UWM Outdoor Pursuits (OP) is the ultimate habitat for students looking for a unique experience in a natural environment.
By offering a combination of clinics and trips, Outdoor Pursuits provides students the opportunity to learn and explore the wilderness.
Director of Outdoor Pursuits Katie Richards, describes OP as having a strong educational and developmental focus.
“In typical guiding situations you may have a guide running the show who isn’t connected to the educational outcomes of the students,” she said. “They are often just providing a recreational experience.”
“One of our biggest goals is to provide service to everyone. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your major is, spending time in the outdoors is a really necessary part of the human experience.”
Because Outdoor Pursuits employs students to lead trips and teach classes, Richards feels that the program helps students emerge as leaders and educators.
“Our students are getting education and leisure on both ends, from a teaching and participant angle,” Richards said.
From its base in the Klotsche Pavilion, Outdoor Pursuits rents equipment to students who wish to plan their own trip. Equipment available for rent includes camping gear, climbing shoes and chalk, kayaks and stand up paddleboards and cross country skis.
“We have a lot of very nice equipment in very good condition,” Richards said.
Extended trips are among OP’s most popular offerings. This year students had the opportunity to take a week-long spring break trip to Kentucky where they climbed some of the country’s most thrilling rock formations. Richards said she is looking at extending more trips for this summer.
Shorter trips, which usually last only a day or two, have also been generating interest. During the past semester, Outdoor Pursuits has taken students cross-country skiing at Wisconsin state parks, backpacking on the Ice Age Trail, climbing at Devils Lake, and paddling the Horicon Marsh. Trip prices are affordable and typically include the necessary equipment, instruction, meals and transportation.
Outdoor Pursuits also offers short skills clinics which are free or inexpensive. With unique classes like “Backcountry Culinary Institute,” which teaches students how to cook favorite camp meals, and “Art: Andy Goldsworthy Style”, where students make art from natural materials, Richards hopes OP can offer something for everyone.
Richards is continually adjusting Outdoor Pursuits’ clinic offerings to match students’ interests.
“Backcountry cooking and our climbing skills classes have been really successful,” said Richards. “Yet, at the same time, we have classes that aren’t getting a lot of interest. We may have to put an emphasis on the benefits of these classes or we may have to nix them.”
“We live in a very urban environment in Milwaukee,” said Richards. “It’s sometimes hard for people to connect with nature. It can be daunting to those who have never made that connection. We try our best to serve everyone, no matter what skill level. Our trips are fun. We have great food, comfortable gear and competent and safe student leaders. Everyone is welcome.”
Students currently enrolled at UWM who are interested in signing up for trips or clinics can view current offerings at urec.uwm.edu. They can also contact the Outdoor Pursuits front desk by visiting room 131A in the Klotsche Center or by calling (414) 229-5513.