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Student's Grant a Boon to Outdoor Adventures

By Tim Meehan

As the planet continues to face serious threats, perhaps the biggest question each of us faces is, “What can I do?”

Cal State San Marcos student Michelle Kang asked herself that question. Kang, who is double majoring in kinesiology and mathematics, has worked for the past three years as part of the university’s Outdoor Adventures team, and in that time has learned to love the outdoors while embracing the sustainability lifestyle.

But helping her fellow CSUSM students love outdoor adventures wasn’t enough. So she set out to make a difference.

With the help of Outdoor Adventures Coordinator Celeste Gottschalk, Kang applied for and recently received a $2,500 grant from the ASI Sustainability Project Fund that is going toward helping the group achieve its campus-wide sustainability goals such as zero waste.

“I think it is very important for us to learn and practice a sustainable lifestyle,” Kang said. “I love outdoors, and going outdoors is such a unique feeling that we don't really get during our day-to-day life. However, sometimes going outdoors and seeing things different over time that often is caused by us is very disappointing. The Outdoor Adventures team always educates our participants to practice ‘Leave No Trace’ principles, and one of the ideas is that we should preserve the wilderness for the next visitors. We want college students, who are the future of this planet, to learn how to respect our planet and neighbors so that we can share the goods.”

Outdoor Adventures, which is part of CSUSM’s Campus Recreation program, is using the grant to purchase various sustainable and environmentally responsible swag items, food containers and a dehydrator.

The program spends a lot of money on prepackaged dried goods and food in general. With the help of this grant, the hope is to not only reduce the cost when purchasing food for trips, but to reduce the overall use of non-reusable materials such as plastic wrapping, cardboard and other packaging materials.

Like true outdoor enthusiasts, the purchase of a dehydrator was a major driving force for Kang and the Outdoor Adventures team.

“The dehydrator was something that I wanted to purchase for our team after going to several conferences,” said Kang, who wasn’t involved in many outdoor activities growing up and applied for the position with Outdoor Adventures to try something new. “I researched for possible funding and a grant that will help us purchase a dehydrator. Then I reached out to (Gottschalk) and she directed me to the sustainability representative on campus. So I reached out to her, and she told me that we have this grant opportunity coming up so I applied.”

The team also plans on holding free workshops where community members can dehydrate their own food. The workshops will focus on sustainability and the principles of Leave No Trace, which highlights the importance of people leaving as little an impact as possible when visiting the outdoors.

All of this would not have been possible without the vision and contributions of Kang.

“When I told Michelle about the sustainability grant, I did not expect so many wonderful ideas and initiatives to be proposed,” Gottschalk said. “I am very proud of her ability to take initiative and spearhead projects she’s passionate about. Those are the characteristics every supervisor seeks in a student employee, and we’re very lucky to have her. Michelle still has a few years left with us, and I am very excited to see what else she has in store for the program.”

CSUSM’s Campus Recreation uses the “8 Dimensions of Wellness” as guiding principles in its collective approach: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual.

There are surf and kayak trips each semester, and the spring semester will feature a beach bonfire trip. Keying on those dimensions of wellness means students are rewarded with much more than a trip to the beach.

“We believe that mental and emotional wellness is as important as physical wellness, and if people have to stress themselves to go outside, then it's not worth it at that point,” said Kang, who plans on pursuing a Ph.D. program in the future. “Spending time outdoors is not just about seeing beautiful sceneries but making lifelong friends and memories by immersing ourselves to where we belong.”


Learn more about Sustainability Projects Funding.


Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

ebreier@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7314