Developing an outdoor program at the University of Washington (UW), now called UWild Adventures, had been an idea in a number of folks’ minds for many years. And in 2015, it received its final boost to become an official offering for UW students and the campus community.
But why did it take so long to take hold on a campus that’s situated literally on the water and just a short drive to the mountains as well as the coast?
For us at UW Recreation, it’s a two-sided response regarding the recent development of a formal outdoor program. First we ask, “Yeah, how did we not have one sooner?” And then we say, “Wow, what a blessing that we get to develop one from the ground up.”
Certainly there has been plenty of fun outdoor activity happening at UW for years and years, both formal and informal:
- W ski bus up to the local hills.
- Boat trips out on the Sound.
- Climbing the sides of fabled Husky Stadium.
EXTRA CREDIT: The landscape of outdoor adventures is ever-changing.
But with the development of our modern rec center in the late 1960s, the idea that recreation consisted of lifting weights and playing intramurals and swimming laps was further entrenched in the department’s culture. And of course, that makes sense — or at least it did at the time. Do what you can, do it well and folks will be happy.
They were — and are — very happy indeed. But there were untapped resources that were calling out to us. We had get outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.
At UW, our rec center is the IMA Building, with “IMA” standing for Intramurals Activities. The campus community knows us for a robust set of intramural offerings; it’s something we’re very proud of. And like a lot of our counterparts across the country, we’ve enjoyed the evolution of campus recreation. It now includes not only these traditional programs and facilities but also an even more well-rounded approach to student health and well-being.
So it became a nice confluence when a thriving climbing program combined with a change in staffing and leadership. This attracted start-up funding from the student fee committee to give UW the tools to go along with its desire for a full-fledged outdoor program in 2015.
Physical space was allocated — after a bit too much and unnecessary internal “negotiating” and handwringing. In addition, a key promotion was made, staff were hired and equipment was purchased.
The Gear Garage is a key component for UWild Adventures, allowing students and other campus folks to rent what they need to get outside and enjoy themselves.
Trips and trainings now abound. Strong partnerships with First Year Programs on campus has allowed incoming Huskies to take part in our offerings before they’ve ever taken an academic course. There truly is something for everyone. And if we find there’s a gap in our offerings, we are poised to serve all UW students.
In the second half of this two-part article we will cover some of the lessons learned along with the highs and lows — though mostly highs — of developing a campus outdoor program, including interviews with staff and students who started and take part in UWild Adventures.