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For Drexel University’s Weekend Warriors club, and for many other student organizations on campus, the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping them from doing what they love — or at least doing it together.
For instance, President Michael Kanner, a fourth-year chemical engineering student, can go for runs and hikes alone in the great outdoors with his free time from his remote spring-summer co-op in Maryland. However, he misses coming together with his fellow Weekend Warriors for such adventures, or the nature trips that the club promoted several times per term pre-pandemic.
So without the opportunity to sponsor those trips, and with some budget left over for this term, Kanner came up with an idea for virtual campus engagement events that would still give Dragons the taste of adventure they may crave: enter The Explorer Series.
“We wanted some way to engage people in something as close to an adventure as possible,” Kanner said. “So what better way than talking to some of the coolest adventures that there are?”
The series will feature four Zoom sessions with four different elite athletes. Professional ski mountaineer and activist Caroline Gleich will speak at 6 p.m. May 22 on how adventurers can become a voice for change and embrace the challenges and failures that come along the way. At the same time on May 25, professional skier Cody Townsend will discuss the value of relationships and community in outdoor adventures.
At 7 p.m. on May 28, mountain guide Kel Rossiter’s presentation will examine moving forward in environments of risk, ambiguity and uncertainty — something most of the world can relate to right now. Finally, on June 1 at 6 p.m., the series will cap off with a special presentation from professional rock climber Alex Honnold, best-known for his ropeless ascents as documented in the award-winning film “Free Solo.”
Each event in the series is open to all Drexel students, and will feature a Q&A session at the end of the speaker’s presentation. The Explorer Series is co-sponsored by the Drexel University Ski/Snowboard Club, Dragon Climbers, Drexel Sierra Club and The Good Idea Fund.
For Kanner, lining up each athlete presentation involved everything from cold-emailing their managers to reaching out to trusted friends of the organization. The latter was the case with Rossiter, who has already led climbing trips for members of Weekend Warriors.
“They're all really excited to do this because they are also looking for unique ways to engage people and get their ideas out right now,” Kanner said.
He has also been working directly with each athlete to help them craft discussions around what’s relevant to this college age group, as well as their advice in this time of social distancing and staying inside.
“A lot of them are going to talk about how to get outside and stay active, stay adventurous, in this time,” Kanner said. “They'll say how they're dealing with it [from] the mental health aspect of not being able to do what you usually love to do at this time.”
Kanner also hopes there will be aspects of each talk that will be relevant to even those who avoid the outdoors, including the environmental activism backgrounds of each presenter. For instance, Gleich has previously testified in front of Congress on the role of snow sports in climate change and Honnold created his own foundation which provides grants to organizations advancing solar energy access all over the world.
Additionally, Kanner hopes hearing about each outdoorsman’s passion for what they do — and how they continue to connect with these passions despite the pandemic — will ring true for all students as well.
“I think that aspect is going to resonate with people no matter what activity it is that you like to do, whatever hobby it is, whatever work it is that you're not able to do,” he said. “I think they're going to approach it from the outdoors, but it'll still resonate with whatever people do in their lives.”
And though seeing his fellow Weekend Warriors on Zoom won’t be the same as if they could all meet in person for a run, a hike or a climb, Kanner said there is a benefit to this time of virtual engagement: it will allow them and their fellow Dragons to speak with some of the extreme premiere adventurers from across the country — which likely wouldn’t have been possible on campus.
“I'm able to get someone from Vermont, someone from Utah, someone from California and someone from Nevada,” he said. “That all would not have happened if we weren't online, for the simple reason of we would be running trips. Even if we did have money left over for speakers, we would never be able to get some of these people.”
Zoom links for each session in The Explorer Series will be made available on Weekend Warriors' website and Facebook page at least 24 hours in advance. Fill out this form if you'd like to receive an email reminder with the Zoom link before each event, or email DrexelWeekendWarriors@gmail.com with any questions.