Students gain leadership skills, confidence to teach outdoor adventures

In the Student Experience Adventure Leadership semester, or SEALs, program, students pursue outdoor leadership opportunities and acquire the skills necessary to teach others about what’s needed for outdoor recreation.

By Ashley A. Williams

In the Student Experience Adventure Leadership semester, or SEALs, program, students pursue outdoor leadership opportunities and acquire the skills necessary to teach others about what’s needed for outdoor recreation.

Students gain leadership skills, confidence to teach outdoor adventures

By Ashley A. Williams
The Student Experience Adventure Leadership semester, or SEALs, is an in-depth, long-term leadership development program that helps participants develop effective life skills and confidence.

Prior to attending the University of Miami, Theo Krijnse Locker was a member of the Boy Scouts of America and thus spent a lot of his free time outdoors in the Northeast.

Once Locker arrived at the Coral Gables Campus, he was pleasantly surprised that the Student Affairs Department of Wellness and Recreation offered Outdoor Adventures, a gateway to adventure sports including climbing, hiking, diving, camping, stand up paddleboarding, and surfing.

His love for the outdoors eventually led him to apply for the Student Experience Adventure Leadership semester, or SEALs, a program created and taught by full-time staff members of Outdoor Adventures. Students learn to pursue outdoor leadership opportunities and acquire the skills necessary to teach others about what’s needed for outdoor recreation.

“I wasn’t aware of all that Miami outdoors had to offer, and I was worried that I would struggle to find things to do,” said Locker, a sophomore studying ecosystem science and policy. “SEALs opened my eyes to all there is to do here. Even though its completely different from the things you can do in New York, but it’s just as great.”

The semester-long course is a cross between classroom, on-campus, and field-based leadership training that is designed to help students learn how to manage large groups as they explore outdoor recreation. Trey Knight, assistant director of wellness and recreation, directs the students in the SEALs program, which includes more than 160 hours of training and development.

“The Outdoor Adventures staff has over 20 years of professional experience combined,” said Knight. “The cost of the program will cover the participants off-campus guided and education trips, where they will learn about search and rescue, meal planning, cooking, navigation, surfing, stand up paddleboarding, camping, and so much more.”

Throughout the Fall 2022 semester, the SEALs experience led participants on a five-week campus-based session from the week of Aug. 29 through Sept. 26. In the sessions, students learned about group dynamics, different styles to lead others, and how to plan their trips from start to finish. Following the classroom sessions, the outdoor adventure trips commenced across four weekends and one five-day expedition through December. Each weekend, the students traveled to different locations to focus on a new activity and explore a different theme.

Brendon Hobbes, from Long Island, New York, is a senior studying business technology and marketing. He said the SEALs program allowed him to see South Florida in a new light and helped develop his management skills—something he looks forward to utilizing after he graduates in May.

“I learned a lot about leadership compared to other student organizations I’ve been a part of,” said Hobbes. “I learned to think on my feet, and why you should have a full plan. I also learned the hard way that sometimes things happen.”

Miami native Trey Riera-Gomez, a senior majoring in exercise physiology, was designated to lead the first simulated SEALs trip last semester to Jupiter, Florida, where he and his peers went on an excursion to learn to surf.

“I did my best to try and not make any mistakes along the way, which I think gave us a little more leeway,” said Riera-Gomez. “Getting others involved in outdoor activities was my primary reason for joining the program. This is something that I’ve always enjoyed doing, and the people in my life have always seemed to appreciate that.”

Riera-Gomez said he has a lifelong interest in the outdoors; and prior to enrolling into the University, he enjoyed bringing his family and friends together for outdoor experiences. Though it doesn’t directly correlate with his major, he said that he hopes to become a mountain guide after graduating this semester.

“I find the program to be very fulfilling, and I look forward to introducing more people to the outside world,” he said.

Jillian Cary, a junior studying biology and ecosystem science and policy, said that implementing their ideas from the classroom to practice shifts made the trips one of a kind.  One of Cary’s most memorable moments was learning to surf during Riera-Gomez’s guided trip.

“It was really cool because a lot of us had never done that before,” said Cary. “I also really enjoyed learning how to facilitate and be a leader. A huge part of this program is teaching others how to experience these things in a safe, confident way.”

All enrolled students have access to the Outdoor Adventures space, with no fee required. Students interested in participating in SEALs will pay a one-time fee of $220 that includes transportation, equipment for all sport activities, and food for the duration of the program. Students do not need to have any previous outdoor experience.

“This program is unlike any other training program,” said Knight. “From learning how to handle real-life situations to learning to paddleboard or learning to navigate at sea or land, it will help you gain experience for life to come.”

Knight anticipates hosting more SEALs cohorts in the future and he said that he hopes that they will even offer credit hours for those who successfully complete the course. To learn more about how to join the Outdoor Adventures in-depth, semester-long leadership training, visit the Wellness and Recreation website or email adventures@miami.edu.