Wednesday May 29, 2024

Outdoor Action Strategic Plan


The Outdoor Action Program (OA) was begun as a pilot project in 1973 by the Dean of Student Life Office to address the issues of isolation experienced by students on campus and to provide an opportunity for increased interpersonal interaction and personal growth. The pilot program involved a small group of entering freshmen that participated in a group wilderness activity in the fall of 1973.

From that small beginning, the OA Frosh Trip Program has grown to become the largest wilderness orientation program in the United States. Over 780 members of the class of 2015 (51%) participated in the 2011 Frosh Trip Program. Outdoor Action has expanded to provide a wide range of outdoor education activities throughout the academic year for students, faculty and staff. Over 60% of all currently enrolled undergraduates have participated in some form of Outdoor Action activity through trips, training programs, or on-campus events throughout the year. Currently there are over 300 undergraduate and graduate students who are have been trained through the Outdoor Action Leader Training Program and serve as trip leaders throughout the year.


Over the past thirty eightyears the Outdoor Action Program has grown substantially. This growth has come through increased student participation levels across the range of OA activities. The program has also seen an increase in the number of student participating in the Leader Training Program. Clearly Outdoor Action is playing a significant role in the lives of undergraduates at Princeton University. What is also important to note is that the breadth of Outdoor Action activities is increasing as well as the diversity of participants to include more students of color, graduate students, and faculty and staff.

It is important to examine the role that Outdoor Action is playing in the lives of students at Princeton. The frosh Trip Program provides incoming students with a definite boost in their ability to feel comfortable when first arriving at Princeton. Results from a recent study showed that students felt more comfortable about being at Princeton after participating in the Frosh Trip Program. In addition, the Frosh Trip has proven to reduce student misperceptions about alcohol use at Princeton. Throughout the year OA offers a wide range of programs and activities for students that provide a healthy non-alcoholic break from a demanding academic load, positive social interaction with new people, appreciation and respect for the environment, new skills and life-long recreational activities, and increased interpersonal skills and self-confidence. Many students find that Outdoor Action becomes an important community and support structure for them at Princeton. A number of students, over 100 each year, complete a rigorous leader training program to develop the skills to teach and lead their peers in ways that require sensitivity, compassion, responsibility, and professionalism. The training these leaders receive and their experience in the program is felt across the campus in countless ways through the roles these students take on as Resident Advisors, class presidents, team captains, student organization leaders, etc. Many leaders remark that the Outdoor Action Program was the most important and personally formative part of their entire Princeton experience. Outdoor Action’s merger with the Princeton-Blairstown Center has created an entirely new branch of the program where students use their leadership and outdoor/experiential education skills to enhance the lives of urban youth through challenging experiential learning activities. In all of these ways Outdoor Action has a profound effect on the lives of students at Princeton and in helping to create a positive campus environment.

Outdoor Action continues to play a leading role in University outdoor education programs across the country. No other single University program is as emulated for the quality of programming and education. The OA Leader’s Manual, published by Random House as The Backpacker’s Field Manual is the leading text for outdoor education programs having sold more than 85,000 copies. The OA Web Site draws praise form around the world for its wealth of shared knowledge and experience on outdoor and experiential education. Outdoor Action continues to lead the way through development of community service programs, partnerships with agencies serving local youth, and collaboration with the Community Based Learning Initiative. New initiatives such as the proposal to integrate alcohol and diversity experiences into the curriculum of the Frosh trip Program establish OA on the cutting edge of utilizing small group outdoor experiences to expand the educational mission of the Frosh Trip to help create a more positive campus climate. Outdoor Action will continue to thrive and be effective as it builds upon these many strengths. 

The following statements of our mission, vision, priorities, objectives and strategies have resulted from an intentional process of reflection and analysis engaged in by the staff and board.  This plan serves as the “map” to our work, development and growth for the next three years.


To provide educational and character development experiences which advance personal responsibility, health and well-being, community, leadership development, civic engagement, and stewardship for Princeton University and the natural world through adventure-based experiential education.


Outdoor Action is an essential University resource that provides critically important, growth opportunities to diverse communities including students, staff and alumni of Princeton University, and urban youth, adults and families in the Princeton area. 

Through our program of outdoor-adventure, experiential education, we involve university students, staff, and Princeton area youth and families in learning experiences that lead to transformation of individual lives and a greater sense of what it means to be a contributing member of a diverse community. 


As the Outdoor Action Program celebrates our twenty-fifth year of providing learning and growth opportunities to Princeton University and surrounding community we will focus our efforts on these areas:

  • Enhance and further develop outdoor and experiential learning programs that enhance the lives of students at Princeton University and improve the quality of campus life.
  • Enhance and further develop effective outdoor leadership development programs for Princeton University students.
  • Develop innovative curriculum and learning opportunities for students that enhance understanding of critical campus life issues such as alcohol use and diversity.
  • Expand the ethnic, cultural, and social-economic diversity of the campus populations who participate in Outdoor Action in a manner that creates and maintains access for all students.
  • Enhance and develop professional and personal development opportunities for OA staff and leaders through other educational and training experiences.
  • Enhance and further develop community service opportunities--including tutoring, mentoring, and leadership development--for Princeton University undergraduates in the Outdoor Action Program--through collaborative relationships with other community service groups on campus, youth serving agencies and non-profit organizations.
  • Enhance and further develop physical and educational resources of the program as well as major equipment.
  • Enhance and further develop the financial support base for programs and facilities.


I. Leadership

Develop and sustain strong leadership in the Friends of Outdoor Action and administrative and program staff to ensure the sound guidance, development, and management of the Outdoor Action Program.


Tier 1

  1. Recruit, train, and retain Board members with a strong commitment to the mission of OA.
  2. Further diversify Board composition (seasoned corporate, agency/constituent, ethnic/gender/age.
  3. Recruit, train and retain staff with a strong commitment to the mission of Outdoor Action.
  4. Recruit a diverse staff.
  5. Define and initiate staff development program.
  6. Tier 2

  7. Define long-term staffing needs for Outdoor Action.

II. Program

Provide enriching educational and personal growth experiences through outdoor and adventure-challenge activities to members of the Princeton University community that focus on leadership and skill development, stewardship of the natural world, and community service.


Tier 1

  1. Develop and maintain policy and procedure manual, committee and review structure to ensure safe programs by 12/31/99.
  2. Initiate accreditation process with AEE by 12/31/99.
  3. Expand the impact of the OA Program through development of an innovative curriculum that addresses important campus life issues.
  4. Increase the participation of students of color in Outdoor Action activities and in the Outdoor Action Leader Training and Community Service Programs.
  5. Increase the numbers of students participating in and completing the OA Leader Training program to 120 each year.
  6. Provide ongoing educational and professional development programs and trainings to enhance the skills and experience of Outdoor Action Leaders.
  7. Provide annual activities for Princeton alumni that enhance connection with Princeton University, the Outdoor Action program and promote increased financial support for OA.

III. Development and Fund Raising

Increase fund raising and development results by expanding income from current supporters and capitalizing on potential new funding sources created by innovative, mission-focused program development, expanded volunteer leadership, enhanced marketing, and special opportunities including those presented by the relationship with Princeton University, special events, and Outdoor Action’s 25th anniversary.


Tier 1

  1. Increase annual giving income by at least 5% annually.
  2. Secure $300,000 in capital support by 7/1/02.
  3. Secure $200,000 in endowment support by 7/1/02.
  4. Expand solicitation to parents of Princeton University students who participate in Outdoor Action programs.

Tier 2

  1. Develop endowment for Outdoor Action supporting the Program Coordinator position, leadership training, and scholarships.

  2. Explore increased University support for program and leadership development. 

IV. Property and Facilities

Develop, maintain and enhance Outdoor Action’s facilities, offices and physical program elements to provide excellent resources for our work with the campus community, alumni, and urban youth in the Princeton area.


Tier 1

  1. Improve the quality and expand the types of equipment items that Outdoor Action can provide to participants to ensure program accessibility for all socio-economic groups.
  2. Develop a comprehensive plan for regular replacement of capital equipment including vehicles, computers, and outdoor equipment.
  3. Develop a long-range plan for OA administrative office, equipment storage and educational space needs.
  4. Develop a long-range plan for campus-based experiential education facilities including the climbing wall and low ropes-adventure course.
  5.  Prioritize capital expenditures with regard to property and equipment.

V. Support Organizations and External Relations

Develop and enhance relationships with support and partner organizations including Princeton-Blairstown Center, Community House, and the Student Volunteers Council to maximize benefits for mission work and further professionalize Outdoor Action.


Tier 1

  1. Increase the utilization of the Princeton-Blairstown Center for OA programs to expand student knowledge and interest in PBC activities and staff positions.
  2. Increase participation of campus organizations, departments and staff in OA programs by 5% by 1/1/01.
  3. Develop and extend community and campus public relations, information, and awareness of OA; regularly improve and update OA website.
  4. Expand joint training of student leaders in Outdoor Action, Community House, and the Student Volunteers Council to provide a higher quality of community service to those we serve.
  5. Develop partnerships with innovative service agencies in other communities that engage Princeton University students with service and service learning activities during breaks and other periods.

VI. Finance and Administration

Develop effective and efficient administrative and financial support systems to ensure sound management practice and maximize the utilization of the Outdoor Action’s financial, personnel, and office resources and to strengthen Outdoor Action’s financial position to anticipate and better meet current and future program needs.


Tier 1

  1. Develop and initiate administrative and financial procedures for Outdoor Action by 12/30/99.
  2. Develop a Web-based sign-up and automated billing system for all Outdoor Action activities by 9/1/99
  3. Provide a planning tool by developing long-range (5-year) budget projections by 12/31/99.
  4. Tier 2

  5. Evaluate the Outdoor Action’s investments to assure that they are invested in the most appropriate manner. (Annual)