It's almost college decision day, which means Outdoor Action's frosh trips are just around the corner. Caroline Stone '14 graduated with a degree in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and subsequently assumed the position of OA Program Coordinator. Staff Writer Catherine Wang contacted Stone to ask about Stone's experience with OA, what she's been working on as program coordinator and the big changes headed for OA this fall.

The Daily Princetonian: What was your experience with OA like, as an undergraduate and then as an OA leader?

Caroline Stone: I grew up spending a lot of time outside and have always been eager to try new things. I’d never been backpacking before coming to Princeton, but I was eager to go on OA. From singing silly songs to making pita pizza together, I knew by night three of my trip that I loved OA and wanted to become a leader.At the time, my decision was all about an opportunity to have fun and be outside; it was only later, after I went through leader training and took on other responsibilities with OA that I began to appreciate how much I learned and grew as a person from this experience.I’d held plenty of leadership positions in high school, but leading an OA trip was the first time that I started to actually think about leadership and actively work towards improving. Through OA, I’ve learned to be intentional with everything I do and say. Something as simple as selecting a game to play along the trail can have a huge impact — either positive or negative — on a group's dynamic. It's my responsibility as a leader to be aware of that.

DP: What’s your favorite OA game/song?

CS: Definitely "Da Moose."

DP: Were there any particularly memorable experiences?

CS: I have so many favorite OA memories! I love meeting new people and building new relationships with them.One of the most unforgettable experiences was leading a training trip down to the Shenandoahs during Fall Break a few years ago. We got a late start driving down, and ended up hiking in the dark for a few hours before making it to camp. While setting up camp, my co-leader and I discovered that we were missing half of our tent.Keep in mind that it is late October—it's already in the low 40s and rain was predicted for the next few days, so it was very much not the kind of situation you’d want to be in without a tent. It was not our finest moment, but we eventually managed to improvise a shelter for the night that kept us all relatively warm.In the morning, the whole group talked through possible decisions and agreed on a plan to meet up with another group and share their tents; like most OA training events, we turned our mistake into a teachable moment. And the rest of the week was great!

DP: What is currently your role in organizing OA?

CS: As program coordinator, I handle most of the day-to-day logistics with OA. I organize all of leader training, and work with our student instructors and coordinators to update lesson plans and gather teaching materials. In the summer, we start planning for Frosh Trip, and I work with our student coordinators who plan all of the routes and trip details.When you’re planning over 80 trips, every little detail— from identifying water sources to ordering dozens of cases of M&M’s—needs to be planned out ahead of time. During Frosh Trip, I stay back on campus as part of Command Center, responding to new problems that arise and managing all of the behind-the-scenes logistics for evacs. I basically live in the basement of Butler for five days straight, eating a lot of take-out Mehek and sleeping on the floor — in order to always be available to the students out in the field.The highlight of my job is certainly whenever I get to lead training trips, spending time outside and really connecting with students. I’m able to reflect on my own experiences as an OA leader, but also am always picking up new things from my co-leaders and trainees.

DP: OA is having a lot of changes this year, with OA and CA becoming mandatory orientation programs. What does that mean for OA—have you guys had to include any major organizational changes?

CS: OA Frosh Trip is going to look pretty similar to the past few years. The biggest change, and the one we are most excited about, is that Leader Training is now free! The University is now covering all costs associated with leader training, including the five-day backcountry Leader Training Trip. OA has always strived to offer leadership development opportunities to all students, so it's great knowing that there are no longer economic barriers preventing people from learning these skills.

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