New Students Experience Christ and Community in the Great Outdoors

by Tracy Prouty '09

The first week of college can be daunting for many freshmen who come with little knowledge of the campus. APU strives to counter this fear through a variety of orientation programs meant to connect students during their first few weeks of college. The university added to that variety this year by introducing the first Wilderness Orientation Program.

Communiversity, Outdoor Adventures, and the Office of Student Success teamed up to bring this program to life. In July, nine incoming freshman joined their Alpha leader, sophomore Noah Brazo, for a seven-day trek in the Ansel Adams Wilderness just outside Yosemite, complete with rock climbing, backpacking, and solo time for reflection.
"This program is a great opportunity for new students to experience the community that APU is all about," said Shino Simons, associate dean of students.
A longtime supporter of wilderness programs, such as APU's annual Walkabout tradition which includes a 10-day trek for Resident Advisors, Simons was excited to see students embark on the first trip. She received applications from many interested students, but was only able to select nine this year. Due to the large number of applicants and the success of the first trip, Simons hopes to see this program expand to include multiple trek groups in the future.
"It was a great way to start building a really strong bond with other students," said freshman and Wilderness Orientation participant Leigh Sunderland. "When I moved in at the beginning of this semester, I felt like I already had a group of friends to fall back on.  It was so comforting to know that they were there for me during the transition of moving so far from home."