The K-State Challenge Course offers students, faculty, staff and the Manhattan community a fun way to develop team-building skills and stronger personal connections. But with the ice storm ripping through the city last December, fallen trees and branches rendered the course useless. If it had not been for Sigma Pi fraternity, the challenge course might not have been ready for its busy spring season.
Jason Orr, junior in chemical engineering and Sigma Pi service chairman, said he talked to various officials in December and January looking for a campus and community project for his fraternity’s semester philanthropy, Altruistic Campus Experience. He said ACE is a national Sigma Pi philanthropy designed to directly give back to the chapter’s institution and community. So when he spoke with members of K-State’s New Student Services about cleaning up the Challenge Course, he said he knew it would be a great opportunity.
“It was cold, but not backbreaking, hard work,” said Tyler Cowley, Sigma Pi president and junior in sociology. “It didn’t take very long – just a couple of hours – and we got out there and just cleaned it up, made it look pretty good, and helped out the grounds staff.”
Emily Lehning, assistant dean for New Student Services, said when she heard the fraternity was willing to help with clean-up efforts, it was like lifting a weight off her shoulders.
“We have a small staff, and they would have, I’m sure, gladly
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put in the time to help clean up the course and get it ready for spring,” she said, “but to have the extra hands and bodies out there, making it happen quickly for us, it was definitely a huge relief.”
Cowley said though he has not personally used the course, his fraternity has been invited by the K-State grounds crew to use it during a weekend in the future as a thank-you.
“We enjoyed [helping out] very much,” he said. “It was a really good time to do that and help out, and we can really see our hard work paying off.”
The Challenge Course was completed in June 2007 and had been a dream of the university for a long time, Lehning said.
“There are several peer institutions that have challenge courses or rope courses as part of educational offerings,” she said, “and we thought it would be a great way for our students to practice leadership and to develop skills for working in teams, and [we thought] it would also be great for our faculty, staff and community.”
Lehning said she often had heard of groups wanting a challenge course experience, but the only courses available were outside the city.
“We thought it would be great to have one to call our own – one that would be accessible and convenient and sort of an extra educational part of what K-State has to offer students,” she said
Paul Morton, recreation coordinator with the City of Manhattan, said the course is primarily used for group team building, whether it is people who work together, live together or groups of friends.
“It’s a way to work on team-building and leadership skills,” he said. “It’s about pushing boundaries and getting people outside their comfort zones so people can push themselves a little bit physically and mentally.”
The Challenge Course has three elements – a grassy field for group elements, designed to prepare one for the experience and a low course and a high course, both which involve ropes, cables, platforms and logs, according to the Challenge Course Web site.
Morton said reservations for the course are made through the office of New Student Services, and groups can choose from a half-day event – the low course – or a full-day event – the low and high courses. He said anyone is welcome to walk through the courses at anytime, but trained student facilitators must be present when using the course equipment.
Lehning said depending on the size of the group – groups are classified as seven or more individuals – the office prefers a week advance notice for reservation requests.
“With students’ schedules, sometimes that can be difficult,” she said. “But we like to give [the facilitators] enough notice to be sure they’re there and ready for the groups.”
However, Lehning said the office tries to accommodate groups as much as possible. She said though some groups have already made reservations for August, she has taken reservations just a few days in advance.
For more information on reservations or the courses themselves, visit www.k-state.edu/nss/challenge.