Get off campus and get outdoors: Outdoor Education and Leadership

Juliana Rodrigues, Contributing Writer

Still sick of spending so much time indoors from quarantine? The Bucknell Outdoor Leadership and Education “OEL” program has many solutions for that exact problem. For years, OEL has provided various opportunities for University students to get outdoors, explore parts of Pennsylvania, get active and learn. While the OEL program is most well known for organizing the first year pre-orientation BuckWild event, they also have many different events throughout the year available to University students who want to get away for a bit.

The OEL program is, for the most part, student run and managed. With six different departments, Director Nathan Smith oversees all student leaders, events, and departments. There are many opportunities for student employment within the OEL program as a manager, staff or trip leader. Students work and manage the OEL Rental Center that provides not only students but also faculty and staff with the option to rent gear for different types of outdoor activities. Within the Rental Center, Bison Bikes is also open for semester long rentals. Students are able to simply apply online to request a bike to help them get around the campus and Lewisburg. It is through the Rental Center that University student-run trips are organized and offered for all students, even those outside of the OEL program. These trips are free with gear provided; all that is required is the RSVP sign up located on their portal. Some of the upcoming OEL events include Day Hike Dale’s Ridge, Biking the Rail Trail, Spooky Canoe for Halloween and more!

Another extension of the OEL program open to all students weekly is the popular climbing wall located in the Gerhard Fieldhouse. The climbing wall is over twelve feet tall and has hours every weekday for open climb. Molly O’Halloran ’22 is the Student Manager for the Climbing Wall who brings together a large group of students weekly.

An excursion located off campus typically available to students through the OEL program is the Cowan Challenge Course. While at the moment it is currently under construction, this is a great opportunity specifically for clubs or student organizations looking for a team building activity. The University’s course offers activities at different heights along with a climbing tower and zip line. Once renovations are complete reservations for the Challenge Course will once again be available online.

One of the most prominent OEL programs is BuckWild Pre-O. Many of the students now a part of or working for OEL started their first year immersed into the program through BuckWild. After undergoing training student leaders plan, pack, and oversee the five days first years spend off campus at BuckWild. The goal of BuckWild is to begin the introduction of new University students to their peers in a fun environment, but also to develop new skills that will help them throughout the years they spend at the University. Students are able to strengthen both their leadership, and team working skills. Pippa Sheffield ’25 was grateful for the opportunity to participate in BuckWild this fall, taking part in white water rafting and hikes. “BuckWild gave me the opportunity to meet new incoming students in a fun outdoor environment,” Sheffield said. The most recent BuckWild program was able to take over a hundred new first year students on multiple trips to five different locations.

Lauren Canna ’22 who spoke on the OEL program as a whole also shared her experience with OEL, starting her first year in BuckWild. She explains how after her first year experience her leaders pushed her to apply to train as a leader, and that was just the beginning of her time with OEL. “I applied and was accepted to the program not long after. The training year was tough and time-consuming, but it kept me out of trouble and I ended up looking forward to each trip as they approached. I was soon able to pack a weekend camping bag in no more than a few minutes. Some of the longer trips, including an eight day trip in the middle of winter, were the most challenging, but I learned many technical and social skills. One of my fondest memories is Bohemian Rhapsody in the pitch-black of a cave with my training class that Fall. Now, after four years with OEL, I sit in two manager positions because I could see so much potential for this program. There is so much support from all angles — our administration, the deans and the students – that nearly anything is possible. I see so much good that OEL can bring to the [University] community,” Canna said.

The OEL program has been able to offer hundreds of students outdoor experiences they otherwise would not have the chance to partake in while at the University. The impact that programs like OEL leave on students such as Lauren and many others is inspiring. 

Visit the OEL portal at for more information!

Rental Center Hours: Monday-Friday, Noon – 4:00 PM

Climbing Wall Hours: Monday-Thursday, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM, Friday 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

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