Outdoor program increases diversity
Part of the University of Idaho’s Outdoor Program’s mission is to provide education and resources for “wilderness based, human powered outdoor and adventure activities.”
As a way to accomplish this goal, the outdoor program provides gender-specific trips and activities to create better learning environments, Outdoor Program Coordinator Mike Beiser said.
The outdoor program scheduled a women’s-only trip to Selway River, Idaho Sept. 15-16. They had a lot of first-time backpackers, and the gender specific trip was an efficient way for them to learn how to backpack through the wilderness, Beiser said.
“I have been on several backpacking trips that weren’t gender specific and those were successful as well, but there is a difference between the atmospheres in gender-specific trips,” said Jill Peterson, who went on the Selway River backpacking trip. “I find the women’s only trips to be more relaxing and calming.”
The women-only programs are usually successful, but the biggest problem the outdoor program runs into is trying to find the leadership needed to make the trip successful. Many women do not feel comfortable or confident enough to be in the hot seat — or to be a trip leader, Beiser said. Being a leader is an intense experience because they are in charge of organizing the trip, and might have to handle a tire blow out or medical emergency. Right now, the outdoor program is trying to get more women willing to take on the leadership role.
“There is a social stigma that women fight against in regards to leadership roles,” Tami Goetz, recreation faculty, said. “The women-only trips breaks down those barriers.”
The outdoor activities are typically a male dominated field, and that can be intimidating for women, Beiser said, which is one of the reasons they have Women’s Climbing Nights from 9-11 p.m. every Wednesday at the Student Recreation Center. He said women walk into the climbing area and see “testosterone bleeding all over the place,” which can make them hesitate before learning or developing their skills. Women only climbing nights designate a time and space that is more comfortable for learning.
“We recognize and embrace the differences in learning styles and perceptions,” Beiser said. “This is why we have gender-specific activities and trips. Males are more emotionally driven until about the age of 25, and will come to different decisions than females, who stop and ask different questions.”
To increase the amount of people participating in the outdoor program events, they reach out to other areas, and for women’s-only activities they work with the UI Women’s Center, Outdoor Program Assistant Coordinator Trevor Fulton said.
Beiser said there is a niche on campus for these events, and people ask for them and seem to enjoy it. Quite a few of the participants come back and they have developed a few great female climbers, and some females are in the process of becoming trip leaders.
“The wilderness doesn’t discriminate,” Goetz said. “It doesn’t care what educational background you have or your gender. The OP tries to get all these different people to be a part of the wilderness.”
Allison Griffith can be reached at email@example.com