Dakota, an adventure education major with a minor in history, grew up water skiing before school everyday in Four Seasons, Missouri. A lover of the outdoors, recreation was more of a secondary activity, though it fueled her environmental consciousness as she studied hydrology and watershed management at the University of Arizona for a year.
During that year, however, Dakota went on a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) trip in Tucson where she spent a whole semester rock climbing, caving and backpacking. She was also discovering that the University of Arizona wasn’t the right place for her—she felt swallowed in the sea of thirty thousand undergraduate students. While on her NOLS trip, a friend talked to her about the adventure education major and Green Mountain College in Vermont. After the intensive NOLS experience, Dakota decided that was the field she wanted to study and transferred into Green Mountain as a sophomore.
She felt at home in the small, rural New England town of Poultney, especially in comparison to coming from a city in the middle of a Southwest desert. The tight-knit community proved to be a perfect fit for her needs academically and personally and had a more balanced mix of environmental consciousness and outdoor recreation. She found herself taking a lot of history courses over her college career and had a particular interest in Islamic studies. Dakota is fascinated by the cyclical nature of history. She says, “It’s almost as if you can predict history and you see these patterns over and over again.”
As a big believer in education abroad and the importance of travel, Dakota has earned many of her credits through study abroad courses, which is allowing her to graduate a year early this May. One of these opportunities includes a trip to Morocco over this past winter break led by prof. Mary Jane Maxwell (history).
Last summer, Dakota decided to take a more independent path for her essentials of mountaineering course in Peru. The intensive course was an adventure itself where she got to climb and hike extensively in the unmatched terrain of Peru including the 19,800 ft. Tocllaraju. Even so, Dakota decided to go further—she arrived three weeks earlier than the rest of her group to backpack and travel Peru solo.
“My time in Peru was a watershed moment in my life,” Dakota says.
During those three weeks, she traveled completely alone while taking advantage of the excellent outdoor recreation activities available in Peru’s unique geography. She began by paragliding through the Sacred Valley below Machu Picchu. She spent three days hiking Machu Picchu and its surroundings are known for their incredible landscapes and historical importance in the Incan Empire.
Dakota took another three-day excursion to a kite boarding school in the beach town of Mancora (known for its high winds) where she stayed a bit longer to surf and kite board while meeting locals and other travelers. Throughout her solo time in Peru, Dakota stayed in youth hostels and traveled by bus almost everywhere often having to travel overnight in loud, crowded buses. She immersed herself in the culture thoroughly, not only through interacting with locals but by sampling the local cuisine eating solely street food and from open-air markets.
“It was a great experience but getting to see some familiar faces from GMC was a welcome site,” Dakota remarked on finally joining her essentials of mountaineering class in Huaraz where they set out together climbing four peaks learning about mountain travel techniques and rescue methods.
After graduation, Dakota hopes to get a job as a logistics coordinator at a wilderness program in the Pacific Northwest where she has already begun applying. She is interested in going to graduate school after a couple years of logistics work and pursuing a degree in nutrition or sports nutrition. She hopes to own her own logistics company one day, where she will coordinate nutritious meal plans for wilderness programs.