SUU Hosts Honors Students at Bryce Canyon

Published: June 06, 2007 | Read Time: 2 minutes

Twenty-one students from across the country, most from the east coast, spent a week absorbing the natural beauty of Bryce Canyon as part of Southern Utah University’s participation in Partners in the Park.

Sponsored by SUU Honors, Partners in the Parks is a joint venture with the National Park Service to increase park patronage among U.S. citizens. The program, inspired by a National Collegiate Honors Council challenge, was the first of what will be many week-long seminars for Honors students across the country.

The week-long camping experience in Bryce Canyon is part of a pilot program that Matt Nickerson, Honors Program director, hopes will situate SUU as “the number one place in the world for the study of national parks.” The success of last week’s adventure may be the first step in fulfilling Nickerson’s prediction.

At this year’s retreat students spent a week in the great outdoors, using Bryce Canyon as the classroom and its educational elements as its textbook. Eager minds attended seminars on geology, soundscape, photography, archaeology, biology, fire ecology and astronomy. Seminars were taught by resident experts and SUU faculty.

Students came from Lamar University, Long Island University–CW Post, Northeastern University, Long Island University–Brooklyn, Quinnipiac University, Utah State University and SUU.

For many of the students, the experience was entirely unique. Standing at the canyon overlook, one student from Pennsylvania says “it was like outer space. It was so big, it was scary.”

“Most of the students had never even used a bathroom without a flush toilet,” says Nickerson. The students were also required to make their own meals. Many became proficient at the Dutch oven, churning out such delicacies as cobblers, cakes, brownies and even some vegetarian dishes.

One of the highlights of the excursion was an overnight backpacking trip through some of Bryce’s most rugged—and most beautiful—terrain. Students were divided into three groups based on their skill level; strenuous, moderate and exploration. Dr. Bridget Eastep, director of the Outdoor Recreation in Park and Tourism major, led the strenuous group on a grueling eleven-mile hike where one student even photographed a black bear—a first in Bryce Canyon history.
The moderate hike covered nearly nine miles, and the exploration hike was two miles long. All groups visited the “under-the-rim” trail on the hike, allowing them to witness a part of Bryce that 99 percent of visitors never see.

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