It’s late August and more than 100 students are camping next to the Clark Fork River in Montana, at the base of the Bitterroot Mountains. For most, it’s their first Gonzaga experience – this is the Gonzaga Out-of-Bounds pre-orientation trip, and the GOOBers are incoming freshmen who’ve just moved away from home for the first time.
Or, it’s late July and about 30 incoming freshmen students are cycling along Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Beauty Bay or sashaying down Mineral Ridge in the Spokane version of GOOB.
“You can feel the Gonzaga community growing,” said David Dunphy ’12, a former student director of Gonzaga Outdoors. “The newest Zags are lying in their sleeping bags in the warm mountain evening after a day spent rafting, hiking or biking, talking about their excitement for the coming year or about home or just what makes them tick.”
Gonzaga Outdoors, the host of GOOB and dozens of other outdoor programs throughout the year, is built on those moments. “When you’re hiking, there’s really no other option but to have a conversation,” said Mary Jantsch ’13, an adventure guide.
The adventure guides are the 25 students who take responsibility for planning and leading trips. They’re chosen for their passion for the outdoors and their desire to share that passion with others. The guide program gives these students the opportunity, often rare in the college environment, to fully create something themselves, from concept to an overnight trip that may be attended by over a dozen of their fellow students.
The program started with a gift from the senior class of 2000 and only hired a full-time manager this October, former adviser Dave Gilbert.
Gilbert hopes that the program will continue to grow, though at a slightly slower pace, offering more and more opportunities for students. They’ll widen the range of activities offered – Jantsch would love to lead a rock-climbing trip soon – and occupy an office in the proposed University Center instead of their current space in the basement of Crosby. In five years, Gilbert hopes to be a force for sustainability on campus. In 10 or 15 years, maybe they’ll offer a minor. For now, it’s a chance for students to find their sense of place in the wider community and the family of friends that will support them through the huge changes everyone encounters in college.
“Gonzaga Outdoors is one more community on campus of students who have found each other,” Gilbert said. “The students are passionate about an activity that is positive and they can carry that with them for the rest of their lives.