To create a common experience for every student, Bowdoin is expanding its orientation trips for incoming first-years. The school is asking every student to join one of the many different sorts of trips offered, from whitewater kayaking to meditating to helping the homeless.
For the 30 years Bowdoin has had orientation trips, they have been voluntary. To accommodate the additional students, the College is adding 12 new trips for 100 to 120 additional students. Bowdoin will continue to waive the fee for students on financial aid.
In the past, roughly 75% of students have opted to go. “Instead of the haves and the have nots,” Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster says, “it’ll be a unified tradition for every class. This way we can create a common introductory experience and tradition, and traditions bring people together, connect them to the place and to one another.”
The new orientation programs include six more outdoor adventures led by the Outing Club, and six new community service trips organized by the McKeen Center. The Bowdoin Science Experience, for invited students only, is also considered an orientation trip.
The service and outdoors trips are designed to introduce students to peers they might not have connected to otherwise – and to acquaint them with Maine, according to Janet Lohmann, associate dean of first year students. “It introduces the students to the state of Maine from different angles: surfing, hiking, working in Vinalhaven [an island community], pulling potatoes in Aroostook County,” Lohmann says. “You get to see what Maine is all about. And Bowdoin is incredibly connected to Maine.”
Orientation trips last four days, and the groups, which include between eight and 10 first years and two upper-class leaders, scatter throughout the state. The Outing Club leads the majority of trips, taking students backpacking, bicycling, canoeing, sailing, sea kayaking, surfing, farming, whitewater rafting and whitewater kayaking. Students can also choose to live on Kent Island, home of Bowdoin’s Biological Field Station, or attend a wellness retreat that includes yoga, t’ai chi, and meditation.
The Outing Club is adding four new groups this year that will stay at a children’s summer camp on Panther Pond in Raymond, sleeping in cabins and heading off each day to rock climb, canoe, hike, swim or do trail work. A second coastal biking trip has also been added, as well as an additional hiking trip to Baxter State Park.
Michael Woodruff, director of the Outing Club, says when several groups share a common base camp, as they will at Panther Pond, the students have more chances to connect with one another. “They’re all back at night, sitting around a campfire, singing, playing games, kicking around a ball,” he says. “That model has been really successful.”
The McKeen Center has, since 2003, offered community service trips focusing on hunger and homelessness, the environment and sustainability, immigrants and refugees, and on an island community. The center is adding trips that will have students volunteering in Down East, Maine, working with local Latino or Native American communities. Other trips will include farming on a Wiscasset farm or heading north to Presque Isle in Aroostook County to do some harvesting of blueberries, raspberries, potatoes and apples at an educational farm for high school students.
The service trips are an attractive option to students who don’t want to rough it in the woods, but more than this, they appeal to “those students who are really excited about service, which is the reason they chose to come to Bowdoin,” explains Caitlin Callahan, the McKeen Center assistant director for student community service.