This year, women at Bowdoin have been scaling rock walls, rafting down swollen rapids, catching waves at a popular surfing beach and wielding chainsaws. The Wild Women Adventure series is being offered this year by the Bowdoin Outing Club and the Women’s Resource Center for women only, but is open to students, staff and faculty. Melissa Quinby, director of the Women’s Resource Center, sat down to talk about the series recently with the Bowdoin Daily Sun. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Bowdoin Daily Sun: What is the Wild Women Adventure Series?
Melissa Quinby: I’ve been working really closely with Devin [Farkas] and Michael [Woodruff “˜87] and Becca [Austin “˜10] over at the Outing Club to create a series of seasonal outing adventures for faculty, students and staff to build community, learn hard skills in the outdoors and have the opportunity to really celebrate 40 years of women at Bowdoin by playing together and enjoying the opportunity to learn skills that develop confidence.
BDS: And what type of adventures have you offered so far?
MQ: So far, we have gone hiking. We’ve gone surfing. We have gone on an overnight winter camping trip. We did a rafting trip. We did a kayak pool-rolling clinic for women to learn how to roll whitewater kayaks indoors. And also rock climbing.
BDS: All this year?
MQ: Actually we started the series last year but we really built upon it this year.
BDS: Is it something that is going to go forward?
MQ: Yeah, I think we’ve had great success. The program’s been super popular. We’ve had women from across campus participate. So every time we do a program, we get either faculty members and staff members and women students on the program. And the opportunity for women to get to know each other across those boundaries has been amazing, so the feedback has been great and I don’t imagine this program’s going to go away after this year. [Quinby added later that she’s observed that the trips often stimulate thoughtful conversations about families, gender issues, women’s health, life at Bowdoin and life beyond Bowdoin. “These trips naturally lead to community building and they create a great environment for women to really get to know one another. I think it’s awesome, for example, that a group of first-year women had the chance to hike with their dean and get to know her as a person outside of her office,” she said.]
BDS: What’s been the wildest adventure so far?
MQ: We’ve had two really wild adventures. One wild adventure was our surf camp day at Higgins Beach [in Scarborough] and the wild part was getting 20 beginner surfers into the line-up at one of Maine’s most popular surfing spots. And it was fantastic just seeing those women learn how to work those boards and get into the surf. And the community of surfers at the beach was amazing – just super supportive and super accommodating. And the other really wild adventure was our rafting trip down the Dead River; I think that was October 1. Rainy, wet, cold day, big water, and big group of women, and a lot of support from the outing club, new raft guides – and the women had a fantastic, fantastic time.
BDS: So what’s coming up?
MQ: The next on the list is the chainsaw class [next Friday, Saturday and Sunday.]
BDS: Why a chainsaw class?
MQ: The chainsaw class seemed like a really great fit for this program. It’s wintertime in Maine; it’s a winter skill in this state; it’s a really hard skill that a lot of people shy away from learning. And one of the goals of the program is to get women to learn these skills and then apply them immediately in the field. So this class will be an opportunity for women to learn the safety procedures, the saw techniques, learn to work with the different parts of the saw, and then immediately take them to the field the next day and cut trees down. The class has sold out; we have full capacity.
BDS: Why do you think these outings might appeal to a female student, staff or faculty member more than one that’s open to both men and women?
MQ: Speaking from personal experience, I know that as a woman who did a lot of fieldwork in my 20s and 30s, there were some skills that were just more comfortable to learn in the company of women. We hear that as feedback from these programs. We just know that there are women on this campus, who given the opportunity to learn these types of skills with a group of other women, will jump at that opportunity. And I think the enrollment of the classes has proved us correct: that given the chance to learn something like rolling a kayak or putting on a wetsuit and going into the surf at Higgins Beach or rafting down a big river with a really supportive, really engaged, really psyched group of women has been a great thrill for a lot of women.
BDS: And are you getting equal numbers of students, faculty and staff?
MQ: It depends on the class. The first person who contacted me about the chainsaw class was a faculty member. Typically we have maybe 75% students on each outing, and then a couple of staff members or faculty members who round out the group.
BDS: And has it been fun for you?
MQ: Yeah, the ones I’ve done have been amazing.