Whitman outdoor program receives national excellence award

Outdoor program award

The Outdoor Program was recently recognized with the David J. Webb Program Excellence Award, an annual honor bestowed by the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education. The award acknowledges a non-profit outdoor program that has provided dynamic services to its participants, shown professionalism and contributed to the larger outdoor community by working with other programs.

Director of Outdoor Programs Brien Sheedy is very excited about the honor.

"This is an amazing tribute and recognition of many years of hard work to make the Whitman College Outdoor Program not only a signature program of the college but one that stands out at the national level,” he said.

The OP has been a part of Whitman for decades. It began as a student club in the 1960s and was founded as a program in 1974. It started one of the first outdoor orientation programs for first-year students when it offered its first “Scrambles” in 1978. These Scrambles provided first-years the opportunity to get to know their classmates while participating in a fun outdoor activity like kayaking or hiking. Currently, roughly half of the incoming first-year class participates in Scramble trips each year.

The variety of programs and services organized by the OP made it an excellent candidate for this national award. In addition to organizing Scrambles, the OP teaches various outdoor skill courses. They cover topics ranging from wilderness first aid and risk management to skiing, climbing and mountaineering. Those interested in planning an outdoor excursion can rent OP equipment for a wide variety of outdoor activities and can also use the guidebooks and maps on file in the OP office.

The OP is also responsible for hosting several outdoor-related events on campus. Each year, the office organizes the Teton Gravity Research ski film and the Banff Mountain Film Festival. The OP also partners with other departments and offices on campus to oversee 36 Sport Studies, Recreation and Athletics (SSRA) courses and to ensure that the campus climbing center is open approximately 40 hours each week.

OP services are available to all Whitman students and to members of the Walla Walla community interested in learning more about outdoor recreational opportunities in the surrounding area. The OP is involved in community outreach programs at local elementary and middle schools, the YMCA and the Boy Scouts.

“Anyone, regardless of ability or skill level, may participate. Through the Outdoor Program, all students interested in noncompetitive, non-motorized pursuits may share adventures,” said Sheedy.