Outdoor Programs Office creates non-student director position for First-Year Trips
The Trips director has traditionally been a graduating senior.
Though a senior undergraduate student has traditionally served as the director of the student-run First-Year Trips program, this year, the Outdoor Programs Office plans to hire a full-time non-student Trips program coordinator to fulfill the program’s “intensive” demands amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, according to acting OPO director Coz Teplitz.
Typically, the student director hires a fellow student to serve as an associate director and then selects a directorate of approximately 15 to 20 students to lead various parts of the Trips program. Though in recent years this group has been selected by mid-winter term, the selection of this year’s directorate will not begin until after the new non-student program coordinator has been hired.
In an email to members of the 2020 Trips directorate, Teplitz wrote that “while [he] can’t commit to a specific timeline,” he hopes to fill the position “expediently.”
Applicants to the program coordinator position will be interviewed by a search committee that will include Dartmouth Outing Club student leaders and New Student Orientation director Kathleen Cunneen.
Teplitz noted that the position is temporary and that OPO is not currently in a position to make decisions that extend past this year. He said that given the amount of uncertainty about what OPO will be able to do this year with the Trips program, he did not feel it was fair to ask a student to serve as Trips program coordinator.
Kellen Appleton ’20, who served as last year’s Trips director, said that although Trips derives much of its value from its many opportunities for student leadership, introducing a closely tied on-staff partner will give more power to students overall.
“Honestly, it is an intensive job, and it does often ask a lot of people — enough that they rearrange their D-Plans,” Appleton said.
For instance, Appleton chose not to take classes during his senior spring, instead pushing his last Dartmouth term to the fall in order to devote time to the Trips program. Although most seniors who write a thesis work on them continuously throughout the winter and spring of their senior year, Appleton was forced to break his thesis up between the winter and fall. He described the process as “challenging.”
“It’s kind of a big ask to say, ‘Hey, we want to give you a lot of control, power and influence, and that’s a really cool position that you can have, but it comes at the cost of having to rearrange your post-graduate plan, having a non-traditional D-Plan, graduating at a different time than the rest of your friends and taking time from your studies,” Appleton said.
Teplitz hopes that whoever steps into the position of Trips program coordinator will ultimately help OPO work closely with students to ensure that the incoming freshman class receives the best small group, peer-led orientation experience possible in the fall.
“Exactly what that looks like, we don’t know,” Teplitz said. “There is still so much uncertainty about what we will be able to do in August.”
He added that the Trips program may run in a way similar to its pre-pandemic format or take on a virtual format similar to last year’s Orientation Peer Leader program.
DOC president Mary Joy ’21 said that the hiring team is looking for the same qualities in a Trips director as they always would — flexibility, passion, diligence, organization and collaboration. Joy especially emphasized flexibility, given the uncertainty created by COVID-19.
“One of the things that is especially important this year is that this individual has a strong understanding of the fact that a lot of what they know about Trips and Dartmouth is going to be up in the air,” Joy said. “Just being flexible with that is something I think is required in a leader at this time.”
Appleton acknowledged that the outdoors are “a really important part” of Trips but added that the program uses the outdoors as one “tool” for creating spaces where people can be vulnerable and engage in mutual support before arriving at Dartmouth.
“Trips represent what I think the best parts of Dartmouth are,” Appleton said. “It is at the core a student-directed program that is all about providing an inclusive, loving, supportive welcome for new members of our community and making sure that it can happen in the best way it possibly can.”
Joy said that she hopes this year’s Trips program will allow students to appreciate the Dartmouth outdoors and general surrounding area, describing the outdoors as “really grounding” for freshmen. However, she noted that she believes many good parts of the Dartmouth community will shine through regardless of whether or not next year’s Trips can occur in person.
“It’s just unfortunate for us that Trips is predicated on getting people into huge groups together, which is obviously not in line with public health protocol,” she said, “but it is my hope that [next year’s team] can recreate at least some of the sense of community that Trips normally creates.”