For the first time in over 20 years, annual fall voyage trips will not be take place
The Voyages trips, which Outdoor Pursuits has organized at Pacific University for more than 20 years, will not happen in the fall of 2024. The five-day pre-orientation voyage trips are designed to introduce incoming freshmen and transfer students to one another while going on a fun-filled adventure. More than 100 students participated last fall, including backpacking in the Umpqua National Forest, rafting on the Deschutes River, and surfing along the coast. It is a chance to boost confident and gain survival skills before embarking on the next big adventure: college!
But the popular program has lost its leadership: Nine months ago, in March 2023, the assistant director departed, and the position hasn’t been replaced since. And without that position, Outdoor Pursuits does not have the capacity to host the Voyages trips, which are logistic-heavy, including obtaining permits, route research, leader training, camping reservations, gear and food packing for all the students. OP staff clarified that if it is uncertain whether the position of assistant director will be filled, they cannot take the chance of beginning the voyage planning process.
Marissa Mendoza, a student employee at Outdoor Pursuits who works as the marketing coordinator, talked about how important the voyages were for her introduction to Pacific.
“Without knowing we have an assistant director role going to be filled, we can’t start the process of hiring a voyage coordinator, hiring voyage leaders, getting them all certified because the voyage is not a one-director job,” explained Mendoza. “We feel like we are just being left on hold about this position being filled, and we can’t be left on hold, so we have to make a decision to cut the 2024 voyages.”
Outdoor Pursuits will continue to lead their semester trips that include rafting, indoor rock climbing, and surf trips, but Mendoza expressed how she does not believe the university has taken it seriously that the voyages will not happen in 2024.
“Even if they hired an assistant director tomorrow, 2024 voyages are not happening,” explained Mendoza. “We would have to hire our voyage leaders mid-October and would already be so behind on voyage planning.”
The Outdoor Pursuits team currently consists of eight to ten student staff members, and Mendoza described how the group’s general feeling is one of disappointment and frustration.
Allie Talucci, the new head director, was hired in August 2022. She relocated from sunny California for this position where she managed an outdoor program for a K-12 school. When Pacific Index tried to reach the new director for an interview, Mendoza responded that she believed her boss was swamped with her responsibilities and that it might be difficult to reach her.
“We love Ali, but it is hard to be a student worker when your boss is not even in the office all the time because she is taking care of her responsibilities and that is because running a college outdoor program is not a one person job,” explained Mendoza.
Anyone visiting the campus a week before classes start can remember the lawn piled high with students’ gear, all set to go on an adventure. Since student-athletes make up about half of Pacific University’s student body, the trips also give non-athletes a chance to connect with one another quickly. The absence of the voyages results in the loss of a great deal of community building. According to reports, students who participate in voyage trips have a nearly 35 percent better likelihood of being retained than students who do not. — Emily Rutkowski