Outdoor excursion, community service programs help new Whitman students bond
Whitman goes the extra mile to make new students feel at home – even before the start of term.
A week before the official Opening Week activities, including Orientation, more than 40 percent of new students participate in one of two off-campus experiences designed for bonding. Either they adventure in the great outdoors on a Scramble or serve the community with SCORE.
Bonding is the name of the game for both of these programs, in which students often make friends that last them through their Whitman careers and beyond.
“Students return to campus the day before opening day as tight-knit groups,” says Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland. “It is not unusual for first-year scramble groups to hold scramble reunions their senior year just prior to graduation. These scramble connections and bonds that are developed prior to the start of school probably last a lifetime.”
Scrambles and SCORE each offer unique introductions to Whitman life, but what every participant takes away from their experience is a sense of camaraderie and fun, which makes easing into college life that much easier.
“Not only are students ‘learning and doing’ but they are also developing close ties with each other that provide invaluable support as they begin their Whitman career,” says Cleveland.
The popular Scramble pre-orientation program has been fostering such ties for 34 years, introducing incoming students to the great outdoors and each other as they spend their last days of summer hiking, kayaking, white water rafting and much more. This year, 176 first-year students set out on 19 different Scrambles, from sailing the San Juan Islands to rock climbing in Central Oregon.
For the third consecutive year, Whitman also offers a different pre-orientation experience that enables a select number of first-years to critically engage with and serve their community: Summer Community OutReach Excursions, or SCORE.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for first-year students to engage with an issue in the Walla Walla community and bond with their peers as they volunteer and serve,” says Whitman’s Community Service Coordinator Kelsie Butts, who oversees the program.
Participants work with non-profits and other organizations in the Walla Walla Valley to address three key social issues facing the community: Housing and Homelessness, Conservation and Consumption, and Food and Hunger. They also get the chance to explore the town before other first-years even arrive.
“I started school with a passion for service that I had never known before and some of the best friends in the world,” says Ben Lerchin ’13, who participated in SCORE during its pilot year. “I wouldn't trade my experience for anything.”