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Backpacking and Surfing Among the Adventures Offered to Pomona College Freshmen as Way to Meet Peers Before Classes

To ease the transition from high school to college, Pomona College offers its incoming freshmen a variety of exciting urban and wilderness trips for all level and abilities. The 2003 Orientation Adventure outings, which run from August 24 to 27, include sailing on the tallship American Pride, small craft sailing along the San Diego coast, canoeing on the Colorado River, backpacking in the Sierras (ranging from moderate to very strenuous trips), caving, learning to surf, exploring Santa Cruz Island or Yosemite National Park, touring Southern California, and the chance to participate in several Los Angeles community service projects.

While the activities of each trip differ, the purpose of all OA trips is to meet other Pomona students, learn about college life first-hand from student leaders, and become familiar with the recreational opportunities surrounding Claremont. Approximately 230 freshman, from an entering class of 412, have signed-up for the popular four-day program, which is now in its eighth year.

According to Matt Muller '03, an OA coordinator for the last three years, "OA is an outstanding opportunity for incoming students to get to know each other, since it creates a common experience. When students arrive, they're wondering 'who's going to be my friend?' 'Will they like me?' and 'Are there people who have my interests?' It's a very low pressure way to meet people.

"What makes Pomona's OA unique is its diverse range of offerings," explains Muller. "We are at center of a recreational paradise, here in Southern California. Students can backpack to the highest point in the contiguous U.S., Mt. Whitney, go to the shore for surfing, tour the city, sail to islands, go canoeing, or hike into amazing wilderness where they may not see any other people. Other orientation programs don't have this kind of access."

Muller began his association with OA on a backpacking adventure climbing Mt. San Grigornio. "The trip was just really great and I met people that became long-time friends. The wilderness adventure takes away any other sort of interference and is very intense socially. You talk to each other while hiking, around the campfire and as you pile into a tent." When students sign-up for a trip, explains Muller, they're focused on the activity. "But the real heart of OA is meeting the other people. What students remember later is the people they met and what they found out about each other. Really, the activity becomes secondary."

The program is coordinated by Pomona students and recent alumni in conjunction with the Office of Student Affairs, and the trips are led by Pomona students, with faculty and staff joining some trips. Mark Jenike, an associate professor of anthropology, has participated in four OA backpacking trips, and this year will join a group on the ship American Pride. "One of the great things about including a faculty or staff member," says Jenike, "is that it lets students' first experience with a faculty or staff member occur on a personal level. It's someone they've hiked up a mountain with, instead of someone in a position of authority. I hope the experience puts them in the mindset to see faculty as colleagues in their education, instead of directors of their education, people that they can jointly discover things with instead of just learn things from, and maybe, become friends with. That's what make a residential liberal arts college special."

There are both male and female leaders on each trip, and the participant-to-leader ratio is approximately 4:1. All student leaders are certified in Adult CPR and First Aid by the Red Cross. Many also have Wilderness First Aid certification, and some have worked as lifeguards or emergency medical technicians.

Orientation Adventure is coordinated in conjunction with the Office of Student Affairs by students with experience in wilderness travel and event planning. Safety procedures and contingency plans have been developed for all trips. Highly qualified guides and outfitters are used for many trips, and all destinations are covered by an extensive network of safety professionals.

Matt Muller, Class of '03
OA Coordinator, OA Office (909) 607-2531
A longtime wilderness enthusiast, Matt Muller grew up at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and ventured into their backcountry whenever he had the chance. Before enrolling at Pomona, Matt spent four years in the Marine Corps, where he received intensive survival training in terrain ranging from jungle to desert and earned the highest amphibious operations certification available at his rank. Matt served in 14 countries and at sea, ending his tour a U.S. Embassy Guard in the United Arab Emirates. At Pomona, Matt has planned trips, trained leaders, and managed the campus outdoors organization. This is his third year on the OA staff and, he is responsible for planning and scouting trips.

Jayk Goyden, Class of fall '03
OA Coordinator, OA Office (909) 607-2531
He developed a fondness for backpacking during his years in the Boy Scouts in Boise, Idaho. Jayk received the Eagle award for his scouting achievements and has completed a National Outdoors Leadership School course in winter backcountry travel. His hiking experience encompasses destinations throughout North and Central America. Jayk has taught Emergency First Responder courses at the Claremont Colleges for the Red Cross and is certified as an EMT-B. He plans to upgrade his credential to Wilderness EMT over the summer and will be training OA leaders in backcountry first aid.

Liz Redman, Class of '04
OA Coordinator, OA Office (909) 607-2531
Born in Miami, Florida, Liz fell in love with the great outdoors at a summer camp in backcountry North Carolina. She returned as a counselor the following year and has been helping people experience the wilderness ever since. She has led students on backpacking, canoeing, and rock climbing trips during her time at Pomona and is one of the campus outdoors clubs' most active members.