Alex Versen: “Training for a lifetime.”

Posted by Monica Hoel
A lot of students play sports in college but after school is over so is that athletic endeavor. But the E&H Outdoor Program trains young people for the sorts of active endeavors that will follow them their entire lives.

Alex Versen (E&H ’12) is the Assistant Director of Outdoor Programs at Emory & Henry and he’s quick to point out there is no major in outdoor activities at Emory & Henry. “Our students major in all sorts of fields, but they are passionate about being outdoors. We train them to be outside safely, and we see them continuing to climb and paddle and hike after graduation – no matter what their field of work is.”

Nearly every college has some sort of outdoor program but Emory & Henry’s program is unique for several reasons. For starters, there are a LOT of opportunities to participate. “Many schools do a monthly outing, but we do things weekly. If you’re a student, you automatically have access to the events we organize; for example, anyone on campus can do a day hike, a kayak outing, a climbing event, or an organized bike ride. This academic year we’ve filled 600 participant slots.” Keep in mind they only have two full-time employees; Alex and the program’s founder and director, Jim Harrison.

Alex says for many of the students, participating in one of the Outdoor Program events is their first time to ever take a walk in the woods – much less ride a raft, do stand-up paddle-boarding, or go rock climbing. So training is a huge part of the work he does.

Another unique feature of the E&H Outdoor Program is the Outdoor Adventure Team. It functions much like a sports team in that these students have decided outdoor experiences are their second priority after academics. “These students spend a lot of time training, and they even live together in the same residence hall. Jim and I commit to spending a lot of time mentoring and training them.” The team is usually 20-30 young people, and Alex says he doesn’t mind the extra time that it requires to make the team successful and meaningful. “The memories I’m fondest of are those one-on-one advising sessions with faculty members who tried to steer me in a new direction I might never have considered. They took time to get to know me – and that’s one of the best parts of Emory & Henry.”

The third way the E&H program is unique is its one-of-a-kind “Semester-A-Trail” program. Emory & Henry is the only school in the country to offer an academic semester that is built around hiking part of the Appalachian Trail. Academic projects are created based on the student’s major, and even though the semester is spent on the AT, college enrollment is maintained for the entire experience. “We’ve seen some amazing projects built around English, photography, pre-health – any number of fields. And students from other colleges and universities transfer in for a semester to do this unique program.”

This May, the program is welcoming back alumni from the program for a first-ever E&H Outdoor Program alumni reunion on May 14, 2022. “We’re really proud of what our alums are doing, and we think current students will benefit from meeting them.

You can enjoy a conversation with Alex on The Duck Pond Wall podcast, and click here to read more about the reunion.

  • Alex Versen
    E&H Class of 2012

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  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/877-the-man-who-made-emory-henry-and-costa-rica"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/72,0,329,256/6549_Scrapper.rev.1563216299.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/72,0,329,256/6549_Scrapper.rev.1563216299.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/72,0,329,256/6549_Scrapper.rev.1563216299.jpg" alt="Scrapper Broady, Emory & Henry Class of 1970." width="345" height="225" data-max-w="257" data-max-h="256" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/877-the-man-who-made-emory-henry-and-costa-rica">The Man Who Made Emory & Henry and Costa Rica Neighbors</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"><a href="https://archive.org/details/OntheDuckPondWall/Scrapper+Broady.mp3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span>Click here to listen to an interview</span></a> with Scrapper Broady (’70) as he talks about the Pathway Project!  <a href="/live/news/877-the-man-who-made-emory-henry-and-costa-rica" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/997-josh-von-castle-receives-peace-award"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/925,276,1944,1296/6935_Peace_Award_Photo_3.rev.1569538189.webp 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/925,276,1944,1296/6935_Peace_Award_Photo_3.rev.1569538189.webp 2x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/925,276,1944,1296/6935_Peace_Award_Photo_3.rev.1569538189.jpg 2x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/925,276,1944,1296/6935_Peace_Award_Photo_3.rev.1569538189.jpg" alt="Josh von Castle receives Peace Award at annual SEAHO conference." width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/925,276,1944,1296/6935_Peace_Award_Photo_3.rev.1569538189.jpg 2x" data-max-w="1019" data-max-h="1020" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/997-josh-von-castle-receives-peace-award">Josh Von Castle Receives Peace Award</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Josh was cited for his service and leadership. <a href="/live/news/997-josh-von-castle-receives-peace-award" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>