Utah Canyon Exploration

Kate Jennings

Creative endeavor

My STEP signature project was attending the Utah Canyon exploration trip with the Ohio State Outdoor Adventure Center.  Over spring break the group of 10 students traveled to Utah visiting 5 national parks. The group hiked, rock climbed and enjoyed the scenic views while at each park. The group learned how to front and back country camp and live sustainable lives while along the adventure as well.

This trip truly changed my view of the United States. I am from Cincinnati and haven’t explored much of our country. Seeing the beauty out west felt like I was on a different planet. I never imagined views so spectacular could exist close to home. It made me excited in seeing that I could potentially move out west post-graduation and be near this spectacular land. This trip was one of the most mentally and physically challenging weeks of my life. I love working out and this trip gave me a goal to work towards. I documented my pre trip workouts on my fitness instagram account, which is linked later in this post. I have never rock climbed before January when I signed up for the trip, but after training in the gym, I was scaling the 60-foot canyon walls in Utah. I had to build up the physical strength to make it up the steep hills and tall climbs that we took on, but I also challenged myself mentally. It is easy to get discouraged or decide that you can’t do something when you’re at the bottom. Looking up at the wall or steep climb in front of me, I could’ve quit, complained or tried to take a short cut. But the entire group decided to stay positive throughout the whole experience. We never complained about the weather, and we pushed ourselves past our breaking points to make the most of the trip. I grew in physical strength and mental capacity learning that I can truly do anything that I set my mind to. A positive attitude goes the longest way.

The relationships I built on this trip will last a lifetime. One of the hikes we went on is called Angels landing in Zion National Park. It is extremely dangerous being that the path gets as narrow as 2 feet at times with a 1000 foot drop off on either side. People have died there recently through their own lack of attention to the trail, however our group decided that we wanted to take on this challenge. We began the trail by approaching the mountain where we were faced with uphill switchback routes. We walked back and forth across the mountain as we walked uphill for nearly an hour. The sun was beating down and we were all tired from sleeping in tents and traveling the last few days. But we encouraged each other to push on. We reached the last 0.5 mile of the trail where the true test would come. Sweaty and nervous, we set out to reach the end. There are chains that you should hold onto for safety. We slowly continued our journey while allowing others to hug around us as they passed. We had to get on all 4’s and climb to get up and over various rocks, while also being conscious to not fall off the course. Throughout the trail I was shaking, nervous, not sure if I could make it to the end. But after another hour of climbing and lots of encouragement, we’ve finally reached the summit. I gazed out on the most beautiful site, it seemed unreal, like a post card. I can compare this dangerous hike to any challenges I face in life. I’ve been faced with obstacles and challenges. However, I know I’ve trained to prepare for these issues. Surrounding myself with positive people, I’ve received the encouragement to get uphill. Life can be dangerous, we take a chance our life in many different scenarios, but the risks we take make life fun. the risks and efforts will pay off in the end with some of the most beautiful things life has to offer.

The trip had a strong focus on leave no trace principles as well. There are 7 principals that campers and anyone visiting a national park should be conscious of when traveling. This helps protect our lands and wildlife from being disturbed. This aspect of the trip changed me because I recognized how the destructive behaviors humans use are impactful to these lands. There is a sense of entitlement when we visit these places, not realizing that we are guests in natures homes. There are things we can do to damage the lands permanently. By learning these principals, I can help properly take care of these limited resources. I’ve changed my behaviors and I know I’ll continue doing so whether in a park or on the street. We only have one earth and I hope my generation can be the one to lead sustainable change so we can live here forever. It was really heartbreaking visiting Escalante and having it pointed out which sections Trump has declared unprotected. I wonder if he’s ever personally stood out here, felt the winds blow around him and the sun hitting his face. I doubt after seeing this land first hand he would reconsider making a quick profit on it instead of preserving it for life, at least that’s how I felt about it.

This opportunity provided me a chance to explore another part of our country and learned that I can do anything I set my mind to. This transformational experience helped me to gain confidence and will be valuable to multiple aspects of my life. Before this trip, I had always admired people who hiked and climbed and knew it would be something I’d be interested in, but I did not know where to even begin. This trip gave me to tools to be confident in those activities. Hiking and climbing themselves provide me with a physical challenge and a stress relieving outlet that I will surely utilize long after college ends. I can continue to develop my physical ability by going to the gym and making friends with other climbers. I’ll be taking care of myself while also doing something I love. As I mentioned in my proposal, I run a fitness based Instagram account as a means to connect to the members of a student organization, CHAARG at Ohio State. I have linked the fitness account so my training for the trip and more photos after the trip have been documented.https://www.instagram.com/k8jennings_inchaarg/?hl=en

I sincerely look forward to my next adventure and would not be able to do it without the experience I gained through my STEP signature project.


2018 International Association of Blacks in Dance Festival & Conference

Hello! My name is Darreyon Castlin and for my Artistic/Creative Endeavor my signature project, I attended the International Association of Blacks in Dance Annual Conference and Festival held in Los Angeles, California. While there, I was able to take dance classes, view performances, and sit in on various lectures and panels that all revolved around Black dance, dancers, and Black dance in academia. My project really involved me immersing myself into the provided experiences and knowledge at the conference.

As a Black student at a predominately white institution, I often find myself both in the school setting and in dance being singled out, made to feel uncomfortable and/or unable to connect with anything, but this past week was most definitely a transformational experience and one that will truly guide the remainder of my college experience. This was my first time attending IABD on a collegiate level, and I went into the conference wanting to know more about Black dance in a pedagogical light, to study its historicity and also wanting to know how others navigate through the world of dance that is divided, but left out with immeasurable experiences that allowed me to see and grow within Black dance and also insight on how Black dance unites and encompasses all. I went in with the intent to view one facet of the world, dance, in another light, but left with my entire world shifting in terms of what I personally can do with a career in dance.

Being able to really be around dancers, lecturers, teaching artists, choreographers, researchers and other dance-encompassing individuals that looked like me and came from similar backgrounds as myself was super transformative for me as it really shifted my mindset from one of “I enjoy dancing, but might not be able to pursue it further due to lack of resources, differences in myself and dancers in my region, etc.” to a mindset of “I can do this, there are companies out there for me, other Black dancers experience the same things that I do, and have overcome, therefore I can too.” While at the conference, I saw over 20 dance companies owned, operated and/or widely populated by Black dancers. I saw dance historians who broke barriers in their academic studies, and for me, this was the first time I saw mass representation of brown dancers in a widely respected market. Just being able to see, be around and take class from dancers of this magnitude was the first of many transformative experience for me at IABD.

While at IABD, I met so many prominent Black Dance Historians, Dance Scholars, Chorographers, Studio Owners, and Dancers who all left me with some sort of wisdom as to where I could go in dance, how I can get there, how my current academic journey can help to guide me in my endeavors and even how I can begin to take charge of my goals and my future to ensure both success and artistic happiness. The relationships that I made at IABD will travel with me for a lifetime. Networking has always been something I aimed to take head-on at any event, but the love and support that I gained through networking at IABD was truly incomparable to that of any place else. I just loved meeting and connecting with dance professionals who set the groundwork for dancers of my generation and those after me, and those who, in the short span that I conversed with them, wanted the same successes for me.

I have always wanted to pursue dance professionally, but upon my arrival to college, I began to feel overwhelmed and as though I didn’t fit in, this caused me to essentially give up on my dreams, change my major and path of study and just completely take on something else. Being at IABD and being in the presence of Black dance greats was absolutely amazing and ever-presently transforming. To share the same room as Donald McKayle, Dianne Mcyintire, Christopher Huggins, Virginia Johnson, Debbie Allen, Ann Williams, Joan Myers Brown and so many others who have inspired my dance studies tremendously was transformational within itself. Simply put, the atmosphere at the International Association of Blacks in Dance Festival and Conference this past week made my dreams seem all-the-more tangible.

 As mentioned before, I have truly always wanted to pursue a professional career in dance, whether it be in a performance market, conducting research, teaching, choreographing, or just simply studying. While I know now that this will come to fruition, it didn’t always seem that way. When I first entered into college, I knew that I wanted to dance, but coming into a school and department where less than 5% of the population I saw daily looked like me, I often found myself feeling like I didn’t fit. Nothing was what I was used to, and at the same time nothing felt welcoming. I immediately changed my path of study and tried to forget about my dreams and move into something more rational. As the years progressed, I realized that dance wasn’t something I could get away from, and that it really is what I was destined to do. Being at this conference really restored a sense of hope in me and allowed me to move and grow in ways I never imagined.

The experiences that I gained at IABD will surely follow me for a lifetime and lead me in my last two years of college as I determine what I desire to do post-grad. This experience allowed me to flourish and to really see the potential that I have within and an overview of what my world as a Black dance scholar and performer in a predominately white profession can be. I am forever grateful for the opportunity given to me through STEP to attend IABD.

Figure Skating, A Lifelong Project

My name is Kage Brubaker, and for my Creative Endeavor, I started group figure skating lessons, and later moved on to private lessons with a coach. I had weekly lessons and off-ice practices with my coach, and often went to the rink once or twice outside of that to practice the various jumps and skills necessary.

I learned how important it is to find that one thing that really resonates with me as an individual. Prior to these lessons, I didn’t do much as a creative or physical outlet. I learned that both physical movement and creative expression are vital for me as a person and that my life will be geared towards a blending of the two in some manner, professionally or personally. I also learned how important it is for me to be able to set everything in my life aside at some points. This new understanding has allowed me to know when I have to take a step back from my busy life and pour my energy and thoughts into something expressive. It’s helped me to better reflect on where I’m at in life, what I can do to change it, and how to get where I want to be in the future.

I also learned how important it is to make connections with everybody around me, and how our lives can easily and profoundly interweave with one another. I’ve made new friends and connections by skating with people of all ages and developing positive relationships with my coach and other skaters. I have been able to learn how to read these people also, and better understand what makes people do anything, and what drives us forward in life as individuals.

Particularly, with my coach, I have been able to foster open communication with her and learn about her both as an individual and as a coach. By working with the same coach, I have been able to develop a friendship and learn more about the figure skating world’s inner workers. I’ve also learned how to continually push myself forward. Lessons with her have undoubtedly made me more physically in shape, but I was also able to pick up on her perseverance and ability to constantly push forward in life.

The amount of effort involved in figure skating and the amount of practice involved to better myself has also been key in my growth. Figure skating doesn’t really come naturally to many people, and the only way to improve is to put in long hours that are often physically and mentally demanding. Eventually though, I had established a schedule for when I could practice and used that as a frame for the rest of my schedule, blocking out time to study, time to work, time for classes, and time to be myself. I also feel better equipped to pour myself fully in whatever I’m doing and experience it as completely as I can. It can often be difficult, but by taking my time with classes, work, and myself, I’ve noticed that I am better able to improve aspects of each, and better able to adapt to those things that cannot change.

These interactions and skills transformed me in that I know insert myself more willingly into new experiences that I may not have initially been comfortable in. When I do this now, I make sure that I keep communication channels open, both within the new experience and with my current support system so that I and remain grounded and focused on fully exploring the new experience. I have also transformed to seek to incorporate my creative side in all aspects of my life and the direction that it’s going. Figure skating has made me a more cognizant individual and I am vigilant to ensure that I meld creativity event into my hard science courses. Doing this helps keep me grounded in something that I’m familiar with (creativity) but also adds a depth to anything else that I’m doing that I had lacked before. By discovering the importance of creativity in my life through figure skating, I am sure that I will be able to continue to meld creativity into any professional track I embark on and will be better able to find new depts of the field I would’ve lacked without this opportunity to transform and learn to do this.

This project was significant for me in that it (on the surface) provided a physical and creative outlet for me. But beyond that, I was able to meet many wonderful people, learn how much effort is involved in changing anything, and how lasting and widespread those changes can be in all areas of life. I’m also able to better adapt to situations and continue to push forward in them and life. All of these skills and observations about life are useful lifelong, they’ve also been illuminating in my professional plans as well. Figure skating has shown me how important self-expression and creativity are to me. I find myself gearing my professional life towards this now and am planning to obtain and MFA in poetry and then introduce creative writing as a viable intervention method to increase physiologic healing in hospitals and care centers, which will hopefully bring my creativity to others, and allow me to continually be creative in all aspects of my life: the personal and the professional. Future updates (semi-regularly) can be found on my personal blog, kagebrubaker.weebly.com