The Colgate Scene
November 2006

People on the go

Chris White '96. See photos from the trip at [Photo by Rob Bennett]

Students have to answer three questions for high school teacher Chris White '96 before they can go on his summer field trip to Moab, Utah.

"How are you going to benefit from the trip?" White asks. "What will you bring to the trip? And why should I trust you?"

Nine students who answer satisfactorily will meticulously pack their backpacks the way White trained them to and fly to Utah, where they spend eight days hiking, climbing, and rafting as part of White's brainchild, the Canyonlands Field Course in Ecology. An earth science and social studies teacher at the Sports Academy of the South Bronx High School campus in New York, White has taken two groups of students from the city to world-renowned wilderness areas in Utah on Outward Bound-type learning experiences. He partners with SPLORE, an outdoor adventure company, to lead the outing, which is funded by private donations.

"Safety is absolutely number one on this trip, no question about it," said White, a trained guide and experienced outdoorsman. Fun and learning are close seconds. The overall trip philosophy is three-sided, focusing on academics, leadership, and physical activities. For the students, who range in age from 15 to 18, it's a trip full of fascination.

"A lot of the kids will fly for the first time," White said. "Many kids learn to swim on the trip. A lot of the kids have never seen stars."

Flooding them with these constant new experiences for a whole week gives them confidence, White said, so that when they step into college and beyond, they won't be scared of a challenge. "We are constantly pushing the edge of students' comfort zones -- that's where learning happens," he said. And the trip has another benefit for students in the poor, urban area where White teaches.

"Middle-class and suburban summertimes are often filled with summer camps," White said. "But inner city kids don't usually have those same resources." Research suggests that students who lack these opportunities can "backslide," or lose some of their academic skills, during the summer.

"One of the real benefits is that we're continuing that academic pursuit, so they are going to come back better students," White said. "And it's not just a science field trip. It's science, it's astronomy, it's literacy -- they do journaling every day, they do drawings every day. It's very interdisciplinary."

By the end, after trekking together through a desert landscape, sleeping under the stars, and rafting on the Colorado River, White knows the students are trustworthy. He again searches for answers to his other two questions in exit interviews with the students. Many tell him how they learned 24 hours a day without feeling "taught," and how they didn't want to go home. And almost all of them mention one other thing, which at first surprised White.

"All they heard all day long was laughter," he said.

He couldn't imagine a better answer. It was something they each brought to the trip, and something they all, including White, benefited from. — Vicki L. Wilson

Carol Auster '76 [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

In November 1973, then-sophomore Carol Auster '76 and her roommate, Madeline Bayliss '76, wrote an article for the Colgate News looking to drum up interest in starting a women's hockey club team.

Intramural teams had been formed the previous year, but as Auster wrote: "Now women are looking beyond intramurals to the opportunity of competing with other schools."

The women of Colgate answered, and the women's club hockey team (today a Division I varsity sport) was born.

Thirty-three years later, Auster, who lives in Lancaster, Pa., is still lacing up her skates -- recently as assistant captain with the Central Penn Blades and now with the Lady Firebirds.

After graduating from Colgate, Auster played five years of intramural hockey while in graduate school at Princeton. She stopped playing at the end of the 1980-81 season and in the fall of 1981 began as a professor of sociology at Franklin and Marshall College, where she still teaches today.

But, a few years ago, her attendance at Colgate's Center Ice Club weekend, a celebration of women's hockey and its pioneers, sparked Auster's interest in playing again.

"When I came back, two women who were close to me in age were still playing," Auster said. "One had played since leaving Colgate, the other on and off. Seeing them out on the ice was pretty exciting."

In the summer of 2004 Auster heeded a call from her daughters' soccer coach to play in a pick-up hockey game. On her way out of the rink, a Central Penn Blades sign-up ad on a bulletin board caught her attention, and soon she was hooked.

"When I first joined the team all I wanted to be was a sub, but after a game early in the season I said, `Sign me up as a full-time travel player,' because I just loved it."

The Central Penn Blades are in the United Women's Hockey League (UWHL), which is composed of 11 senior C-level teams and seven senior D-level teams, most of which are in Pennsylvania.

After leading the Blades in scoring last season, Auster accepted a formal invitation by the Lady Firebirds to join their team, moving up from D-level to C-level in the UWHL. "People can improve, even at my age," Auster said. "I would rather be a middle-of-the-pack skater and learn from people who are better than I am, than to be one of the best."

How does Auster manage to be a professor and mom and still find time to play hockey? She takes her own advice, which includes planning schedules carefully, and noted that having a supportive spouse and children helps. "I think it's incredibly valuable to have an outlet to pursue your own interests," she added.

"One thing that I regret -- there has been a women's hockey team around here for years, and I never realized it. If you think you'll have to drop your extracurricular activities once you've graduated, think again!" she advises. "Look hard, and chances are that there will be other people around you doing it." — Kristy McNeil, athletic communications assistant

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