If you are a student looking for your next adventure, look no further than the New Mexico State University Outdoor Recreation program. The program offers multiple opportunities to explore the Las Cruces area and is perfect for anyone looking for a weekend break from the books.
Those involved with the Outdoor Recreation program are actively seeking to promote it by reaching out to students and encouraging them to get involved with outdoor activities. Kelly McNeil, a junior studying music, communications and psychology, is an ambassador for Outdoor Nation this semester as well as an employee at the rock climbing wall. McNeil, who receives funding from Outdoor Nation, is working to promote an outdoor community on campus.
“Outdoor Nation is an initiative through the Outdoor Foundation, which is the main nonprofit outdoor group that works to get grants and things of that nature for people who are going outdoors and protecting the outdoors,” McNeil said. “I’m working to increase opportunities to get outdoors and to increase understanding of outdoor recreation.”
Program Coordinator Kenneth Coppedge discussed his goals for the Outdoor Recreation program. “The vision that I have is to make [the program] accessible to a very wide, diverse population of students, because we do have a diverse population here at NMSU,” Coppedge said, “So that’s something I go for—to try to make things affordable, leaving at a time on Friday’s so that everyone can come, [making sure] we don’t exclude people based on price or availability, or types of activities.”
A big part of the program’s funding comes from student fees, so students are the focus. In addition, the program is also largely student led. The Outdoor Leadership Program (OLP), which is a part of the Outdoor Recreation program, consists of volunteer students who help lead outdoor trips within the program.
“The students in OLP have to go through a certain set of trainings, and there is an orientation trip where we talk about all of the rules and policies of the Outdoor Leadership Program, and then they need to propose their own trip,” Coppedge explained.
Students who volunteer for the OLP must first go through this training and shadowing before becoming lead facilitators. Desiree Sanchez, a sophomore physics student, is working her way toward becoming a lead facilitator with the OLP.
“A lead facilitator is someone who takes students on outdoor trips, exploring different places in New Mexico or even outside of New Mexico,” Sanchez said.
Coppedge mentioned the benefits of student involvement. “We want the program to be sustainable. If we didn’t have the OLP, and we didn’t have student leaders, that would mean we [Coppedge and the other head coordinators] would be doing all of that work to lead.” Coppedge said.
The OLP student leaders still have many responsibilities when it comes to outdoor trip planning. “A lot goes into planning a trip,” Sanchez said. “The other weekend I led a trip to Baylor Pass, and that was a day hike. There was a lot of planning and preparation that went into the hike. It involved checking weather, letting everyone know what they would need to bring, having a schedule, being familiar with the area, having a great attitude, and overall just having a positive mindset.”
The mindset of those involved with the Outdoor Recreation program seems to reflect their mission statement: “To enrich the NMSU community by fostering leadership and personal growth through outdoor educational and recreational experiences.”
“We want to make sure that the students that participate make connections with people and just really enjoy having a great time while learning some necessary skills they might need if they decide to do trips on their own,” Sanchez said.