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CMU students develop leadership skills backpacking through the Rocky Mountains

Students travel across the country as part of an honors course last month

Contact: CMU News

​​Taking education into the wilderness helped transform CMU students in the Rocky Mountains this summer. Eleven Honors Scholars students and two faculty members participated in a weeklong wilderness excursion last month in Colorado.

As part of an honors course, students were given the opportunity to develop wilderness adventure and leadership skills as well as the techniques of minimal impact backcountry travel and camping.

“Students quickly learned that CMU expands education past traditional practice inside the classroom,” said Jordan Bruursema, outdoor recreation and honors course faculty member. “CMU provides unique programs to educate students on self-exploration, leadership and relationship-building.”

Sarah Clark, a Grand Ledge senior, and Jarrod Blundy, an Ionia junior, were given the opportunity to experience this firsthand as student leaders of this trip.   

“The things you learn when you step outside of your comfort zone can surprise you the most,” Clark said. “I stepped out of my comfort zone when I decided to go on this trip. We had to carry 40-pound backpacks at high levels of altitude. We became winded faster than we expected, even after training all summer for the trip but everyone encouraged each other to push through.”

Besides cameras, no technology was used on this trip. This gave the students an opportunity to build relationships with the people around them through reflection and discussions with one another, Clark said. The students were responsible for setting up camp, preparing and cooking meals, and leading the group when they were leaders for the day.

They also were trained in the “Leave No Trace” principles, which is a program dedicated to promoting and inspiring responsible recreational practices through education. Students were responsible for teaching their peers about a different practice each day.

“Being in nature had an amazing way of transforming students and their ability to stand out and be a leader,” Bruursema said.

CMU incorporates leadership through various courses and programs giving students the opportunity to have diverse and valuable experiences.

“My ultimate goal was to experience something new,” Blundy said. “Getting away from the hustle and bustle in society and your everyday life, being able to reflect on who you are and who you want to be was a lot of what we did. It was great to take that time to think and talk to others that were thinking about their future goals as well.”

Students who attended the trip included:

  • Junior Jarrod Blundy from Ionia
  • Senior Sarah Clark from Grand Ledge
  • Junior Alexis Cherven from Midland
  • Senior Emily Herbon from Troy
  • Sophomore Taylor Kolodziej from Clarkston
  • Senior Jessica Leal from Brownstown
  •  Senior Nicholas Martin from Commerce Township
  • Junior Brandon Oswald from Palms
  • Sophomore Jessica Snider from Novi
  • Junior Nicole Wilkinson from Gaylord
  • Senior Amy Rechenberg from Hebron, Illinois

For more information on how to participate in an outdoor education class, contact Bob Dvorak at

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