-starve-myself-in-the-woods-for-ten-days-straight-without-showering students. Recently, Whitman was deemed as having the top college outdoor program in Washington State. Outdoors enthusiasm in part defines the culture of the college, but does the student body, as a whole, reflect this culture?

The Outdoor Program (OP) strives to make wilderness outings as accessible and frequent as possible for students. “Most trips are designed for beginners, with no previous skills required, so that anyone can easily get involved,” said OP trip leader and rental shop employee, Morgan Dumitru. This semester, there are 11 sponsored OP trips, with a current total of 92 students signed up, and hardly any open spots on the remaining trips.

“Trips can fill up anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the popularity of the activity and the amount of advertising,” said Dumitru. The most popular trips tend to be rock and ice climbing trips, and surfzone. The Outdoors Program is undoubtedly extremely popular amongst students, but the diversity of the students it attracts is more questionable.
Though the OP has a strong presence on campus and a heavy influence on the culture of the college, outdoor involvement at Whitman may not be as widespread as people think.

“Some people think of the OP as an ‘in’ crowd, but that’s not our intention at all, we just get a lot of the same people signing up for trips,” said Dumitru. Sophomore Leah Wheeler, who has done one overnight rafting trip and one day kayaking trip, agreed.

“You need to pursue outdoors activities here, they won’t just fall into your hands, so most people that go here will stay at the same level of outdoor involvement that they were at before they came. Just like anything else, people who did a lot of outdoors activities before coming to Whitman will pursue those same activities here, and people that didn’t may not be as likely,” said Wheeler. The exception, however, is students who may never have had the opportunity for outdoors activities in their hometowns.

“Many freshmen sign-up for scrambles with the intent of meeting people before school starts, and then end up staying involved with the OP and doing more trips,” Dumitru said.

Sophomore Megan McIntire does not consider herself an outdoorsy person, but was persuaded by friends to try out a rafting trip last spring. “I went because my friends were going and they talked me into it. I was a little timid before the rafting started because I didn’t have much experience and didn’t want to be responsible for something bad happening to the group. Once we got started, though, it was really fun and everyone was really laid back and not intense at all,” said McIntire.

Though students that are less than enthusiastic about outdoors activities may be intimidated by Whitman’s seemingly intense environmentally-oriented stereotype, the OP community is especially eager to share their passion for the outdoors with novices. They welcome and encourage all interested students to participate in their many programs, and yield high satisfactory ratings.

“The OP is extremely chill. You get to just get off campus, take a break from your busy schedule, and have a fun adventure,” said Wheeler.