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The College of St. Scholastica

A significant part of the college experience is exploring new interests, hobbies and passions. For some at The College of St. Scholastica, this means adventuring in northern Minnesota’s beautiful woods and lakes. Through Outdoor Pursuit (OP), students are encouraged to get out and be active by participating in group excursions into the wild. Trained guides also provide the education necessary to make outdoor activities safe, respectful and fun!

St. Scholastica students packing up gear in the Outdoor Pursuit office.

Outdoor Pursuit adventures

Gear up and head out! Outdoor Pursuit offers everything you need to start your adventures in and around Duluth, from gear rentals and resources to guided tours with trained students. Getting outside with Outdoor Pursuit is a great way to build relationships with peers, learn new skills and make lasting memories in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Whether you want to head out on the water with canoes and kayaks or the trail with backpacks and tents, we’ve got you covered!

Meet your guides

What makes Outdoor Pursuit especially appealing for students who might be interested but are nervous about being inexperienced is that the activities are led by other St. Scholastica students. OP guides have completed wilderness training, have expertise in backpacking, leadership and are excited to share their love of nature!

Tatum Severson ’25

Hi there! I’m Tatum Severson and I am a junior at St. Scholastica majoring in Psychology and minoring in Outdoor Education and Equity.

I participated in the backpacking Student Outdoor Adventure Retreat (SOAR) trip at the start of my freshman year. I knew I needed a huge leap to get out of my comfort zone after having my last two years of high school cut short due to COVID-19. From there, I was hooked on the feeling of being in the backcountry. After returning to campus, I wanted to get right back out there; the quiet, the views and the bonding with my peers were something that couldn’t be replicated. I started attending Backcountry Saints meetings, wanting to learn everything there was to know. I knew that I wanted to give freshmen the same amazing experience that I had.

Photo of Tatum Severson reading a map with a group in the woods

Tatum Severson

I have spent two summers working with Outdoor Pursuit. In that time, I have learned much more than I can even fathom. I am now a Wilderness First Responder and have led 20 first-year students backpacking the week before they start their college experience. I am also now the coordinator for the Backcountry Saints guide training program, as well as the Student Supervisor for OP, and I love fostering learning for our guides!

Even more, as a Psychology major, I am researching the effect of orientation programs on first-year students’ psychological sense of place, including St. Scholastica’s three August Adventure programs for traditional undergraduate students (Student Outdoor Adventure Retreat, Community Service Orientation and Multicultural Leadership Orientation). Had I not gone on a SOAR trip and become so involved in OP, my college experience could have been so different! I credit who I am today to the experiences of my SOAR trip, along with my SOAR guides: Emily, Mia and Megan. I am truly grateful that I took the leap and decided to step out of my comfort zone!

And I would like to encourage you to do the same! Embrace the outdoors; take time to be free of distractions and enjoy Mother Nature. Listen to the trees and the wisdom they have to share. Take a walk, jog, hike or whatever else your heart desires. We have some fantastic trails in our backyard at St. Scholastica, and northern Minnesota has so many great state parks to check out. If you don’t know where to start, I hope that you’ll join OP on a trip.

Nolan Carlson ’26

What’s up? My name is Nolan Carlson and I am just getting started in St. Scholastica’s Nursing program as a sophomore.

During my freshman orientation, Megan Perry-Spears, the dean of Undergraduate Students, encouraged our group to go on an August Adventure trip if we could. After looking at all of the options, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) Canoeing trip piqued my interest and I quickly signed up. Now, I look back on my time on that trip and remember working with my guide, Joe Tschida, to learn how to tie a bowline and trucker hitch; this very moment sparked my interest in spending more time outdoors.

Photo of Nolan Carlson on a trail in the woods

Nolan Carlson

This initial interest led me to join Outdoor Pursuit and eventually Backcountry Saints, which gave even more opportunities to go on outdoor adventures. One of my favorite experiences with OP was going on 2 Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS) expeditions. To say that these trips were life-changing for my personal growth, leadership and camp craft skills would be an understatement! The trips pushed me out of my comfort zone, allowing me to become a much better guide in the process. I really give credit to the VOBS instructors I worked with; they were super knowledgeable on the outdoors and truly cared about helping you become the best guide possible.

This past summer, I even took a Wilderness First Response (WFR) course because it intrigued me. I couldn’t have anticipated how much it would impact my future in the field of nursing. It’s interesting because using my WFR skills in the field is actually one of my favorite and least favorite things to do. Of course I don’t want to see people in pain, but when I am able to help someone, it reminds me of the direct impact I can have. It’s very rewarding to see how much help I am able to provide with this skill set.

Outdoor Pursuit has ultimately helped me gain and foster connections with other people, building a community of people with common interests. In fact, my 3 roommates have all been involved in OP, and without it, we may not have met. I have OP to thank for that! I know for a fact that Outdoor Pursuit has made my experience at St. Scholastica exponentially better. I would encourage you to get involved, or better yet, just step foot outside, even if you think it might not be your thing.

Quinn Bruning ’24

Hey! My name is Quinn Bruning and I’m getting ready to graduate from St. Scholastica this spring as a Nursing major. I also have a minor in Aerospace Studies through the Air Force ROTC program.

I first heard about Outdoor Pursuit my freshman year by seeing an email pop up in my inbox about a rock climbing day trip. I signed up for it on a whim and had a blast climbing for the first time outside. Originally, I didn’t even know that it was possible to be an outdoor guide. But when I learned that the people who guided my rock climbing trip were also students, I decided I wanted to follow in their steps. I attended a Backcountry Saints meeting and the rest was history. After that trip and initial meeting, I was hooked, spending nearly every day at the rock climbing wall and making friends with the other guides since then.

Photo of Quinn Bruning getting ready to rappel down a cliff

Quinn Bruning

Fast forward and I have been a guide for OP for almost four years now! In those years, I have learned and grown more than I could have ever imagined. Hours upon hours of my life have been spent atop cliffs tying knots, in the Boundary Waters paddling a canoe and at the rock wall, researching any and everything to do with rock climbing. OP has taught me to face challenges head-on and to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

The program has also provided me with numerous training opportunities, such as Professional Climbing Instructors Association trainings and a Single Pitch Instructor certification. Some of my favorite experiences in OP have been training our upcoming climbing guides. I am privileged to have learned enough to help and train others to see them succeed. Teaching the freshmen on my SOAR trips has been a highlight for me, and I love seeing them stay involved in OP to become climbing guides themselves.

I have learned so much and have gained so many meaningful experiences and connections from my experiences in OP. If you are coming into college and looking for a place where you’ll belong, be challenged and grow, Outdoor Pursuit could not be more perfect for you.

Wilderness medicine and land stewardship

Outdoor Pursuit’s Shawn Olesewski has also created a 16-week, 4-credit class for St. Scholastica students interested in wilderness medicine. This course, which is a blended format, focuses on critical elements of first aid in a wilderness setting. Topics covered include wound assessment, treatment, risk management, natural disaster response, preventative measures and everything else you need to become “a medic in the backcountry,” Olesewski says.

“It offers a different perspective for healthcare, especially for nursing and health science students,” Olesewski noted of the holistic quality of the course. “It doesn’t just have to be in the middle of nowhere, either. It’s also working without the advanced tools and gadgets of a clinical setting, like in natural disaster response.” As a general education course, this class provides all St. Scholastica students with an opportunity to prepare for the unexpected.

Students who complete the course will also receive Wilderness First Responder Certification, a national certification made possible by partnering with Longleaf Wilderness Medicine.

Wilderness medicine and Outdoor Pursuit activities offer students the opportunity to get a tangible, applicable sense of the Benedictine value of Stewardship, which inspires us to utilize human resources responsibly. Going outdoors is ideal for promoting physical, mental and spiritual growth. And when you learn to utilize natural resources sustainably, you ensure that others can enjoy the world for themselves.