Leadership Spotlight: Alissa Finke

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Major: Environmental Science Specialization: Ecosystem Restoration Graduation: May 2016

Program: Leadership, Backpacking   The High Sierras OSU Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC), July 2014

What is STEP? What is the OAC?

I wanted to get away from everything and get out of my comfort zone.  In order to, I decided to go backpacking for two and a half weeks and walked 129 miles in the wilderness of the Sequoia and Kings Canon National Park. I was given this opportunity through funding from the OSU STEP program. Myself and seven other students left Columbus and headed for California. We were all strangers and were being lead by two men, who worked for the Outdoor Adventure Center at OSU – Tyler and Blake. We had no idea what lay ahead of us. We were all going to have to work together as we learned about the kind of leaders we were and how to take the lessons back to our lives at OSU. We took only what we could carry on our backs. There are no bathrooms, running water, or technology. There was only you, your company, the trail, and the endless skylines. We all had a lot to adjust to: changes in elevation of 7,000ft to 12,000ft, 9-13 miles a day with 35+lbs packs. We lived simply. We were organized, and we trusted each other with our lives.

High Sierra-513-Exposure-MOnce Tyler and Blake had given us the skills we needed to survive in the backcountry, they took a step back and were no longer our leaders. Instead, they became our equals. We then had one of the students be leader of the day. This might sound pretty simple, but you wouldn’t be more wrong. As leader of the day, you had charge of everything: the route we took, what we were eating, and when. The leader decided the number of water breaks, and everyone’s safety. We all had different leadership styles that emerged, and we each found our strengths and weaknesses. There were great accomplishments where we were able to go from 8,000ft to 12,000ft and back down to 9,000ft in one 13-mile day. When we reached the top of this pass, the view was simply like nothing I could ever describe with justice. We were on the edge of a rift between two mountainsides. A storm brewing to the east and a sun set in the west. It was something out of a dream.

High Sierra-578-Exposure-MThen there were the moments where I would collapse from exhaustion, my feet bleeding, my eyes running with tears. I felt defeated. I wanted to just scream, but I had no strength. Then my team tells me it is time to move on. I take a deep breath and make myself stand. Then I start to take one step after the other. We all had moments like this. Each and every one of us had a time where we wanted to give up. Yet every single person made the decision to get back up and keep walking. We experienced these extreme highs and lows together, giving us a bond so genuine.

I came away a stronger and more confident leader. I know I will constantly be growing, but after this experience I know I am ready for anything.

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