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Outdoor Action

Leadership Starts Here

OA 40th Anniversary: State of the Program Report


Executive Summary

During its forty year history Outdoor Action (OA) has achieved incredible success. It has transformed the orientation process for incoming students at Princeton. In addition, OA has built a unique learning laboratory where students have the opportunity to practice real leadership in service to others. OA Leaders are some of Princeton’s most successful and influential leaders across the campus. The overall Outdoor Action Program is also one of Princeton’s greatest untapped resources. Expanding the program is clearly one of the best investments Princeton can make in student leadership development over the next decade.

The Program

Over the past forty years Outdoor Action has provided experiential learning and leadership development opportunities for Princeton students, staff and alumni. Over sixty percent of all current Princeton undergraduates have participated in some form of Outdoor Action activity.

Frosh Trip

The OA Frosh Trip is the largest single outdoor orientation program in the U.S. Each fall, more than fifty-five percent of the incoming first-year students begin their Princeton experience with a six-day outdoor trip where they learn about Princeton from experienced upperclass students. The success of Frosh Trip over the last forty years in orienting new students to Princeton, capitalizing on diversity and teaching leadership and self-reliance is a key impetus for the University’s plan to require all incoming students to have a small-group orientation experience.


By virtue of its sheer size the Frosh Trip brings together the largest number of first-year students in one experience and allows for interactions and friendships to develop across the boundaries that often separate students on campus, enhancing the University’s diversity goals.

Leader Training Program

Outdoor Action is the single largest and most influential student leadership development program on campus. Students who complete the program are role models and mentors both for first-year students and for other students across the campus. The broad-reaching impact of the Leader Training program is evident in the myriad ways that OA Leaders enhance campus life through their involvement and leadership as Residential College Advisers, on sports teams, student government, student organizations and community service.

Goals for the Future

Outdoor Action is a year-round operation. We have identified three key areas for future growth of the program:

  • Student Leadership Development Training

    Student leaders are the cornerstone of the program and our goal is to provide the very best leadership development program for every student who wishes to participate. OA provides a unique experiential learning model where students gain practical leadership skills through real world experiences of being responsible for others.

  • Trip Activities during the Academic Year

    There is significant student interest in expanding OA programs throughout the year. Thanks to a one-time $10,000 grant OA has begun offering outdoor and adventure-based trips and activities to students during the academic year with great success. Expanding these trip activities during the year will extend OA’s positive impact to even more students and provide opportunities for greater leadership development for OA Leaders.

  • Expanding our Reach

    OA has developed innovative leadership programs to serve the larger campus through training provided to Bridge Year students, Residential College Advisors, Pace Center leaders, varsity sports teams and University departments. There are considerable opportunities for OA to utilize its expertise in offering leadership development programming to the larger campus.


Since its inception in 1973 Outdoor Action has been funded almost entirely from student fees. Over the past four decades OA participation has grown by over 800 percent and the operating costs have increased by approximately 400 percent. Ninety percent of OA’s annual revenue is generated from student fees and alumni donations. In order for the Outdoor Action Program to continue its excellence in outdoor and leadership development and move to a model where students no longer need to pay to become leaders, a long-term plan should be developed to fully fund or endow the program.


The following recommendations present the opportunities for Outdoor Action to fully achieve its mission and to support the University’s goals for orientation and student leadership development over the next five to ten years.

  • As part of the University’s initiative to offer an orientation program for all incoming students the Frosh Trip Program could be expanded to accommodate significantly more first-year students. This would involve developing new program activities and locations to accommodate the most diverse participant population and will require training and supervising additional leaders.

  • Well-trained student leaders are the core of the program so OA must provide the best professional training and ongoing supervision for student leaders.

  • The OA Leader Training Program should be fully funded so that it is free to all students who chose to participate. This will increase the number of leaders as well as expand the diversity of the leader pool. An increased leader pool will be essential to operate an expanded Frosh Trip.

  • OA must both continue and expand our efforts to reach out to broader and more diverse segments of the campus community. One of OA’s top goals must be to reflect the same rich diversity (racial, ethnic, socio-economic, sexual orientation, etc.) as the current student body. This means educating all students about the program so that becoming an OA Leader is seen as a positive opportunity for students from all backgrounds.

  • Outdoor Action should offer a robust set of trip activities during the year to enhance student leadership development, encourage diverse interaction across the entire campus community, and provide healthy options for leadership development, education and recreation. Academic year trips also create new entry points into the program to expand the diversity of the leader pool and will help build the experienced leaders needed to become Leader Trainers and Instructors to train new leaders.

  • Outdoor Action should expand its collaborative educational programming, training and consulting services to administrative and academic departments and such as University Health Services, the Residential Colleges, Athletics, the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, and student organizations. Such joint ventures enhance the success of both Outdoor Action and its partners.

Read the Full Report

Other Reports on the Outdoor Action Program

  • OA Transition Committee Report - January 2010
  • OA 25 Year Report - July 2000
  • OA 20 Year Report- July 1995