High Adventure Equals Right Returns

PROVO, Utah – Dec 02, 2018 – This last September, eighty-five students found themselves getting to know their professors while white water rafting down the Snake River in the Teton Mountains. For students in the experience design and management (ExDM) and therapeutic recreation (TR) majors, this high adventure event doubled as a new student orientation (NSO) and a way for students to quickly get to know people they will be working with throughout their undergraduate major.

Student brand ambassadors for the experience design majors were tasked with creating this outdoor, overnight NSO. The ambassadors, handpicked by professors, promote the majors to prospective students through events and other efforts. In this case, they handled everything: logistics, food, transportation, swag, and activities. Those efforts created an experience with considerable benefits for all students in attendance.

The brand ambassadors—TR seniors Elise Alford from Gulf Breeze, Florida and Emily Sorensen from Folsom, California; and ExDM seniors Rachel Glazier from Mission Viejo, California and Bri Biorn from Owasso, Oklahoma—worked with professors Peter Ward, Mat Duerden, and Brian Hill. “The ExDM department is teaching these students to design great experiences that are meaningful and meet a purpose,” Hill says. “Why wouldn’t we model that and get them excited about being in the major?”

The NSO began early on 7 September. Students met at the Richards Building on campus to load into vans and head for Alpine, Wyoming. Each van had at least one student mentor who talked with the new students about their goals for their first year and answered questions about the program.

Upon arriving at the campground near Teton National Park, two groups were formed. One group hiked to Phelps Lake to go swimming while the other went white water rafting on the Snake River. On the second day, the groups swapped activities.

The orientation portion of the event took place on Friday evening. Neil Lundberg, department chair, along with Ward and Hill, spoke to students about what they can expect from the major and what the department expects of them.

The student mentors also shared their advice on various topics, including which electives to take and how to plan the 400-hour internship required by the major. “The students were interested in what the mentors had to say because these are their peers speaking to them,” Ward says.

After the formal presentations, students and professors talked and socialized around the campfire. Ward described the chance to converse with students in an informal setting as a great way to form mentor-student relationships.

Effective mentorships can sometimes take a longer period of time to build. However, this NSO opportunity allowed students to jumpstart that process and form personal connections with their professors early in the semester. “To hear them talk about going to the NSO and then come to class to be with people they already have a connection to is terrific,” Hill says. “That’s exactly what we wanted this orientation to accomplish.”

The students’ newfound excitement for the major has created a buzz in the classroom. “The energy with which they are talking to each other is much higher than it was,” Ward says. “And that’s what you want.”

Group of students white water rafting
A group of ExDM majors white water raft on the Snake River.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Ellen Ford