Southeast Students Experience Outdoor Adventure in Colorado


Eight Southeast Missouri State University students recently took a 12-day adventure trip to Buena Vista, Colorado, to explore interpersonal skills and self-discipline while rock climbing, whitewater rafting, backpacking and mountaineering.

Students earned academic credit in the outdoor adventure education course (RC 350) while gaining interpersonal skills through teamwork as they engaged in a variety of group activities, said Dr. Thomas Holman, professor of Recreation and Park Administration in the Department of Kinesiology, Nutrition, and Recreation at Southeast.

“They gained self-esteem, learned to understand and manage their own emotions, learned patience and built self-confidence, self-discipline and self-motivation,” Holman said. “It was the trip of a lifetime.”

Participating students were Connor Mobley of Divernon, Illinois; Chantele Weasel of Carmi, Illinois; Michaela Gaskins of Wardell, Missouri; Kayla Smith of Jackson, Missouri; Bryan Turney of Tamaroa, Illinois; John Bowdle of Wentzville, Missouri; Ben Driver of Fenton, Missouri; and Clare Johnson of St. Louis, Missouri.

The students began their adventures at Turtle Rock Campground in Buena Vista where they learned about knots and climbing techniques at the Turtle Rock Climbing Area. Next was a whitewater rafting trip on the Arkansas River, followed by backpacking in the Collegiate Peaks Range to summit Mt. Harvard (14,421 feet and the fourth highest summit in the contiguous United States) and Mt. Columbia (14,078 feet). Before returning to Missouri, they explored the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Alamosa, Colorado.

Holman has been taking Southeast students on similar camping trips for 15 years. His experience and familiarity with Buena Vista gave his students the opportunity to get the most out of their trip.

“I know where the best routes, campsites and water sources are,” Holman said. “I even know where to have a snowball fight in August!”

Students from all majors are eligible to participate in the class that allows students to travel to beautiful places both near and far.

“I have taken this class to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota before. I also take students in my semester-long courses to various Midwestern and local areas. We’ve been canoeing on the Mississippi River, caving in Perryville, rock climbing in southern Illinois and mountain biking at Klaus Park in Jackson,” said Holman.

Students on the Buena Vista trip combined their outdoor activities with journaling to round out the experiential learning opportunity. Holman said he believes that hands-on experiences build skills that students aren’t always able to gain in the classroom alone.

“I think it makes students better people,” he said. “They learn how to overcome their fears and work together as a group. It’s a tough trip. You have to develop some grit, and some students really struggle, but the character growth and development that comes from taking this course applies to all of life in any field of study. My leadership development has been profoundly impacted over the years by leading this trip. I can apply that anywhere, and so can students who take these courses in outdoor adventure education.”