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June 25, 2018


2nd in a 3-part series on Leadership Development

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In our last To The Top, I shared our progress with the Department's inaugural Leadership Academy. In this edition of To The Top, I've asked for a report from one of our Program Leaders on the capstone experience for the Academy - a 7-day wilderness experience with an organization named Outward Bound. The expedition took place on the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota. So please allow me to introduce one of our program leaders, Caroline Bevillard, and a few of her journal entries from the trip.  

PS - I got roped into attending the Outward Bound experience. In short, I survived.  

To The Top! 



Outward Bound is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1941. The organization provides wilderness experiences that are designed to change lives through challenge and discovery. We enrolled 15 individuals in our first experience with the program.  

Four Athletic Department Administrators and eleven Southern Miss Student-Athletes were involved in the Outward Bound experience. 

Department Administrators included: Jon Gilbert, and our three Leadership Academy Program Leaders: Melissa Thompson, Lauren Lanford, and me. 

Student-Athletes included: Ola Akinniyi (Soccer), Drew Boyd (Baseball), Kierstin Bradley (Soccer), Megan Brown (Basketball), Valentina Haupt (Women's Golf), Jade Lewis (Softball), Chase Nelson (Softball), Samantha Papp (Softball), Caitlin Pierce (Soccer), JoAnnie Ramos (Soccer), and Samantha Reynolds (Softball). 

Our group left campus at 4 AM on Sunday, May 13, 2018 and flew from Jackson, Mississippi to Duluth, Minnesota. From Duluth, we were bussed 65 miles north to the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota. Our last meal before entering the wilderness experience was at Culver's Restaurant.  

On Day-1, we met our Outward Bound guides at Tettegouche State Park and were divided into 2 groups - each to go on our separate ways and rejoin at the end of our expedition. 

For our first endeavor, we rock climbed and rappelled off a 70-foot cliff at Shovel Point on the edge of Lake Superior, a feat for us all, and especially those who fear heights. We proceeded to follow the Superior Hiking Trail over the following 5 days to East Caribou River, approximately 35 miles north of our starting point. The trails were tight and the terrain rugged.

Each person was outfitted with a backpack weighing between 40-50 pounds. We carried everything to sustain us on our backs - food, water, filtration systems, tents, sleeping bags, pots, and other supplies. Our movement was steady, deliberate and arduous. No cell phones or electronic devices in-tow, no showers, no bathrooms, no deodorant, no convenience stores, no running water, and no Keurig coffeemakers. We took a single change of clothes. 

For much of our time, we hiked in single-file over uneven terrain, up steep inclines, down rocky descents, traversing swamps and beaver dams. Many hours on the trail involved staring at the person's feet in front of us, watching their steps, learning from their missteps, until we reached the next campsite.  

Our Outward Bound guides were thoughtful leaders - providing our group with ownership of the paths-taken, mileage covered and our daily division of responsibilities. In turn, each day we designated a Team Leader, and agreed that our roles and responsibilities would rotate - preparing meals, water collection and filtration, navigation and briefings, camp setup, and group morale. Striving, laughing, learning. 

There were no emails, no classes or studying, no practices or competitions, no Twitter, no Instagram, no Facebook, no Snapchat. We were immersed in, and with, our experiences and each other.  

A rhythm emerged. The sun became our alarm clock. Time was measured in `packs-on' and `packs-off' water breaks. We cleaned our plates with evergreen branches, cooked brownies over a campfire, and brewed our coffee with a handkerchief as our filter. As we setup our camp site, we quickly learned the importance of finding a flat surface to pitch our tents in areas free of rocks or roots.

We rated our campsites like hotels, ranging from 1 to 5 stars. We used our clothes bags as pillows, and our ¼ inch sleeping pads served as our mattresses. 

We learned that sometimes you have to pass through an experience to fully appreciate its true and enduring impact. Following hours of conversation and shared experiences on the trail, here are a few of our lessons learned: 

  1. Positive Attitude Impacts Others
  2. We Can Do a Lot with a Little
  3. Challenges Reveal Our Character
  4. We Can Cope with Discomfort
  5. The Company We Keep Matters

We will carry the lessons and stories with us for the rest of our lives - back to our teams, families, communities and careers.  

Our Student-Athletes are equipped to have a powerful impact on a larger community as a result of their participation in the inaugural Leadership Academy and the Outward Bound experience.  

In our next To The Top, we will hear from the Student-Athletes who made the Outward Bound trip - in their own words.


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