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Outdoor UW Basecamp Program Encourages Student Leadership

New students can choose between the canoe and backpack trip with Basecamp. Photo courtesy of Outdoor UW Basecamp.

When Maria Pfister walked to class on her first day of freshman year, she already recognized a dozen familiar faces on the crowded campus streets. Just weeks before Pfister moved into her residence hall, she had canoed a 60 mile journey with fellow incoming freshmen through Outdoor UW’s Basecamp.

The annual Wisconsin Union program offers summer backpacking and canoeing trips throughout the state, led by upperclassmen Basecamp leaders who are trained in Wilderness First Aid, group dynamics and outdoor skills.

Each trip provides a sense of community for students, a place to build character and leadership skills for incoming freshmen and transfer students. Basecamp manager Julie Brown oversees all the student leaders, including senior Emily Schaefer.

Like Pfister, Schaefer first got involved with the program before her freshman year, and is continuing her participation this year as a Basecamp leader and assistant manager.

“I’ve really seen myself grow through this program. I started out as a participant and made a lot of friends on my trip, so I felt a lot more comfortable coming to UW,” Schaefer said. “Without Basecamp, I wouldn’t be here. I feel like I’m engrained in the Union, I feel connected to UW, I feel like I have a place here.”

Each trip is lead by student leaders who are trained in Wilderness First Aid. Photo courtesy of Outdoor UW Basecamp.

Roles of basecamp leaders range from preparing participants beforehand to make sure they have the right supplies to ensuring safety of all students during the trips. Schaefer said the ability to manage all of this is credited to the leadership skills she learned in her past years with Basecamp.

“I’ve developed my leadership skills here and I feel a lot more confident working with my peers and group work,” Schaefer said. “Student leadership is the only way Basecamp could thrive.

Author: Ellie Herman

Ellie Herman is a senior at UW-Madison studying Journalism and Mass Communication and French. If she's not petting every dog at the Terrace, you can probably find her drinking massive amounts of coffee at Peet's in Memorial Union.

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