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Cornell University

About Us

A group of hikers at sunset

Our Mission

Our mission is to provide Cornell students with pre-orientation trips that will serve as a fun and meaningful transition to life at Cornell. We'll help you stay comfortable and challenge yourself as much or as little as you'd like during your trip, regardless of whether you've climbed in the Himalayas or never spent a night camping. We offer a variety of trips, from backpacking to canoeing to rock climbing to a base camp/day hiking trip and more! We hope you will choose to join us for this unique and wonderful introduction to the many opportunities at Cornell!


Our Guides

All of our guides are undergraduate students who undergo extensive training before guiding an Odyssey Trip. Each of our guides are, at minimum, certified in Wilderness First Aid, Standard First Aid, and CPR. Additionally, trips in the Adirondacks, Greens, and Catskills have at least one guide who is a certified Wilderness First Responder. They are excited to meet you and welcome you to Cornell!

Our Structure

Outdoor Odyssey is a completely student-run organization. We have two student coordinators, who are responsible for overseeing all of the logistics and organization of the program. The current coordinators are Isabella Hackett and Andrew Estes. The coordinators meet weekly with our faculty advisor, Chris Leeming, who is a full time employee of Cornell Outdoor Education. Our executive board meets weekly to further discuss logistics, goals, and programs for Outdoor Odyssey.

Our History

Outdoor Odyssey was originally founded under the name Wilderness Reflections (WR) by David Moriah, who is still heavily involved with Cornell Outdoor Education by means of its advisory board. Dave expressed his vision for WR in his famous statement, "I would found an oasis of madness in a pompous academic institution that takes itself far too seriously." Outdoor Odyssey was the first collegiate outdoor orientation program in the country, and continues to push the limits of its program to this day. Unlike similar programs at other universities, Odyssey remains completely student run.

  • 1972: The New Student Orientation Committee, headed by Assistant Dean of Students David B. Henderson, creates "an experimental innovation," The first Wilderness Reflections Orientation Trips. The trips are immediately successful and the WR story is featured in newspapers around the country. Almost immediately, Henderson starts receiving mail from other universities interested in starting similar programs. Later that fall, Education graduate Kenneth Kelly proposed a thesis on "The Value of Wilderness Reflections Experience in Enhancing Self-Actualization and Facilitating Adjustment of New Students at Cornell." For years the legend was that this thesis was the rationale for continued WR support and funding from the University. However, the thesis proposal appears to have been rejected and thus it was never written. (One of the committee members was Dal Hedlund, a former chair of the Education Department!)
  • 1975: Wilderness Reflections leaves the Dean of Students Office to become an entirely student run organization. The first WR brochure is created and sent to incoming freshmen.
  • 1976: Wilderness Reflections offers an outdoor leadership class through the PE department. By the next year, WR/PE offerings expand to 4 courses!
  • 1984: The WR/PE program becomes the Cornell University Outdoor Program (now COE!) under the leadership of Alex Gayek and Dan Tillemans
  • 1991: WR sends out its first ever climbing trips, sending THREE trips to the Adirondacks. The program achieves a new high of 18 total trips!
  • 2002: WR celebrates its 30th anniversary!
  • 2003: The ground crew is born in the spring, and the Wilderness Reflections Advisory Committee (WRAC) meets for the first time in the fall, giving WR a new year-round administrative organization.
  • 2004: The Guide in Training Program is born, replacing the ground crew.
  • 2005: WR first receives funding from the SA. Funds are used to cut fees and increase scholarships.
  • 2006: New trips are born... Trail maintenance and base camping trips take off. However, all is not perfect in the oasis of madness: upperclassmen trips are planned, but low enrollment cancels them, along with a number of regular trips
  • 2008: WRAC adopts the name Outdoor Odyssey to more accurately reflect the current activity of the organization and increase relevance to a new generation of Cornell students.
  • 2009: Outdoor Odyssey runs a record 23 trips with 183 trippers.
  • 2010: Outdoor Odyssey has planned even more trips, launched a new website, moved to a larger office, and expanded its fee assistance program. Outdoor Odyssey also adapts its Advisory Committee to an executive board structure, and adopts a new logo!
  • 2014: Outdoor Odyssey runs 30 trips with 225 trippers, including two new trips--Bike touring and All Rock Climbing.

Outdoor Odyssey is a registered student organization of Cornell University.

Four students stand together on a rock during their Wilderness Reflections/Outdoor Odyssey trip

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