Friends of Outdoor Action Newsletter

2012 - 2013

Forty Years of Excellence in Outdoor Leadership & Education

Happy 40th Anniversary OA!

What a Milestone!

When I think of all the miles that have been hiked, biked, paddled and climbed, the tarps set up, GORP eaten, and rain drops fallen over the last forty years for tens of thousands of students and alumni I am truly amazed. During its forty-year history Outdoor Action has achieved incredible success.

The OA Frosh Trip is the largest single outdoor orientation program in the US. Each fall, more than fifty-five percent of the incoming freshmen class begin their Princeton experience with Frosh Trip—a six-day outdoor trip where they learn about Princeton from experienced upperclass students.There is something unique about traveling on the trail with ten other people, hearing their stories and working hard together each day. The ability to ‘unplug’ from cell phones and the Internet for six-days and only interact with your group is part of what creates a strong interdependent community. Frosh Trip serves as a great ‘mixing bowl’ of the Princeton experience. The success of Frosh Trip over the last forty years in orienting new students to Princeton, building diversity, and teaching leadership and self-reliance is a key impetus for the University’s proposal to require all incoming students to have a small-group orientation experience like Frosh Trip.

Outdoor Action is also the single largest and most influential student leadership development program on campus. Students who complete Leader Training are role models and mentors both for freshmen and for other students across the campus. The broad-reaching impact of the Leader Training Program is evident in the myriad ways that OA Leaders enhance campus life through their involvement and leadership on sports teams, student government, student organizations and community service. OA has built a unique learning laboratory where students have the opportunity to practice real leadership in service to others.

FT 2013


I am proud to report that OA’s student leaders are the most diverse of any Ivy League outdoor program. OA is unique in colleges across the country in that we encourage and accept every student who wants to train as an OA Leader. Our peer institutions limit the number of students who can become leaders. We believe that all students can benefit from the Leader Training Program and should have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills through the great training that OA offers. The principle that “anyone can become a leader” is a cornerstone of the program.

Teaching leadership is not a simple task. Becoming an Outdoor Action Leader is much more than learning technical skills. It requires mastering listening and communication, group facilitation, conflict management, and mentoring—all of which is taught through a values-oriented framework that encourages diversity and tolerance. OA Leaders receive the most extensive training of any student orientation leader on campus. RCAs receive 60 hours of training while OA Leaders complete over 150 hours of experientially-based training. Over half of the students who become OA Leaders had their first outdoor experience on the OA Frosh Trip. That illustrates how effective Frosh Trip is in encouraging incoming students to take on leadership roles on campus.

The impact of Outdoor Action over the past forty years is both broad and deep. It can be seen not only through the relationships built on the trail through working together but also in the leadership skills that OA Leaders inject into all of their academics and campus activities. Ask any student who has participated, an alumnus who was a leader, or a parent whose child went on Frosh Trip and you will hear just how important Outdoor Action is to the Princeton experience. Read on in this issue to hear what students have to say about why OA is so important.

OA is also one of Princeton’s greatest untapped resources. There are numerous ways that OA’s model for student leadership development can be expanded across the campus. That's our goal for the next five years and we need your help to build the resources for OA to continue to grow and thrive at Princeton Please make a special gift this year for OA’s 40th Anniversary. Thanks for your support!

Rick Curtis ’79
Director, Outdoor Action

It's All About Leadership

One of the unique aspects of OA is the role that OA Leaders play in every aspect of delivering the program. Training new student leaders is done almost entirely by other students and this peer-to-peer teaching is one of OA’s most valuable learning experiences. Students are trained in a variety of roles—CPR Instructor, First Aid Instructor, Technical Skills Trainer, Leave No Trace Master Educator, and Leader Trainer. These students design and manage curriculum, teach classes, grade and evaluate other students and provide them with feedback on their learning. In addition students operate the OA Climbing Wall and Equipment Room and during the summer Frosh Trip Coordinators work full time to help plan the entire Frosh Trip. OA Leaders aren’t just leaders on the trail, leadership and teaching is something OA builds in to every aspect of the program.

OA Expands Academic Year Programming

In 2012 OA won a $10,000 prize from the Polartec Corporation to support more trips during the academic year. Over the past 6 months the student-led OA Programming Committee (or ProComm) has been cranking out trips. So far this fall we’ve offered OA DAY a free, fun exploration of the outdoors close to Princeton—everything from canoeing on Lake Carnegie to local bouldering, biking and trail maintenance. We also ran successful rock climbing trips, canoeing adventures, hiking trips and backpacking trips. Students are really excited about continuing to grow the trips program. Your support can take over for the Polartec grant when those funds run out this year.

What does OA do the rest of the Year?

You might think that OA just winds down after Frosh Trip, but you couldn’t be more wrong. After ‘putting Frosh Trip to bed’ we gear up for an incredibly busy fall. Immediately we start recruiting students, especially freshmen, to go through Leader Training and we start offering first aid and CPR courses in the first weeks of the semester. We also run Fall Break Leader Training where we offer all of the courses required to become an OA Leader. This year 50 students participated over Fall Break. The Climbing Wall opens up and runs five days a week and there are new Wall Staff to train. We also start the interview and selection process for new Leader Trainers, Leave No Trace Master Educators and Technical Skills Trainers. Thanks to the Program Committee, we ran trips almost every weekend in September and October. Over Intersession we’ll have a Wilderness First Responder Course and multiple Leader Training Trips going to Florida. Then we start it all over again in February. So OA is a year-round full-time operation.

Frosh H142 - hard core New Friends

Frosh Trip PA66

OA’s Birthday Wish List

During our first Forty Years OA has accomplished amazing things. It’s time to look ahead to the future. These are some of the goals for OA and the funding we will need for the future:

  • OA must provide the best professional training for student leaders. Well-trained student leaders are the core of the program and they are involved in every aspect of program delivery. Providing the best possible training as well as ongoing supervision and feedback for students to continue their leadership development is essential. The OA Leader Training Program should be fully funded so that it is free to all students who chose to participate. This will increase the number of leaders as well as expand the diversity of the leader pool. ($100,000 annually)
  • Create permanent funding to support the OA Climbing Program and Climbing Wall.
    ($50,000 annually)
  • Outdoor Action should expand its collaborative educational programming, leadership development and training services across the University.
  • Outdoor Action should offer a robust set of trip activities during the year to enhance student leadership development, encourage diverse interaction across the entire campus community, and provide healthy options for leadership development, education and recreation.
  • A long term plan for endowing the Outdoor Action Program should be instituted to ensure that Outdoor Action has the necessary annual funding to continue to deliver program excellence for the next forty years.

You can help us reach these goals by giving to OA. Like the impact of OA on campus, your gift will ripple out through the program and across the campus.

Why OA Matters to Students & Princeton

We asked OA Leaders to Relfect on why OA matters. Here's what they had to say.

Frosh Trip VA140 in Shenandoah National Park

Simone Sasse ’14

a Leave No Trace Master Educator and Leader Trainer from Los Angeles, CA

Everyone feels it. It’s the magical moment during a trip when the I-don’t-know-anyone tension has dissipated, the group jokes begin to take root, and the deeper conversations commence. As a unit, you have cooked together, you’ve labored over hills together, and you’ve constructed your temporary communal housing together every night. These shared experiences, often over the course of just one day, make the change in group atmosphere palpable.

What I love about OA is that this shared experience creates an inclusive and comfortable environment that strips away differences and promotes friendships that may not have formed as spontaneously on campus. As a senior at Princeton, I greatly value the friendships I formed as a freshman on Frosh Trip, and it is a great feeling to witness friendships formed on the trips I have led. There is something to be said about placing a randomly selected group of students who don’t know each other in the woods and ending up with a group that feels close by the end of a single week.

OA is about Experiencing Diversity

This trip really helped me to see that the other students I would meet at Princeton were very similar to me in many respects, that they had many of the same fears and apprehensions as I did and that I wasn't alone in feeling nervous or overwhelmed. It was a huge help to return to Princeton already having a strong network of friends, especially the upperclassmen leaders that I knew I could turn to if I ever needed help.

I think that OA made me realize that just as the wilderness provides a setting for people with different interests to bond, one can also strive to find a similar environment in everyday life, getting to know others with very different interests. It is more comfortable to be surrounded by people who have similar ideals and intentions, but I think that being challenged by the variety of different perspectives at Princeton is important in order to reflect, to question, to engage. This mentality has profoundly shaped my experience at Princeton, and I think that OA promotes this attitude by creating friendships that last beyond OA and by generally encouraging interaction with different people. I greatly appreciate OA’s emphasis on openness to others with the significance placed on the establishment and maintenance of a safe space for all frosh over the course of the trip.

Rachel Rosenblatt ’16

from Glastonbury, CT led her first Frosh Trip this fall

Outdoor Action has been an integral part of my Princeton experience, and I have had the pleasure of being both a participant and a leader. Before freshman year, I did not know what to expect of my impending journey to college. Princeton seemed like some distant place where I was not sure how I would belong. Outdoor Action served as an incredible and unique first introduction to Princeton, distanced from the ‘orange bubble’ and precluding coursework, but intimately connected to the community as a whole. The wilderness setting of OA facilitates the breaking down of barriers, where each member of the group is equalized without the distraction of material goods, technology, and social pressures. Therefore, relationships are void of superficial characteristics. I distinctly remember many trail conversations that broached topics large and small; for example, I remember sharing my family history, hearing about my peers accomplishments, sharing academic goals, singing songs, etc. All of these conversations paved the way for close relationships and a deep understanding and respect for one another. I believe there is something very uniting about struggling together. On my Frosh Trip we suffered through buckets of rain, nights of lightening protocol, blisters galore, but somehow came out of the trip with only positive feelings and the security of a whole new group of friends. Outdoor Action is an incredible program that sets the tone for participant’s Princeton career. My decision to become a leader was motivated by a sense of indebtedness to the program and my goal as a leader is to strive to provide an experience paralleling that of my own

Frosh Trip PA62 coolin' off along the trail


Frosh Trip Group G16 floating the Delaware River

Elizabeth Henry ’14

a Leader Trainer from Manhasset, NY

As I arrived back on campus in late-August, despite the excitement that another pre-trip week had finally arrived and that the frosh would be here in a mere five days, I couldn’t help but reflect and wallow in the reality that this year I would be marching onto the OA bus clad in a leader cubed shirt, a mark that I have watched previous seniors bear, but never imagined myself to become a member of their ranks. [Leaders coming back to lead a third Frosh Trip get a special Leader3 t-shirt.] How could this be, how could I have gotten from the point of being a frosh, taking those first steps into Dillon gym on the first day of OA, to be heading off on my 6th OA trip?

Although I have gotten to watch OA transform incoming freshman on every trip I’ve lead, the most significant transformation I have seen has been in myself. I showed up to campus on September 4th, 2010 literally shaking in my flip-flops, I was the first to leave home as the eldest of my family, I had never spent five days without a shower, I wondered if I would make friends and be able to pass my classes…the list of fears went on and on. Needless to say the last thing I wanted to do was spend five days hanging out in the woods, hiking, which at that point I understood to be a fancy way of describing walking with a lot of unnecessary weight on your back, without a shower, and with what I was sure to be a group of students that I wouldn’t fit in with considering I had never even owned a pair of hiking boots. It wasn’t until I arrived back to my dorm and relished in the luxury of having a soft bed, a hot communal shower, and delicious dining hall food that I realized I had never enjoyed myself more than during those past 6 days, surrounded by total strangers, no cell-phone, and in the backwoods of New York’s Catskill Mountains. I would now confidently claim that OA has changed my life for the better, I met my very best friend on this campus, shocked all of my family and friends when I stated that I wanted to train to be a leader, and have continued to increase my involvement with the program due to my unwavering and stanch support for the programs mission. So when I say I question how I could have gotten from being the naïve and scared freshman in the fall of 2010, to being a Leader3 this past fall, what I am really questioning, is would I have gotten to be the person I am today, and have had the remarkable and memorable Princeton experience that I have had thus far, if it wasn’t for the Outdoor Action program? My answer to myself was a resounding, no.

I could go on and on about the benefits of OA and give you my standard pitch about why it is the best program at this school, but in my opinion that is already obvious. The OA experience has the unique ability to draw Princeton students from every end and corner of this campus to join its ranks. As I enjoy every minute I have left of this best old place of all, I am reminded by the fortunate experience and personal transformation that the OA program has given me, and hope to make-up for it by giving back in every capacity in which I can to ensure that current and future Princetonians have the same opportunity and positive experience that I have been fortunate enough to have.

OA Leadership Is 'Giving Back'

My leaders were outstanding. They conversed with each of us in groups and one-on-one; it was so natural to talk with them. Without the constant support of my leader, I wouldn't have made it through the first day. He pushed me without panicking me; he stopped when I needed to; he lightened my load. Our leaders never flaunted their authority, but they brought our group together into a cohesive unit in which everybody gladly did his/her part and everyone got along incredibly well.


Alumni News

Notes from the Trailhead

Share your news on the enclosed membership form.

Rich Levandowski ’70 reported that his son Will Levandowski ’07 set a Guinness world record for vertical feet bouldering in 18 hours. He climbed more than 29,000 feet.

Hugh Miller ’79 reports - the Miller clan which includes 3 former OA Leaders Hugh, Fiona Miller ’09, and Isaiah Miller ’12 all met in Thailand and had a backcountry experience in northeastern Thailand.

Andrew Reumann-Moore ’83 Climbed a Collegiate 14er in Colorado, Mount Antero, this summer with 16 year old daughter Maia.

Kari Lister van Zee ’87 and Piet van Zee ’87 write - our daughter Erynne is headed to Tufts in the Class of 2017. This past summer Piet, Kari and Erynne biked 400 miles from Corvallis, OR to Mt. Hood and back.

Taylor Kimberly ’96 & Heidi Harbison Kimberly ’97 have three girls ages 5, 3 and 1 and have started taking them hiking in the huts in the White Mountains of NH. 

For more Notes from the Trailhead, visit: 


Find us on FacebookOA has two Facebook Pages, one is for Alumni & Friends and will have information about upcoming OA Alumni activities:
The other, for current students, has the latest information on Frosh Trip and campus programs at
Please help us grow our alumni and friends network by going to one or both and Like OA.