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Out There!

St. Lawrence’s outdoor programming has expanded in a multitude of directions in recent years.

By John B. Linsley ’04

281 At the Adirondack Semester’s yurt village on Massawepie Lake, program participants try to work out a problem (it could be intellectual or it could be communal) while Director and Associate Professor of Philosophy Baylor Johnson, left,  looks on.

Over the past two decades, the number of outdoor activities available to St. Lawrence students has grown tremendously.   The recent surge has been accompanied by the creation of St. Lawrence’s multidimensional Outdoor Studies Program, with its three prongs: the Adirondack Semester; the outdoor studies academic minor; and the Outdoor Program.  The program has joined with the long-established Outing Club to provide an outstanding selection of both academic and recreational outdoor activities for students

The Outing Club
Founded in 1937 by the late Anders Lunde ’38 and Joseph Norton ’40, the Outing Club--the second oldest college outing club in the nation, behind only Dartmouth’s--has always had student leadership.  The Outdoor Alternatives cottage (or “The Outhouse”) is the club’s headquarters.  Outing Club trips are recreational; any St. Lawrence student may participate. 
The Outdoor Program
Aside from Outing Club responsibilities, many residents of the Outhouse hold paid guiding positions with St. Lawrence’s curriculum-based Outdoor Program, which offers instructional, skills-based training for students in such areas as outdoor leadership, wilderness medicine, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, and whitewater kayaking and canoeing. 

The Outdoor Program paddling curriculum offers introductory courses, intermediate and advanced whitewater outings on nearby rivers, and an annual whitewater expedition in the high country south of James Bay, at the southern tip of Hudson Bay.

The Outdoor Program’s climbing curriculum has also grown in recent years.   The opening of the Munro Family Climbing Wall in the fall of 2001 marked a major breakthrough for the climbing community at St. Lawrence.  Sarah Councell, associate director of the Outdoor Program, and her team of student climbing guides teach a variety of climbing clinics and run larger events, such as the annual Halloween Climbing Competition.

The Adirondack Semester and Outdoor Studies Minor
Since a trial run in the fall of 2000, the Adirondack Semester has seen steady student interest.  Adirondack Semester students spend the fall semester living in yurts on the shores of Lake Massawepie, near Tupper Lake on land leased from the Boys Scouts of America about an hour from campus.  They take a full course load, with classes taught by St. Lawrence professors who commute to the site.
Completing daily tasks at Massawepie requires group effort; students must be productive members of the community while lacking modern resources.  They have access to limited amenities such as propane and solar-produced electricity, but none to vehicles or TV; many elect not to bring computers. Participants are required to sign and abide by a “no alcohol” pledge. Day-to-day life is simple, with assignments often completed under candlelight. 

Onward and Upward
The Evolution of the Outdoor Experience at St. Lawrence
1880s  Students enjoy boating on the Little River; faculty insist on chaperones; students resist.
1937  Outing Club founded by students; second collegiate outing club in the nation.
1976  Orientation “pre-trips,” involving backpacking, cycling or canoe-camping in the Adirondacks, begin.
1982  Outdoor Alternatives theme cottage (“The Outhouse”) established.
1983  Peak Weekend inaugurated; goal is to place Laurentians on tops of 46 highest Adirondack summits simultaneously.
1990  Outdoor Program, co-curricular skills and leadership development initiative, begins.
1994  Outdoor studies minor introduced to provide students with a multidisciplinary academic approach to the study of nature.
2000  Adirondack Semester commences; off-campus program modeled on international programs on Massawepie Lake in the Adirondack Park
2001  Munro Family Climbing Wall opens in Newell Field House; attracts enthusiasts from throughout the Northeast.
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