Alumni urges students to explore new options outdoors


Jesse Miedema

How do you spend your free time during the semester? Drinking and going to the bars? Catching up on homework? Sleeping, relaxing?

Here’s an alternative: Horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, even skydiving.

Andy Borak’s job, as supervisor of RU Outdoors, is to provide a feasible way for students to participate in outdoor activities.  As the RU Outdoors’ motto goes: “Experience the Adventure!”

RU Outdoors is a program that gives students the opportunity to sign up for various trips and even rent equipment for their own explorations.  Affordability is key.  As a weekend rental example, just $10 for a two person tent or $6 for a backpacking stove.

The trips range from $10 for a day hike at McAfee’s Knob, $20 for an introduction into SCUBA, and $85 for a white water rafting trip.  These trips are geared towards beginners and the fees include instruction, equipment, and transportation.

“We don’t make any profit at all on our trips.  This is just a service for the students, so you can get out and do these activities safely,” said Borak.

Borak is from Yorktown, Va. and graduated from Radford University in 2008 with a degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism.  He came back to Radford after graduating to complete his teaching license and began a graduate assistantship.

Having worked for RU Outdoors as an undergraduate student, he took over once he was back on campus when there was an opening, and was then hired for the full time position.

Casablanca, Into the Wild, and 180 Degrees South are Borak’s favorite movies.  His favorite books stick to the adventure theme and include The Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, and The Three Musketeers.

Borak is in charge of many things.  He is responsible for the maintenance, safety control, and scheduling of the climbing wall in Peters Hall.  For RU Outdoors, he manages the equipment purchasing, equipment inspection, planning of trip schedules, and hiring and training staff.

RU Outdoors usually staffs between eight and 15 employees.  If you’re interested in a job with them but have no outdoors experience, don’t worry.

“As long as you’re motivated to learn and you’re passionate about the outdoors and teaching people, we’d love to have you because we teach you all of the skills necessary to be a trip leader,” said Borak.

Borak himself has a lot of experience.  He is an Outward Bound Instructor, American Mountain Guide Association Single Pitch Instructor, Wilderness First Responder, and a Swiftwater Rescue Technician.

Paige Swientisky, a senior staff member at RU Outdoors, loves the knowledge that she gains from these trips, learning from Borak, and training she goes through.

“Having this job mixes my major and my job.  I learn things through that and then can use them to teach other students here,” said Swientisky

He is an avid rock climber, backpacker, and SCUBA diver, but his favorite outdoor activity is mountaineering.  Borak cites his greatest accomplishment as “being able to instill a love of the outdoors and passion of life in people.”

RU Outdoors was founded in 1986, but originally was only designed for recreation students to get field experience.  Eventually it shifted over to accommodate the entire student body, which allows more people to see the beauty and nature of Southwest Virginia.

Keith Miccio, a RU Outdoors staff member, thinks the programs they offer allow students to escape from the regular college life.

“There are places so close to here, like caving at James Cave, that you are in a completely different world and it’s 10 minutes away,” said Miccio.
To go about planning your exploration, inquire at the RU Outdoors offices located in the lower level of the Hurlburt Student Center.  The staff can either help you pick out rental gear for your own trip or sign up for one of their adventures.   Their trip schedule is prepared by semester, with at least two activities planned for each week.  All trips have a sign up deadline and also a pre-trip meeting.

And remember, even if you’ve never skied, paddle boarded, or canoed before, you’re in good hands.

“Andy is a great boss.  He’s super knowledgeable,” said Swientisky.

Miccio chimed in.  “Especially with the technical skills.  When it comes to all of the trips I feel like he knows how to do it all.”