Outdoor excursions to educate students and relieve stress


Photo credit: Niki Papadogiannakis

Photo credit: Niki Papadogiannakis

Tatyana White, staff writer

Looking for a way to de-stress while enjoying the great outdoors? Mason has new ways to make that possible for its students.

The university now offers Outdoor Adventures, which offers weekly trips hiking, rafting and rock climbing. The EDGE is a ropes course located at Mason’s Prince William Campus.

The Outdoor Adventure Program is a program looking to allow students to develop their recreational skills while enjoying a great outdoor adventure.

“The program intent is to provide greater recreational and development opportunities for students,” said Ryan Murphy, the Outdoor Adventures coordinator.

Since the program was recently created, many aspects of the program can be shaped by student involvement. Students looking to try something new and adventurous are encouraged to get involved.

“Students should get involved because it’s so great to get outside and explore the natural world. It’s a great way to get out into some pretty cool places and meet people who you might otherwise never interact with,” Murphy said. “You don’t need any experience to join us and start learning more about the outdoors. Any students who have a desire to have fun and try something new should come check out our programs.”

One aspect of the program is its ability to help bring about relaxation. As the life of a college student can be quite stressful, the activities in the program serve as a great de-stresser.

“Being outside is just such a great de-stresser,” Murphy said. “Research shows that students who spend time outside have lower rates of stress, higher test scores, etc.”

Although the program just began, they have already offered many great programs for Mason students.

“We have run hikes in Shenandoah National Park, Mason Neck, Bull Run Mountain Conservancy, and Maryland Heights, as well as climbed in Great Falls,” Murphy said.

With the success and continuous growing of the program, there are plans to extend the program next semester.

“Next semester we will begin our leader training process so that we will be able to offer more trips. We will also begin offering overnight trips once our equipment orders have come in. We plan to offer winter trips and paddling trips next semester as well,” Murphy said. “As the program becomes more established we will run longer trips over breaks and I hope to begin offering international trips in the future. In addition, in the spring our equipment rental and clinics programs will start. Students will be able to rent a wide array of outdoor gear, from tents and sleeping bags, to paddling gear and more.”

The program will focus on teaching students with no experience how to safely participate in outdoor activities.

“If you don’t have any experience, but have a desire to learn we can teach you how to safely engage in the outdoors. Want to learn how to cook on a camp stove or a fire? We can help. Never set up a tent before? We’ve got you covered. You can also learn more advanced skills like rock and ice climbing, or how to do overnight paddling trips,” Murphy said.

For students wanting to learn more and sign up for the program, Outdoor Adventures is located in Skyline Fitness Center.

“You can come talk to us there or sign up for our mailing list. We send out trip information on the mailing list and also advertise them in Skyline. We’ve been running trips through Eventbrite on a temporary basis, and people can sign up there,” Murphy said. “Next semester you’ll be able to sign up for programs in Skyline at the desk. As our website gets developed there will be more information there and a calendar of events.”

Outdoor Adventure expects to offer a greater number of programs in the spring semester. Most excursions will have a small fee, ranging from $5-$10.

Murphy said, “This is a heavily discounted rate versus the actual cost of these trips. As we run longer or more advanced trips the costs will go up, but my goal is for the trips to be financially accessible to as many people as possible.”

The program is still developing but there is much hope for a successful run next semester.

“In my eyes a big part of the program is to develop people into sound wilderness leaders,” Murphy said. “I want to teach people to the point that they not only feel comfortable recreating in the wilds for their own enjoyment, but that they can also safely and competently lead others outdoors too.”

Another outdoor activity Mason students can be a part of is the free climb offered by the EDGE.

The EDGE’s mission statement is to challenge “the members of the global community to better understand themselves, those around them, and their world by using innovative approaches that educate, inspire and empower.”

It gives students have the opportunity to explore and climb the 50 foot Alpine Tower, free of charge.

The EDGE manager, Susan Johnson, said, “it is a personal challenge and fun for students to realize their potential. Also, if you chose to make it to the top—the view is outstanding.”

The EDGE offers the free climb at least once a semester and students can sign up through Prince William Campus University Life. It is a great opportunity for students to get active while also having a memorable and unforgettable experience.

“I love the tower because it gives me a way to challenge myself and when I get to the top it is always the best feeling,” said sophomore Laurel Mahoney.

Photo credit: Niki Papadogiannakis

Graphic by Walter Martinez