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Outdoor Recreation Coordinator,
Intramural Recreational Sports Department, Western Kentucky University
AORE Member and Global University 2019 Participant
Describe how you first fell in love with nature. Why do you still love the wilderness today?
I first fell in love with nature when I was very young and exploring the outdoors with my family in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where I grew up. It wasn't until my first year of college at Saginaw Valley State University that I rediscovered my love of nature during my Freshmen Wilderness Experience. The Campus Recreation Department and Aaron Mowen motivated me after that to utilize nature as a way to educate others and spread my passion. Those five years spent with the department helped me grow as a person and as a professional, helping me to connect the dots and grasp the opportunities I have now.
Why are outdoor learning activities, recreation experiences, and adventure-based education opportunities important to personal growth?
Nowadays, the chances we have to discover timelessness and a sense of wonder in our day-to-day realities are slim to none. Outdoor learning and recreation experiences provide space for our minds to grasp that sense of wonder. The development you can witness not only in yourself but also in the people that you're leading, guiding, or simply hanging out with is truly remarkable. Nature touches each and everyone one of us in such a unique way. The only way to discover how nature impacts you is to immerse yourself in it. Since my first outdoor adventure, I've been able to grow into the leader that I am now through the process of simply strapping on a heavy backpack, hiking out into the wilderness, and experiencing the beauty of the nature on my own.
Are you a member of AORE? Why you first decided to join the association.
I have been a member of AORE for one full year as of this August. As an undergraduate, I’d always wanted to be a part of the association, but there never seemed to be enough funding to join until I came to Western Kentucky University as a Graduate Assistant. I was ECSTATIC that I would be given the opportunity to become a member and attend AORE’s annual conference. The connections and support that I have gained through AORE have helped provide much needed guidance through this very challenging year.
Why did you apply for Global University this year?
I applied for Global University because I wanted to challenge myself and connect with likeminded people. I like to always be growing and developing new skills and perspectives. I am looking forward to so many of the educational sessions and activities because they will be an excellent chance to hear the perspectives and stories of other people and learn from them.
Which outdoor activity are you most excited about and why?
Whitewater rafting!! This sport has excited me for many years. I become giddy whenever there is a chance to get out on the water and navigate the rapids. It is such a rush!
What personal strengths do you bring to your work and how do you think these traits will touch down during the trip?
Passion and validation. On this trip I know I will be able to embrace my passion for the outdoors, education, and learning, but most importantly, I will be able to help create space for others to share their feelings and stories. Validating others and listening to what they have to say can take you a long way when working with others and forming lasting relationships that are rewarding to both parties. I've learned a lot about the importance of this interpersonal skill over the past year, having put it into practice with my staff in a variety of ways to great benefit. Getting on their level is extremely important, from hearing what their fears might be to understanding what they need to grow and reach their goals. This simple act of taking time to listen to staff has helped immensely in terms of building my program successfully because the whole team feels engaged and supported.
In terms of professional development, what aspect of the trip are you most looking forward to and why?
I'm looking forward to networking with the other women leaders in this group. I haven't ever really been connected to a network of "female" professionals before. It is exciting to finally have the opportunity to solidify a strong support system that is made up of women who face similar challenges and can share advice and experiences they’ve had. I got a lot out of attending AORE’s Women’s Leadership Mentorship Institute (WLMI) this past year so I know that Global University will help me keep that momentum going and build upon it further.
AORE will provide full coverage of Global University 2019 during the Costa Rica trip (May 21 - 29). Daily recaps, reflections, fun travel facts, photos, and videos will be available in the AORE newsroom and on social media. Don't forget to follow along with participants as they learn and grow through each new adventure they encounter! Global University is made possible thanks to the generous support of G Adventures, our loyal AORE365 Partner. G Adventures organizes small group tours to exciting destinations all over the world. Visit the G Adventures website when you plan your next global travel adventure and get the support you need to curate a stress-free, enriching experience that brings you closer to the people, places, and cultures you want to visit. Learn more about Global University 2019.