Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Dartmouth: 2012 First-Year DOC Trips emphasize a ‘sustainable welcome' to '16s

Shared from The Dartmouth:
Approximately 85 percent of incoming freshmen embarked on excursions into the wilderness as part of this year's Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips, according to Assistant Trips Director Farzeen Mahmud '12. The tradition, begun in 1935, incorporated a new focus on a "sustainable welcome" this year and faced a number of changes due to the adoption of a new term calendar.

This year's Trips directorate stressed their goal of a welcome to Dartmouth that is sustainable for the community as well as a concern for the environment, according to trip leader trainer Callista Womick '13.

However, changes to the academic term calendar, voted on earlier this year by the Dartmouth faculty, resulted in overlap between the start of First-Year Trips and the end of Summer term. The first members of the Class of 2016 arrived for their trips on Aug. 22, the last day of Summer term classes, and some Trips sections took place during the final exam period.

Students in residence for the Summer term were able to participate as Croo members during the exam period or as trip leaders following their exams, according to Mahmud. The schedule conflicts proved especially challenging for Croo members attempting to balance studying with their Croo duties, she said.

"[In-residence sophomores] on Croo do a couple activities a day and then go back to studying for finals, and that's something that I hope future years of Trips changes," Mahmud said. "It's really stressful and very contradictory for a welcoming party to be exhausted."

Mahmud said the Trips directorate aimed to help each member of the Class of 2016 to "build the home at Dartmouth they want one capable of lasting."

Whereas previous years have emphasized high energy and enthusiasm, the "sustainable welcome theory" encourages Trips participants to act naturally and genuinely in an attempt to foster long-lasting friendships, she said.

"Ultimately, there was disappointment after Trips because they did not reflect people's natural ways of interacting," Womick said. "We are trying to address the concern that Trips is a false portrayal of Dartmouth."

Amanda Toporek '16, who participated in a Strenuous Hiking trip, said the energy and dedication of trip leaders and Croo members succeeded in making her feel comfortable and welcomed.

"Overall, Trips made me feel at home," Toporek said. "Knowing that all of those upperclassmen were working incredibly hard to make me feel welcome at Dartmouth was pretty special."

Environmental sustainability remains an important part of the Trips program, and the DOC emphasized "leave no trace" practices for all departing trips. This year, each trip was supplied with a compost bag. In addition, barbeques are designed to be almost zero-waste, and nearly all food taken on individual Trips and served at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge is grown locally, according to Womick.

While reducing waste required trip members to prepare simpler food, leaders and participants were rewarded with a more elaborate meal upon arrival at the Lodge.

"Our [cooking] fuel only lasted through 1.5 meals, so we did a lot of snacking on Newman O's," Brad Plunkett '16, who participated in a biking trip to Franconia Ridge, said. "My favorite food was at the Lodge, even though some of it managed to get splattered onto my face by members of the Lodj Croo."

The planning process for Trips begins nine months prior to the first trip's departure, at the beginning of Winter term, and is managed by a Trips directorate that consists of the director, assistant director, three trip leader trainers, Croo chiefs, an outreach coordinator and a sustainability coordinator, according to Trips Director Emily Mason-Osann '11 Th '12.

Upperclassmen apply for positions as trip leaders and Croo members during Spring term. This year, 286 of 630 students applying for leader positions were selected, and 59 of 150 students applying as Croo members were selected, Mason-Osann said.

Applications and training session for Trips 2012 featured a special focus on genuine interactions and community dynamics and included a new community-building workshop, according to Womick.

Trip leader trainers also guided leaders and Croo members through mandatory training sessions in risk assessment and wilderness skills, with all of the trip leaders converging on Gilman Island prior to their departures. Ryan Lisann '15, who led a cabin camping trip, said the workshops offered on the island provided the perspective necessary to ensure a good experience.

"Spending the night at Gilman Island put everyone in the right mindset before returning to campus to get their trippees," Lisann said. "We had a bunch of workshops conveying the importance of a trip leader as an ongoing resource for their trippees well past trips themselves. I felt they were extremely informative, and I received a lot of insight into what is expected from a leader from both the trip leader trainers and other leaders in the section."

Trips 2012 featured 10 sections with 32 distinct trips, whose titles were changed this year to reflect not only the trips' activities but also their destinations, according to Womick.

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