To address a perceived need for an outdoor and recreational community at Stanford, undergraduate students have raised the idea of creating an outdoors-themed house, evaluating the student body’s interest in such a community and taking the initial steps to propose such a theme to Residential Education.
“It would be an outdoor action sports theme,” said Natasha Berk ‘16, one of the students heading the initiative. “It’d be for people who like to go out and do fun stuff outdoors — hiking, climbing, backpacking, mountaineering, all that kind of stuff — but also have a fun community to live with. And you don’t have to be an intense hiker or an expert skier or anything.”
Berk estimates that up to 200 students are interested in such a community.
“Twenty people are actually actively working on it,” Berk said. “But I’ve also had a lot of people email saying that they were interested. There’s a small number of people that are interested in helping out with the actual paperwork, but what I think is more important is that there’s a larger community of people that would be interested in living in the house.”
The outdoor interest group hopes to host the new community in a house as opposed to in a dorm, as this would provide more space to store equipment and would better foster outdoor activities.
“We think a house would be really important to building the lasting community that we’re envisioning,” Berk said. “All the [existing] houses have unique personalities and they are very well associated with the community the house represents. We would want gear storage, and since we’re outdoor themed, it would be awesome if we could have a garden.”
The initiative to pull together an outdoor community is not only headed by students, but also backed by support from Stanford Outdoor Education, specifically from associate director Christopher Pelchat.
“I’ve worked at Eastern Washington University and Ithaca College before coming to Stanford, and both of those campuses had outdoor communities,” Pelchat said. “I was surprised that there was [an outdoor educational] program of this size here and we didn’t have [an outdoor community] in our residential education.”
The themed house plans to collaborate heavily with Stanford Outdoor Education, which can provide recreational equipment and training protocols for the various outdoor activities.
“If they have folks in the house that want to be trained, they can run those programs specifically for their house,” Pelchat said. “There’s also general programming [from Outdoor Education] that they can add to their house activities and funding opportunities if they want to bring a speaker or need space to host them.”
Currently, the students are working on the proposal for the themed house and are meeting on a regular basis, as well as brainstorming ideas for the standards of the proposed house. These standards would include how responsibilities would be managed in the house, as well as specific learning outcomes that are associated with the outdoor education focus of the community.
Zach Chase ‘16, another student actively working on the proposal, is collecting student feedback from current themed houses in order to help shape these requirements.
“It’s a good idea to go out and talk to people in the houses and ask them what they like about their houses,” Chase said. “For example, one question we have is what the requirements for living in an outdoor theme house should be … feedback would be helpful in informing some of our decisions.”
The students hope to put together a solid proposal during the next academic year, hoping to unfold their themed house in fall quarter of 2015.
“This is much more about making a fun living community with a tight-knit community,” Berk said. “It’s not so academic. It’s just about doing fun things in the outdoors. A lot of people feel like it’s a niche on campus that needs to be filled.”
Contact Catherine Zaw at czaw13 ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.