Students and faculty at Northern Arizona University are taking the classroom outside, across borders and away from the typical during spring break this year.

Various faculty members are leading students on a number of study abroad trips, Outdoor Recreation staff members are taking students on a study-on-a-river trip and NAU is sponsoring a social justice camp to give students a chance to learn more about themselves and those around them.

Warning: Wet floors

It is acceptable to sleep in the Parks and Recreation Management course 432. Of course, do it at the wrong time, and you could get cold water thrown at you—or thrown into the water yourself.

PRM 432 is a hands-on course: hands on the oars, hands on the camp stove, hands on the rocks by the trails hikers can use to steady themselves. It’s a weeklong course over spring break that teaches students how to guide a river trip, which necessitates, naturally, going on a river trip. The students spend two days on campus going through skills and then five days on the San Juan River.

Erin Kelly, operations program coordinator for NAU Outdoors, said about half the participants are PRM majors, while the other half span every major NAU offers. Many are first-timers on the river. No special skills or equipment are required to begin; students get the gear they need from NAU and pick up the skills as they traverse the river.

Students also learn about the natural and human history of the region, said Andy Bassett, an NAU Outdoors coordinator. In addition to the biodiversity and unique rock formations, humans have been going there for the last 12,000 years, drawn probably by the same features that brings the NAU group.

San Juan river trip“There’s water and it’s beautiful,” he said.

The trip costs $675 (does not include tuition) and runs March 11-17. For more information and to sign up, go to the NAU Outdoors office (Room 1229) in the Health and Learning Center, call (928) 523-2732 or email Outdoors@nau.edu.

In addition to the sponsored trip, Outdoor Recreation provides resources to students, staff and faculty interested in going on their own outdoor adventures. Members of the NAU community can rent equipment, including tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, stoves and mountain bikes. They also can use the map resource center and get help from student employees in planning their own trips.

“You can get an idea of where you want to go from people who are outside all the time,” Kelly said.

Embracing social diversity

Another spring break option is CollegeTown NAU, a social diversity camp—a safe space for students to discuss difficult topics and learn more about how to be leaders and changemakers in their communities, executive director Amber Beasley said. In both small and large groups, participants discuss issues like race, gender, disabilities, privilege, oppression and stereotypes, how those issues affect them and how they can effect change.

They also have yoga classes, dance parties, talent shows and opportunities to get to know each other, build friendships and put into practice the stereotype-busting skills they learn at camp. Beasley said more than anything, she hopes participants leave with the knowledge that regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or level of ability, they matter.

“It gets pretty deep,” said Beasley, who is attending for the third time. “As a freshman you learn about privilege, oppression and stereotypes and how detrimental they are to society. You create a family in 120 hours.”

All students can participate. CollegeTown runs March 10-14. Participation costs $50 per student, and scholarships are available. The application is open through March 3. For more information and to apply, email CollegeTownNAU@gmail.com.

Expanding horizons

Three groups of students are leaving the United States during spring break.

Study Abroad partnered with the Franke College of Business to send 25 students to Mexicali, Mexico, to learn more about trade and how the United States works with its neighbor to the south. Global involvement will be an increasing part of job descriptions for business students in the future, said Eric Deschamps, director of the Study Abroad program at NAU.

“The idea is this is a very timely program with all the anti-trade rhetoric coming from the White House,” he said.

This is the first year for this study abroad program, though NAU has a relationship with CETYS University in Mexicali. Deschamps said they hope to make it an annual trip.

Students in the Model United Nations Club are going to Montreal, Canada, for the Model UN Conference, with political science professor and club adviser Gretchen Gee. A number of nursing students are heading to Guatemala to get clinical experience with nursing professor Dorothy Dunn.

Although these trips are filled, students interested in Study Abroad programs can look to the summer offerings; applications are due March 15. Assistant director Zach Tobin said they offer about 30 different programs throughout the world and could count for credit toward any major, although going earlier in a student’s career makes finding a good match easier.

“They really run the gamut of different academic offerings,” he said.