June 24, 2011
Through the dry, desert air, a slight breeze drifted among the arid shrubs and twisting juniper trees. A short distance from the road, mammoth-sized red rock archways stood solid, proud even. Quiet filled Arches National Park.
Excited shrieks and squeals of seven Indiana State University President's Scholars shattered the silence as the young women emerged from vehicles onto the rocky terrain.
As junior Meredith Lewis heaved herself up onto a rock to take in the scenery, fellow junior Kelly Loman exclaimed, "Hold that pose, Meredith! It's awkwardly majestic," only to be followed by a fit of giggles and a lengthy list of the "best" quotes of the week.
Laughter was certainly a theme of the weeklong trip out west, hosted by ISU President Daniel Bradley and his wife, First Lady Cheri Bradley.
"I think the reason to go on a trip is that it gets people out of their normal environment," President Bradley said, "And we then can spend the time developing relationships that are very difficult to do when you have all the distractions."
The group also included Honors Program Director Greg Bierly, geology professor Sandra Brake and seven President's Scholars: juniors Lewis, Loman and Sarah Stetter, as well as seniors Mary Crawford, Sarah Ehrat, Abbey Schmitz and Breanna Wyman. The President's Scholar award is ISU's most prestigious financial award; recipients are chosen as incoming freshmen based on academics, extracurricular involvement and personal achievements.
"We wanted to deepen our connection to the President's Scholars and to deepen their connection to each other and the university," Mrs. Bradley said about taking the students on a journey. "It is our hope that they continue to be engaged with the university and each other throughout their lives and their careers."
Packed with educational hiking tours, the excursion made stops in four national parks including Arches, Capital Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion, all located in southern Utah. The group also toured Salt Lake City's Temple Square.
"I think this is a point in our lives where we have the ability to travel and take advantage of things like this," Ehrat said, "We're the perfect age. We're young, we don't have as much responsibility, and if they're going to offer things like this, I think it's great to take advantage of it."
Touring the parks was anything but monotonous, as the group found each destination to be unique. Arches and Bryce Canyon repeatedly came up in conversation as the "favorite" parks.
While Arches expands over 73,000 acres and exhibits rich, red earth and delicate arch formations, Bryce displays its famous "hoodoos," extremely tall, thin rock towers protruding from the canyon's floor and surrounding the trails.
"Dr. Bradley said it best," Loman said, "That Bryce Canyon and the Arches National Park are both beautiful, but in their own way."
Besides hiking, the group also carried out a service project while in Moab, working in the Youth Community Garden. The ISU group pulled weeds, made tomato cages and shaded green peppers, among other tasks.
"I feel like it's a great opportunity to get to know the community," Crawford said, "You don't really feel like a tourist; you feel you're actually giving back."
Throughout every hike, every posed-for picture and every lunch at a greasy burger joint, energy radiated via laughter and newfound relationship between the girls.
"Obviously [President's Scholars are] very involved and very active throughout campus, so I knew them through that, but I didn't know them on this personal level," Schmitz said.
Being outside the university setting helped the students form stronger relationships with the faculty members on the trip.
"This trip has affected the interactions between students and faculty that it just kind of takes down that barrier you have in the classroom," Loman said.
Students especially took pleasure in spending time with the Bradleys.
"Out here, they are just so funny to see together, you know? They're like a husband and wife. They're not the president and first lady of our university," Loman said with a smile.
Loman also expressed her appreciation for the Bradleys' sense of humor, as they frequently joked with and teased the scholars.
Bierly thinks that different types of classrooms contribute to greater learning.
"The classroom is where learning often begins, but sometimes it is merely the staging point for greater adventures," Bierly said, "Often, these types of direct exposure-study of an actual piece of art or ancient text, treading the location where some great historical event occurred, viewing a breath-taking landscape-inspire and sustain interest."
Resulting in far more than an extended geology lesson, the trip nurtured contagious humor, personal connections and adventurous spirits.
"It's absolutely been a breathtaking experience for me," Schmitz said, "Truly memorable."
Ehrat concluded, "We're studious, but we know how to have fun."
ISU President's Scholars along with President Dan Bradley and First Lady Cheri Bradley hike up a trail Bryce Canyon. ISU Photo/Tracy Ford
Mary Crawford and Abbey Schmitz pause on the Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon. ISU Photo/Tracy Ford
Sarah Stetter pulls weeds with ISU President Dan Bradley at the Youth Community Garden in Moab, Utah. ISU Photo/Tracy Ford
Kelly Loman, Bree Wyman, Sarah Ehrat and Meredith Lewis take in the views at Dead Horse Point. ISU Photo/Tracy Ford
Contact: Greg Bierly, Honors Program director, Indiana State University, at 812-237-3225 or http://mce_host/news/Gregory.Bierly@indstate.edu
Writer: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, at 812-237-3773
Seven Indiana State University President's Scholars traveled west with President Dan Bradley and First Lady Cheri Bradley.