Norton Outdoor Adventures Program Becomes Student Led

Communing with nature, Alex Reed, junior, watches as a bird perches on his finger.
Communing with nature, Alex Reed, junior, watches as a bird perches on his finger.
Photo courtesy of Alex Reed

After the acceptance of a full-time faculty and instructor position, former director of the Norton Outdoor Adventures Program, Aaron Conover, has changed roles in the program, with Alex Reed taking over as the new head instructor.

“This fall semester, I was moved into a full-time faculty and instructor position to teach Ecotourism and Recreation Leadership. The Director position was not filled. I am now in a supervisory role for the program and student leaders,” Conover said.

Alex Reed, junior, was chosen by Conover to become the head instructor of the NOA.

“Alex was chosen as the NOA Head Instructor because of his previous experience with the program,” Conover said.  “However, one of the main reasons were his experiences as a backpacking and outdoor adventure instructor for Wilderness Adventures at Eagle Landing (in Newcastle, VA) this summer where he received a high level of training and professional skills.  He also attended the REC-295 Adventure Skills Course over spring break in 2023 that was at Wilderness Adventures.”

Reed said the new responsibility has been a goal for a while.

“It’s something I’ve been working toward my whole time here at Ferrum. It’s a job doing something I love, which is something hard to find, and I consider myself extremely lucky,” he said.

Over the course of the school year, 200-250 students will participate in NOA activities, which can be through larger events on or off campus.

Reed has been in this range of students since he came to Ferrum.

“My freshman year I started as a regular NOA employee but was taking a bunch of classes I needed to help me step up to lead the program, classes like interpretation, rec management, rock climbing, watersports, and plenty of other ecotourism classes,” Reed said.  “The next year, the previous lead employee graduated, so I was given that job.  There wasn’t nearly as much responsibility with that role, but it was still a step up. Then this year, when the actual position for student head was created, I was already a good fit for the role.”

For students on campus not knowing what the NOA does, it is an academic program that provides an educational component to recreation leadership and ecotourism students.

“I want to get us organized, that has been a big to-do for the past few years. This year, I’ve already organized both of our gear sheds, but I still would like to do an inventory to see exactly what and how much gear we have,” Reed said.  “I would also like to bring back some old programs, because they seem really fun and would be a real benefit to the student body.”

NOA also manages and maintains the disc golf course and trails on campus with help from volunteer groups such as athletic teams, clubs and organizations, students, faculty, and staff.  NOA also has an area with a rock-climbing tower and campsites used for classes and programs.

Conover has goals in mind for what he wants to see done with the program by the school year’s end.

“The student leaders really take ownership of the NOA program and the activities as well as help expand the PEAKS (Professional Experience Adventure Knowledge and Skill) program that was enacted last school year,” Conover said.  “Also, the students will make a strong connection to NOA and the student leaders.”

Reed also has a vision for NOA.

“By the end of the year, I want to have a full inventory of all of our actual gear and tools, add new programs to the roster, and try to find a way to have more funds to add better and better programs,” Reed said.

NOA received a gift from the Hank Norton family, which established an endowment. The original program was called Ferrum Outdoors, and the name changed to honor former football coach Hank Norton and “his passion for the outdoors.”

“The endowment–established in 2020–enabled NOA to start using the funds to help the program in the Fall of 2022,” Conover said.

The gift from the Hank Norton family allows the NOA to purchase and provide free, equipment-rental program so students, faculty, and staff can outfit their own adventures.

Gear such as tents, stoves, sleeping bags and pads, backpacks, hammocks, discs for disc golf, kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and fishing equipment can be rented by students and staff.

View Comments (1)
Donate to Iron Blade

Your donation will support the student journalists of Ferrum College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Iron Blade

Comments (1)

All Iron Blade Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • S

    Sue GriffenOct 10, 2023 at 4:07 pm

    Way to go, Alex! Aunt Sue