WOOLF fails to garner interest for affinity trips

After recent discussion regarding the creation of two Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First Years (WOOLF) affinity trips, no such trips were established due to limited interest from WOOLF leaders. These trips would have offered a version of the popular backpacking orientation trips for students of color, and another for students who identify as LGBTQIA+.

According to an email sent to current WOOLF leaders by Erin Meadors ’20, a WOOLF director for the Class of 2023, the goal of these affinity trips was to help create a safe and comfortable space for all first years on WOOLF. Both of these groups would have been beginner backpacking trips to increase accessibility for first-years with a wide range of outdoor experiences.

WOOLF is the most popular EPHVenture for incoming first years during First Days.  Each trip is led by two sophomores, and current first-years can apply to be WOOLF leaders and then receive training to lead trips for the next first-year class in the fall.

This idea of affinity trips was inspired by the TREK outdoor orientation program at University of Vermont, which has identity-based trip groups. “We saw that UVM had a very successful model, and we thought we could shape it into the WOOLF program as we know it,” said Elizabeth Bigham ’21, a WOOLF director for the Class of 2023. 

When Meadors sent out information about the potential affinity trips on April 21, leaders interested in leading an affinity trip were asked to reach out by April 25. On April 28, it was announced that there would be no WOOLF affinity trips this year due to limited interest from WOOLF leaders in leading these trips.

“Part of the affinity trip is to make people that don’t have that space feel comfortable,” Meadors said. “We definitely got some response, but we just didn’t feel like it was enough to be able to facilitate the trips we wanted to facilitate. In general, there was a lot of positivity around the idea with staff, instructors and past WOOLF directors. I think it’s something that is very much worth pursuing in the future still.”