This summer, incoming Class of 2017 students may enjoy a unique opportunity to meet each other before arriving on campus by participating in one of the college's pre-orientation Odyssey programs.
The eight-day and four-day program come in two varieties – Backcountry and Service. Participants in Backcountry Odyssey explore the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina through activities that include backpacking, whitewater canoeing, mountain biking, climbing and service projects.
Service Odyssey participants complete an intensive community service experience in Davidson and the greater Charlotte area. The range of social issues tackled may include homelessness, education, health and the environment.
Backcountry Odyssey offers three sessions, with financial aid available for each session. For dates, more information or registration forms, visit the Backcountry Odyssey website.
Service Odyssey also offers three sessions, with financial aid available for each session. For dates, more information, or registration forms, visit the Service Odyssey website.
Davidson's Odyssey program began in 1985 when the Davidson Outing Club (now Davidson Outdoors) became the lead organization for the college's pre-orientation "Pre-O" program, which had been facilitated in years past by the Housing Office (now Residence Life). The push for "Pre-O" to become a full-scale outdoors adventure for incoming students was spearheaded by Ed Daugherty '85, president and founder of the Davidson Outing Club. Daugherty currently serves as a director for Davidson Outdoors and still ensures the Backcountry Odyssey program goes smoothly for incoming students each summer.
In the 1990s, Davidson Outdoors added a service component to the Odyssey program, which allowed crews of students to give back to the Appalachian communities that played host to their outdoor activities. In the early 2000s, Davidson Outdoors created Service Odyssey to provide an option for incoming students who wished to focus solely on community service and civic engagement projects.
Finally, in 2012, the Center for Civic Engagement took over the Service Odyssey from Davidson Outdoors in order to help the program create more meaningful impact on the Davidson community. Service projects were shifted from sites in the Asheville area to local organizations in the Davidson and Charlotte communities. This change ensured that participants of Service Odyssey could easily continue their relationship with host organizations during their careers at Davidson.
Since its inception, Backcountry Odyssey also has evolved through many formats. One summer, crews hiked through beautiful Linville Gorge Wilderness before boarding canoes on Lake James and paddling more than 70 miles back to Davidson's campus on Lake Norman. The resulting aches and sunburns – needless to say – quickly sent the Odyssey format back to the drawing board.
Currently, Backcountry Odyssey registrants may choose a four-day session that features a central activity: backpacking, whitewater canoeing, mountain biking or climbing. All iterations of Backcountry Odyssey are based around the Asheville, N.C., area and include a one-day service project.
Alternatively, Backcountry Odyssey registrants may elect to participate in the traditional, eight-day experience. Participants form life-long friendships as they conquer a three-day hike on the Appalachian Trail, a two-day white water canoeing voyage over the rapids of the French Broad river, and also a daylong service project in the Asheville area.
Regardless of the type of experience they complete, rain or shine, participants have returned from Odyssey with positive stories of their journey and friends with whom they will appreciate the next four years.