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New outdoor adventure builds bridge to sophomore year at BW

From riding the rapids to rock climbing, a group of returning students at Baldwin Wallace University launched their second year of college with a trip aimed at building connections, skills and confidence.

For the first time this fall, Baldwin Wallace University Campus Recreation offered an immersive Sophomore Bridge experience that took a small group to West Virginia for an outdoor recreation adventure heading into the new year.

The pilot program was developed after Dr. Timeka Rashid, VP of BW's Division of Student Affairs, charged a campus committee with enhancing the sophomore experience.

"The sophomore year experience is one that is often overlooked in focus and attention in our work," Rashid explains. "Traditional emphasis often focuses on acclimating first-year students and then moving to the junior and senior year of career and post-college life programming. That leaves the 'middle child' feeling overlooked."

Transformative experience


Christine Varga '94, assistant director of campus recreation, proposed, designed and led the sophomore outdoor adventure with philosophy professor Dr. Kelly Coble. Seven students from a mix of academic majors were chosen from among the applicants to participate in the program.

"Studies show that learning through avenues like camping, rafting, rock climbing and hiking can build a strong sense of belonging, help students face challenges, improve problem solving and decision making, build skills in independence and confidence, and increase communication skills and resilience," explains Varga.

Indeed, students report the experience was transformative.

"At the beginning of freshman year, I couldn't have even imagined going on the Sophomore Bridge trip, but when it was time to go, I was ecstatic to try a new adventure," says Mary Hiros '25. "I didn't even want to leave West Virginia by the end of the trip because I was learning so many new things and having so much fun."

Solving challenges large and small

The group arrived back on campus on August 9 for two days of teambuilding before departing for New River Gorge, West Virginia.

"We did a lot of teamwork together from simple tasks to developing skills in the rafts on class five rapids; we had to learn to trust in each other, communicate in various ways, listen and follow directions," Varga explains.

"The Sophomore Bridge trip was a great way for me to start my second year," says Justin Verhosek '25. "It not only offered a fun and challenging experience but also helped me to form strong connections to my classmates. It has encouraged me to start the year with a goal of challenging myself in many more ways."

Forging campus connections

writing in the sand

Sophomore Bridge participants returned to campus from West Virginia in time for the Week of Welcome (WOW), the traditional early start for first-year students. During WOW, the sophomores led recreation activities for their incoming peers and completed a clean-up of nearby Coe Lake as a service project.

In addition to Hiros and Verhosek, BW sophomores participating in the program were Pavel Lindrose, Miles Heyse, Justin Verhosek, Jacob Csire, Daniel Harkin and Connor Khrohn. Two student peer mentors, Neil Randall '23 and Molly Cancian '24, helped facilitate the experience.

Varga concludes, "The connections developed through the time spent in the outdoors are lasting ones that help build on skills the students can take with them into their academics, co-curricular roles, internships and future careers."

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