When sophomore Caroline Putman applied for the Experiential Learning and Outdoor Adventures program  her freshman year, she wasn’t aware how much she would enjoy the position. 

Putman said one of her goals after committing to Elon was to get more involved outdoors.

“I applied in my first semester freshman year, kind of on a whim, but I knew that I wanted to get involved,” Putman said. “It was one of my goals to come into college and experience the outdoor community because it's something I really enjoy.” 

Sophomore Sadie Smith also said she joined ELOA in hopes of pursuing her passion for the outdoors. Smith works in Elon Outdoors as a trip leader and said she enjoys the new friends she has met who share similar hobbies. 

Smith said she urges students to get involved with ELOA to experience what Elon has to offer other than academics. 

“I think outdoor activities are super fun in such a great way to experience different places and get a sense of the world,” Smith said. “I really love how the outdoors gives me a sense of community at Elon.”

Within the ELOA program, a program under Campus Recreation and Wellness in the Koury Center, Putman works in Elon Challenge — a team development program that helps promote authenticity, creativity, innovation and community building. 

Elon Challenge has many low-course and high-course activities that engage students in building new relationships. According to the Elon Challenge initiatives, low-course activities help build communication, trust, problem-solving skills and relationships. 

Activities like the bridge, which is a low-course activity that requires students to stand on a wooden platform and maneuver themselves to find balance, promote experiential education to bring groups together. 

The high-course activities focus on individual and team support. By challenging themselves with activities such as zip lining, students learn to accomplish tasks through cooperation and encouragement. Any organization can participate in Elon Challenge, and one of Putman’s tasks is to help students build new connections with other organizations across campus. 

“It's a great way to connect with the Elon community and something that I love about it is that I wouldn't interact with a lot of these organizations outside of ELOA,” Putman said. 

In the fall, ELOA worked with the Burlington Boys and Girls Club and with master students at UNC Greensboro. 

Putman said that outside of learning, communication and leadership skills, ELOA values sustainability and accessibility to students on campus interested in exploring the outdoors to deepen their connection with nature. 

According to Elon Challenge, the benefits of outdoor experiences include reducing stress, easing depression, boosting the immune system, lowering blood pressure, gaining better concentration and improving sleep. They believe that “nature is the best nurture” and allow students to find peace in the outdoors. 

Elon Outdoors, another program within ELOA, holds outdoor weekend trips that any students are welcome to attend. Its February events include indoor rock climbing, ice skating and hiking. During Spring Break in March, they will visit the Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks. Elon Outdoors also offers social events on campus such as S’mores Night, Meet our Seniors and live music.

“It's really just a chance for all of us to come together and share this passion within the Elon community,” Putman said. “We are a student organization that gives Elon the best nature experience, especially during our trips.” 

Students who are interested in joining ELOA can contact Elon Outdoors through PhoenixCONNECT and follow them on Instagram @elonrecwell