SSRA helps unite Whitties with the outdoors

Pamela London

Whitman is renowned for its academic achievement, but one of the things that attracts many students to come to Walla Walla is our prominent outdoorsy nature.

For some students, the opportunity to take SSRA courses was a main reason for applying and eventually coming to Whitman. First-year Katie Parker admits that the attention paid to the outdoors on campus was her first reason for deciding to come to school here.

“The reason I came to Whitman was all of the photos that I saw of people rafting and kayaking in the brochure,” said Parker. “[The brochure] also had a student to tree ratio!  It seems to me like Whitman tries to give students opportunities to balance their academic life with outdoor opportunities, and also to provide students with the opportunities to lead excursions.”

The Sports Studies, Recreation and Athletic (SSRA) discipline is a program that allows students to experience all that the great outdoors has to offer. Many students get involved in SSRA courses after going on a Scramble or taking a trip with the Outdoor Program.

There are 18 SSRA courses to choose from, from beginning courses in rock climbing and kayaking to advanced courses such as River Guide Leadership and Wilderness First Responder (WFR). In addition to outdoor skills and leadership courses, SSRA offers lecture-based courses and basic skills courses in things like sports medicine and weight lifting.

“SSRA courses offer Whitman students opportunities to pursue a variety of physical and recreation activities,” said Jennifer Blomme, varsity swim coach and member of the SSRA senior staff. “Students can gain instruction whether in a field they already have some exposure to or in an activity they may never have tried before … With our lecture courses, students can also challenge themselves intellectually while considering issues pertaining to health, athletics and recreation.”

One of the common ties for all of the SSRA courses is that the purpose of each course is to establish and build on a student’s leadership and basic training skills. In this way, Whitman takes its tradition for excellence and leadership in the classroom and translates those skills to outside of the classroom as well.

Any Whitman student can participate in SSRA courses, whether they are a varsity athlete looking to maintain fitness during the off season or just want to learn how to use free weights in the gym. It’s all about the personal connections that students can find with different SSRA courses, and that is what helps enrich their time at Whitman.

“SSRA courses benefit varsity athletes in the same way they do the general student body,” said Blomme. “[Varsity athletes] may have different goals for themselves in those courses, but ultimately they are broadening their physical horizons in just the same way their classmates are … A class such as Sports Medicine would be especially fascinating to a student who has worked through an athletically-related injury. Similarly, someone who has been involved in outdoor recreation through Scrambles or other experiences might find a personal connection to the material covered in our Outdoor Leadership course.”

The bottom line is that SSRA courses offer Whitman students a chance to pursue their love of the outdoors –– or to discover that love. It does not matter what a person’s background is, there is almost certainly an SSRA course to suit any interests.

Oh, and that student to tree ratio? It has been documented as 1:3, so Whitties are outdoorsy with a campus to match.