Tag Archives: Wilderness Ethics

Why become a WO Leader?

Most students and faculty can attest to the fact that our school is unique. It’s tiny and tight-knit. It has majors such as Ski Business Resort Management and Outdoor Adventure Leadership. It’s right on Lake Tahoe and surrounded by mountains.

However, there’s one bizarre activity SNC runs that takes the cake: Wilderness Orientation.

This orientation event allows student leaders to take new fall freshman and transfer students on a four-day backpacking trip in Desolation Wilderness.

Say what?!

“There is nothing like walking through rugged and majestic terrain to prepare students with the skills they need to be successful in SNC life,” says Wilderness Orientation and ODAL program director Rosie Hackett. “Skills like endurance, resourcefulness, tenacity, compassion, etc. Students return from the wild with an extraordinary experience in common with almost 50 other SNC students, with a supportive friend network, and a true sense of place…appreciating the unique environment they choose for their home and educational journey.”

The WO experience is just as potent if not more potent for the student leaders,” Hackett continued. “Through WO, they are given an opportunity to test their skills and knowledge, developed on their educational journey at SNC, and apply their unique style to an authentic leadership role. WO leaders empower participants with lasting social communities and a greater sense of school spirit.”

Fall 2015 WO Leaders

Fall 2015 WO Leaders

Interested in becoming a WO leader? Sasha Severance, a Fall 2015 WO leader and recent SNC graduate, gave me a sneak peek into what it was like:

I found wilderness orientation to be of huge value for student leaders,” she said. “It allows us as students to further explore and practice our own, unique leadership style. Wilderness Orientation allows us as student leaders to practice what we’ve learned in the classroom and actually use it and practice it in the field. Teaching and sharing what you know is a huge part of the learning process, as well as being an opportunity to connect with others.”

Severance chose to be a WO leader to give back to the ODAL program, which she claims has shared her into the motivated and confident woman she is today. (right on, Sasha!)

“As student leaders, WO reminds us of why this place, SNC and Lake Tahoe, has been the perfect fit for us. SNC gives us the opportunity to learn in ways that are engaging, interactive, and empowering,” she said.

Severance gained a lot from her experience as a WO leader. It has taught her the importance of planning and preparing, and being successful in any job/profession/career and in life.

“Leading in the backcountry has shown me how to be open and accepting of others, no matter how different they are or their opinions may be from my own,” she added.  “Guiding in the backcountry has shown me how incredibly lucky and fortunate I am to have the opportunities that I have in life. I’ve also excelled in my communication skills, which has already helped me in and out of the classroom and in my current job today.”

Some students may be intimidated or turned off by the fact that you’re venturing into the wilderness with a bunch of strangers – but fear not.

“You are given a group of strangers and the responsibility of keeping them safe, showing them an amazing part of the place we live in, teaching them various outdoor skills and principles, and making sure that they are having fun. There will be plenty of times in the professional world where I will have to communicate and connect with random strangers, while still being myself as a unique individual while maintaining a professional appearance.”

Severance said the hardest part of the trip was leaving Desolation.

“Our entire group wasn’t ready to leave yet,” she said. “The days went by too fast. We wanted more time to spend out there together.”

Severance said being a WO leader was one of the best things she’s taken part in during her time at SNC.

“WO is an opportunity for you to give back, to share your knowledge, stories, and skills, and to meet a new group of amazing people. Being a WO leader also empowers you in so many ways,” she said. “And… you get to spend two weeks in Desolation Wilderness! Who wouldn’t want that? The first week you’re on a Leadership Expedition with your fellow WO leaders and the second week you are taking out your own group!”

Severance said those considering it, but who are hesitant, should just do it.

“For those on the fence, I was too,” she said. “I had bronchitis right before the Leadership Expedition – I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it. But I am so glad that I went. I would have regretted it if I hadn’t done it.”

On top of all of these potential benefits to reap while having a blast in Desolation Wilderness, being a WO leader now counts for three credits of ODAL curriculum for future ODAL graduates (just make sure you sign up for the summer credit).

Hope to see you all ready to lead in August!

Writers in the Woods: Award-winning outdoor adventure writer to share his experiences

A chronicler of the outdoors, an award-winning travel writer, and a part-time Grand Canyon river guide, Kevin Fedarko will speak at Sierra Nevada College at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, as the next guest for the Writers in the Woods Literary Series.

Kevin Fedarko bwKevin Fedarko’s work has appeared in Esquire, National Geographic Adventure and has been anthologized in The Best American Travel Writing of 2004 and 2006. His first book, “The Emerald Mile,” won the National Outdoor Book Award in 2013.

 “The Emerald Mile” tells the story of three guides who attempt to propel their boat down the Colorado River, which is swollen from a massive snowmelt that even threatens the safety of the Glen Canyon Dam. Their mission: to be the fastest boat to ever navigate Colorado River as it goes through the Grand Canyon.

The Emerald MileThe National Outdoor Book Award website says “Author Kevin Fedarko focuses on the three guides, but at the same time, he adeptly weaves into his narrative the broader story of the river itself, and the clash of two opposites:  those who love the wild untouched river – and those who desire to use the river for economic benefit.  Like the small wooden boat flung down the river, Emerald Mile is a riveting ride through history, politics and big dreams.”

The talented writer and journalist is a contributing editor at Outside magazine and known for his travel narratives. He was a staff writer at Time magazine from 1991-97, where he helped cover the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, according to Simon & Schuster’s biography on Fedarko.

“We’re excited to host an adventure writer who is so clearly aligned with what is characteristically SNC: someone who cares passionately about the environment, an entrepreneurial thrill-seeker who values the power of language and is committed to sustainable practices,” said English Program Chair June Saraceno.

The literary speaker series, Writers in the Woods, brings acclaimed authors, poets and screenwriters to Incline Village’s four-year, private university for readings and workshops throughout the academic year.

Fedarko will speak on the campus at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, in the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences building, Room 139, and will follow with a morning workshop from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 8. The Friday reading is free, while the workshop will cost $50 for nonstudents. More information and sign-ups can be found at sierranevada.edu.

“I am currently reading ‘The Emerald Mile’ and it resounds with everything I love about the world of rafting and rivers in general. His writing really captures the soul of the river and I am excited to get a look at the process that went into writing such a powerful book,” said Junior Sage Sauerbrey, a New Media Journalism major who guides rafting trips in Idaho during the summers.

Writers in the Woods features a year-long line-up of well-known writers. Upcoming authors include:

Feb. 6-7 – Saeed Jones
Saeed Jones’s critically acclaimed poetry collection, “Prelude to a Bruise,” went into a second printing just months after its 2014 publication. He is an editor at BuzzFeed, and his poetry has appeared in publications like “Hayden’s Ferry Review,”  “West Branch,” “Weave,” “The Collagist,” and “Linebreak.” His chapbook, “When the Only Light Is Fire,” is published by Sibling Rivalry Press. He blogs about writing, contemporary culture, and the potentialities and limits of the “black gay poet” identity at For Southern Boys Who Consider Poetry.

March 6-7 – Mark Maynard
Mark Maynard is the author of “Grind,” a collection of short stories set in Reno. His short fiction has been widely published, and he is the fiction editor of the literary journal, “The Meadow.”

April 17-18 – Gailmarie Pahmeier and David Lee
Poet Gailmarie Pahmeier has published the poetry collection, “The Rural Lives of Nice Girls,” as well as several other books. She teaches at the University of Nevada, Reno. David Lee was Utah’s first poet laureate and is the author of 15 volumes of poetry.



Have you ever? ODAL students reflect on life lessons in and out of the field

By Eliza Demarest

 “We have been learning to take care of ourselves in places that really matter. Crazy kids on the loose, but on the loose in the wilderness. That makes all the difference.”  -Terry and Renny Russell

By the time an Outdoor Adventure Leadership (ODAL) major at Sierra Nevada College reaches his/her senior year, each one has learned and mastered a variety of leadership skills and experienced amazing outdoor adventures.


Corey Donohue guides a raft during an ODAL adventure.

Those adventures range from white-water rafting on the American River, to end-of-summer and mid-winter backpacking expeditions in Desolation Wilderness, to sea-kayaking in Tomales Bay, to rock climbing at Dinosaur Rock and an extended backpacking course in Utah’s Canyonlands.

Near the end of their Interdisciplinary Studies experience, all ODAL students are required to take Wilderness Ethics, ODAL’s capstone course. This semester, Rosie Hackett, ODAL program director, chose for her students, a “Have You Ever” prompt by Terry and Renny Russel from their book, “On the Loose.”

Continue reading