In the popular Pixar movie, Up, there is a memorable quote: “adventure is out there.” This spirit is shared by the community here at UT Chattanooga. When asked what word comes to mind when she thinks of UTC, one student said, “Family.” One aspect that makes us a family is our craving for experiencing new adventures that the world has to offer us. Here, at UT Chattanooga, we create an environment where students can become part of a family, and with the UTC Outdoors Program, this family can go on as many adventures as they want. Whether it’s falling from the atmosphere on our skydiving trip, or crawling through the labyrinth of cave systems that weave through the region, students at UTC can explore nature from the highest to the lowest possible places.
However, nature is not the only thing they explore. I asked Joe Lindsay, a student and long-time participant of UTC Outdoors’ programs, what experiences he took away from our program. “Self-discovery,” he answered. Pushing yourself to do things you never thought you would be doing forces us as people to unearth who we really are and what we are capable of doing. I asked Joe why he kept coming back to the outdoor trips.
I kept coming back to go on the trips because, not only did I get to venture into the great outdoors, but I also got to meet some great people along the way. We all shared stories and exchanged numbers for future trips.
As a trip leader, I am able to experience watching students bond with each other while kayaking down a river and camping that night under the stars. The students involved with these trips are always ready and enthusiastic, no matter what the circumstances are. On one of our ski trips, a trip that requires students to be ready to leave by 5am, I could feel the surmounting excitement in the room despite the groggy eyes and mumbled speech. Even though we were half asleep, we were not going to turn down an adventure.
Daniel Latto, a coworker and trip leader at UTC Outdoors, has voiced his passion for what he does and the experiences that come with it. As an experienced rock climber, Daniel gets to meet a plethora of students while they visit our popular rock wall. His first time as a leader was on one of the ski trips to Beech Mountain, N.C. Since then he has taken the challenge of creating his own trips to take students on. When asked what he thinks makes UTC’s outdoor program superior to others, Daniel said:
I feel as though the UTC Outdoors program is superior to other programs due to the fact that we start out by hiring individuals who are enthusiastic and passionate about many outdoor activities, the program offers a wide variety of trips for the students, and we have all sorts of equipment for the students to rent to use in their own exploration.
UTC Outdoors offers a multitude of equipment for our students to pick from. With a $50 deposit check, any student or ARC member can come in and choose whatever equipment they please. Our equipment includes tents, sleeping bags/pads, mountain bikes, whitewater kayaks (plus necessary gear), flatwater kayaks, SUP boards, and much more. As long as the student or member brings back all of the equipment the way it was rented out to them, they get their check back.
This system makes our equipment rentals practically free, as we only keep the check should they damage or lose the equipment while it’s in their care. The amount of rentals each semester is certainly incredible, as is the number of trips and quality customer service has to offer.
However, none of this would be possible without Anna Muller, Coordinator of Outdoor Programming. Anna has been COP since August of 2009 and has been a huge benefit to the program. I inquired about Anna’s time with UTC Outdoors.
RR: Why do you like working for the outdoor program?
AM: I love teaching others how to be successful when participating to outdoor adventures and chose to take this position so I could lead others to be successful in their outdoor pursuits and share those experiences.
RR: What has been your experience as director?
AM: UTC has provided me with so many adventures. Working with UTC Outdoors, I have had opportunities to share my love of nature and outdoor sports with thousands of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. We have travelled all over the Southeast and across the country. Some of my favorite moments have been the ones in which I was able to share the outdoors with someone for their first time.
Anna and her legendary staff have become the figureheads of the family that is UTC Outdoors. This family welcomes all and shuns none. We offer 20+ trips a semester and weekly clinics and events for the UTC community. Our program has certainly come a long way since its origin in the 1970s. We plan to continue growing and reach out to more who have a desire to explore the world around them as well as themselves. My closing question for Anna was what one word she would choose to describe the future of UTC Outdoors. She exuberantly responded with, “Adventure!” Our program motto for the last 6 years has been, ‘It’s all part of the adventure.’ And as we know, adventure is out there!
– Randall Ramaswamy