Q&A with new Director of Outdoor Education: Tony "Tito" Stafford

Anna Jones
Writer 

What brought you to the University?

“It just seemed like a good fit for me. I really enjoy student development and I wanted to be part of a team that valued student development through outdoor pursuits. To be honest, they picked me. I’m satisfied [with the position] because Pennsylvania has good outdoor opportunities, which was exactly what I wanted in a new job.”

What exactly are you in charge of here on campus?

“I oversee Buckwild, ClimbBucknell, which is the high and low ropes challenge course, the Outing Club, which runs trips, Bison Bikes and Bucknell Landing, the boat landing that not many people know about. In the future, I hope to be a part of the climbing wall, too. I’m also a member of the Campus Activities & Programs (CAP) center team.”

What’s your favorite part of your new job so far?

“It’s just awesome. The student energy here is amazing. Buckwild is definitely great; it’s amazing the impact pre-orientation trips can have on incoming freshman.

Where else have you worked?

“I worked for six years in Res Life at the University of Denver,” where his passion for the outdoors really kicked in, thanks to the University of Denver’s outdoor opportunities. He then moved on to work with Outward Bound’s Adjudicated Youth program, which, after spending 300 days in the backcountry, “fueled [him] even more.” Next he headed to Old Dominion University, then to the Colorado School of Mines and finally ended up here, “a mesh of all my worlds coming together,” he said.

 How did you get so into being outdoors and outdoor education?

Stafford said his family was the primary factor in getting him interested in the outdoors because he grew up “fishing, camping and traveling a lot.” He worked in the salmon fisheries in Alaska for several yearswhich made him interested in “the hardcore outdoors stuff.” University of Denver’s high ropes course was inspiring and brought him closer to the outdoor education world. “Waking up everyday outside and saying ‘this is my office’ is an amazing feeling.”

What is your favorite outdoor activity?

“I do all of them. I’d have to say high altitude backpacking is my favorite, though, because I love being 1,400-1,700 feet up, where you don’t need anyone but yourself. You feel so small; it just inspires you to see more and do more. It’s just so simple, yet still so moving.”

Why do you think outdoor education is so important?

“I really believe people can learn so much about themselves [through outdoor education]. Once makeup, cell phones and computers are out of the way, one can really be true to themselves. The outdoors is a very supportive environment because everyone has to help each other out since you really can’t quit out there. The whole outdoor experience is transferable to life; there are so many metaphors for life out there.

What do you hope your impact on the University’s program will be?

 “My goal is to make this the best damn outdoor program in the country.”

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