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Outdoor Action

Leadership Starts Here

OA Transition Committee Report


In 2010 the Outdoor Action Program was moved into the Vice President for Campus Life Office after fourteen years of being administratively managed by the Princeton-Blairstown Center. This report was written to explore and envision how Outdoor Action could play a significant role on campus.

Executive Summary

For 36 years, Outdoor Action has provided a pre-orientation experiential educational experience for Princeton’s freshmen. The program, part of the Princeton Blairstown Center, is administered by Rick Curtis ’79, the Director of Outdoor Action.

The Frosh Trip is the signature Outdoor Action program.  The annual outdoor pre-orientation program is led by well-trained upper-class students. This preorientation experience for new students is now shared by 55-60% of the incoming class. In addition to an outdoor experience, it is an opportunity to introduce University values and standards including; diversity conversations, alcohol education, sustainability initiatives, campus citizenship and community living discussions to a diverse group of freshmen.

Outdoor Action participants and leaders often become campus and student organization leaders. OA leaders have been elected Young Alumni trustees, received Rhodes and Marshall Scholars appointments and have been winners of Princeton’s highest undergraduate honor, the Pyne Prize.

As part of a Princeton Blairstown Center review process started in the spring of 2009, a recommendation was made to move Outdoor Action back under the University structure and within the Office of the Vice President of Campus Life.

In preparation for Outdoor Action’s transition from the Princeton Blairstown Center to Office of the Vice President for Campus Life, an advisory committee was created to review and clarify OA’s mission, goals and program.  The Advisory Committee included faculty, staff and students and members of the Friends of Outdoor Action alumni board. The committee was mindful of the financial climate and understood that no additional financial resources would be available to support the transition.

Revised OA Mission Statement

To provide educational and character development experiences which advance personal responsibility, health and well-being, community, leadership development, civic engagement, and stewardship for Princeton and the natural world through adventure-based experiential education.

Core Programs

From building a new community amongst the diverse members of each incoming Princeton class to developing student leadership skills, the Outdoor Action Program has become a unique resource for Princeton. The Frosh Trip Program is the largest of the pre-orientation programs for incoming students and has been the signature program for Outdoor Action since its inception. The Leader Training Program, where students are trained to lead other students on outdoor trips, is the “engine” that drives the Frosh Trip Program. During the academic year, Outdoor Action has offered a variety of activities which build community and enhance the residential life experience at Princeton.

Outdoor Action Strategic Planning Committee Recommendations

Many of the committee’s recommendations can be executed without additional funding or, achieved through reallocation of current funding. Those recommendations that are dependent upon additional financial and/or staffing resources are included to help frame future opportunities when resources become available.

Broad Ideas Outside of the Scope of Outdoor Action

  • Arts Atelier Pre-orientation Program
  • Pre-orientation Program Common Curriculum

General  Recommendation Areas

  • Advisory Committee
  • Campus Life Partnerships
  • Communications and Identity
  • Friends of Outdoor Action Board
  • Fundraising
  • Metrics

Freshmen Pre-Orientation Program Recommendations

  • Diversity
  • Sustainability

Leader Training Recommendations

  • Diversity
  • Financial Assistance
  • Leader Training Program
  • OA Leaders as Campus Leaders

Academic Year Recommendations

  • Academic Partnerships
  • Alumni Programming
  • Financial Assistance
  • Graduate School Programming
  • Regular Recreation Opportunities
  • Sustainability & Environmental Programming

Climbing Wall and Leader Training Recommendations

The students who lead both these programs have provided a list of recommendations to enhance their program and the student experience.

Larger Scope Ideas

The committee identified a series of ideas that expand the current Outdoor Action curriculum and will enhance campus life and leverage existing partnerships.

Led by Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action is well-positioned to play a significant role in campus life; enhancing student leadership training, recreational programming and, in partnership with campus offices, lend the skill and expertise of outdoor skills, team work activities and team building, as components of any group activity or program on or off campus. As we look to the future of OA, we are grateful for the long time stewardship by the Princeton Blairstown Center and look forward to increased campus partnerships as OA moves under the Campus Life umbrella.