Story by Emma Luster ’16.
In spring 2013 Maggie Mae Farthing ’14 took the Program Planning and Design course with outdoor leadership professor Marty O’Keefe and developed what would become “Class I: Pre-Orientation Program.” The program Farthing organized was a canoe trip down the French Broad River for incoming first year students. “I invited key stakeholders, including Dean of Students Paul Perrine, Director of Housing Joyce Milling, and Student Activities Director Dan Seeger, to my presentation in April to share with them the program I believed should happen.”
With the help of Seeger and the resources from the First Year Orientation Crew, Farthing selected a group of first-year applicants. On August 12 Farthing, Ben Surface ’14, and Landscaping Services Supervisor Caleb Mende ’12 led ten incoming students down the French Broad River Paddle Trail. “The purpose of the trip was to create a close-knit affinity group during the week preceding student orientation that would aid in the transition to Warren Wilson,” Farthing said.
The students said goodbye to their families with a big spaghetti dinner at the Pavilion and began their canoe trip, which covered over fifty miles. They carried all of their gear in the canoes, camping at sites along the river. The students involved indicated that their experience on the French Broad leading up to new student orientation mentally prepared them for the week to come.
The affinity group is planning community service trips with the Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA) to participate in some trail maintenance projects. Farthing is currently doing an independent study on how to improve this program for the future and to study the benefits for the students who participated. In addition, she will be researching wilderness orientation programs from colleges and universities across the country to improve the program she created and to determine how such programs can mesh with Warren Wilson College in the future.