An honorable retreat

WSC faculty participate in educational honors national park outings

Amanda Krehbiel, Staff Writer

The National Collegiate Honors Council sponsors a program called Partners in the Parks (PITP) every summer to create memorable learning experiences for honors students across the country.

PITP offers educational adventure, led by university faculty and park personnel, getting students out into the great outdoors to learn more about the American landscape through firsthand experience.

Earlier this month, WSC’s Dr. Deborah Whitt and Dr. Gwen Jensen had the privilege of participating in this program, along with thirteen honors students from around the U.S.

The place? Black Canyon in Gunnison National Park, Colorado—the deepest and steepest canyon in the world.

Participants were able to camp in the wilderness, hike the rims of the canyon and tour the bottom of it during the week they were there.

Partners in the Parks offered six different national parks for students to choose from this year: everywhere from Sequoia National Park, Calif., to Buffalo National River, Ark.

Those who choose Gunnison, Colo. were able to learn the history, flora and fauna of the canyon and hear presentations from geologists, park rangers, astronomers, poets, writers and Ute Indian representatives.

“It is an extraordinary experience and one that our students will greatly benefit [from],” Whitt said.

Jensen also believes that the trip benefited honors students across the country, noting that the national park movement is an aspect of our cultural history that is often overlooked.

“The opportunity to engage with the park on an intellectual and personal level is not an experience many students get to have,” Jensen said. “Knowing these students will return to their respective universities and colleges to share this unique national park experience with their peers is extremely gratifying.”

Will there be more trips of this nature in the future for students hoping to get in on this experience?

“I hope to develop a tradition of summer educational experiences for our honors students,” Whitt said.

The importance of the trip was not only to have fun, but to gain knowledge about the world as well.

“Not all learning experiences can take place in the classroom, and this program is a prime example of what can be accomplished when efforts are made to connect the life of the mind with the life of the natural world,” Jensen said.