By Emily Skeen
As many of you already know all too well, there are few jobs that allow students to: a.) be students with a full class load, involvement in various extra curricular’s, and some semblance of a social life, and b.) Have experiences that prepare them for future careers in the real world, while c.) Paying them a reasonable wage that they can actually pay their rent with. Sure they can achieve a and b with an unpaid internship, but rarely can students find all three. Isn’t that why we’re going to school in the first place? While the answer to that question may be complex, Climbing Center Student Coordinator, and PSU senior Lanie White seems to have found a job that gives her all three right here at Campus Rec. I sat down with Lanie and was able to hear first hand what her experience here has been like, where it has lead her, and what she has discovered along the way.
Lanie hails from the great wide-open state of Montana and first came to PSU in the fall of 2009. “My first couple of years here were an adjustment period to say the least”, says Lanie, “and by adjustment period I do in fact mean I almost packed my bags and went home on a couple of different occasions” This may not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever gone out of state for college. No matter how prepared we think we are, the shock of being more than a short drive from everything you’ve ever known can be emotionally draining to say the least, but for Lanie it goes even deeper. Having gotten very deeply involved in outdoor activities before leaving Montana and coming to what she described as a “concrete jungle” did not make her adjustment period any easier. However emotional hardship aside, Lanie did decide to stay, and now states that this was the “best decision” she could have made.
She credits this change of heart largely to her discovery of the volunteer program within Campus Rec’s Outdoor Program, which offers people interested in outdoor educationtraining in trip leading and independent projects. “When I came across the program I immediately grabbed on to the idea of hanging around others who loved climbing and hiking and breathing in the fresh air…[and] getting to expose others to Mother Nature in all her glory”, says Lanie. Though as is evident Lanie’s involvement within Campus Rec was never going to be just “hanging around”. Less than one year after becoming an “official” employee of Campus Rec Lanie moved up to one of the most esteemed student positions on campus, Climbing Center Student Coordinator. “This was an intimidating position to say the least”, states Lanie, “The previous [student] coordinator had been in the position for 2 ½ years, and I’d only been working in the Climbing Center for 9 months.” In her previous positions (of which, not counting her days as a volunteer, she held three) she was expected to maintain equipment, educate others about outdoor activities, lead trips, teach climbing technique, and much much more, but as a student coordinator she was expected to do all of thatwhile also hiring, training, and managing a very diverse and talented staff.
“I grabbed onto the idea of hanging around others who loved climbing and hiking and breathing in the fresh air”
When asked what helped her to make the decision to take this position she recounted the following anecdote: Around the same time that she applied for this position, Lanie attended a PCIA Professional Climbing Instructors Association climbing certification Training at OSU. She found herself falling naturally into a leadership role, assisting and mentoring her peers as they all worked towards getting their certifications. “It reminded me how much I love climbing”, she states confidently, “Why would I not take a job where I could help other people love [climbing] as much as I do?”Almost 6 months into the position Lanie is now full of exciting stories about what it’s like to teach others to climb, and to spread the love she has for the outdoors. The following is a short excerpt from our interview:
Emily: What are your favorite climbing trips to lead?
Lanie: I love leading staff training trips…and I love leading trips to Smith Rock for people who have never really climbed or camped before. I love seeing them being able to reach the top of a climb, and how exciting that was for them their first time out in the field, that’s pretty awesome.
Emily: Has anything scary ever happened on a trip?
Lanie: Not on climbing trips. We air on the side of scary safe, so nothing bad ever really happens.
Emily: What would you say to a person who has never climbed before?
Lanie: I would recommend going up to the climbing center during staffed hours and checking it out. A lof of the trip leaders who lead climbing trips work in the Climbing Center. Talk to them. We take beginners out in the field all the time. It’s what we do. I would [also] recommend taking the plunge. The scary and intimidating things are usually the things that we learn the most from, and that we are the most surprised by.
Emily: So would you say that your future career lies somewhere within outdoor education?
Lanie: You know I thought it was, but I don’t think [this] actually is my future career anymore, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t preparing me for everything else that life could throw at me.
“The scary and intimidating things are usually the things that we learn the most from”
Though many of the student employees at Campus Rec do intend to pursue careers in health and fitness many of us do not, and it can sometimes be difficult to explain what it is about our positions that is preparing us for the real world. However Lanie explains and exemplifies these benefits so well. We can never be fully sure what direction our lives are heading in. We can hope and plan and study, but nothing is stopping us from waking up tomorrow in completely different circumstances and/orwith a completely different mindset. That being said, there are some things that are universally applicable. Lanie states that “effective and efficient decision making”, and “the ability to be confident in what I’m doing, to know that I have my skills down that I can lead”, are some of the most valuable things that she has gained from working at Campus Rec. Things that will surely help her in whatever career she chooses to pursue.
Lanie started volunteering for the Outdoor Program in 2010 and has since worked her way toward her position of Climbing Center Student Coordinator. She was first introduced to climbing at the crags around her hometown of Helena, Montana, and has since fallen in love with the sport and the community. After moving to Portland in 2008 and realizing that mass amounts of rain are not always conducive to outdoor climbing, she began exploring the realm of climbing gyms. Although not the same as real rock, Lanie still loves spending rainy days in the climbing gym and is extremely excited about the opportunity to help manage one. She is currently pursuing a degree in Spanish and hopes to one day find a career that combines Spanish and Experiential/Outdoor Education. When not working at the ODP or attending classes, Lanie can be found seeking the next outdoor adventure, wandering around the wonderful city of Portland or playing music with her local band.