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Arryn Owens

Meet Arryn Owens

College: Arts & Sciences
Major: Bachelors, Biochemistry in the Biological Sciences Major
Year: 2024
Campus employment: Rock Climbing Instructor, Cornell Outdoor Education (COE) and Student Representative to the COE Advisory Board

Career Readiness Competencies gained:

  • Equity and Inclusion
  • Career and Self-Development
  • Professionalism
  • Leadership

Students work at campus jobs and internships ranging from office support to peer advisor to intramural referee -- many of which are hosted within Student & Campus Life. In the interview below, learn more about Arryn Owens, who is a Rock Climbing Instructor and Student Representative to the Advisory Board with Cornell Outdoor Education.

Out of all the opportunities on campus, why did you choose this one?

I initially sought out COE to integrate myself into the outdoor spaces and community at Cornell. I was enrolled in Basic Rock Climbing (the class I now teach!) my first semester at Cornell and had a fabulous experience. I admired my peer instructors, and when they suggested I apply for a position, I took it to heart. I quickly learned the climbing wall at Cornell is a hidden gem and a vibrant community of people of all ages, experiences, and skill levels.

This job has given me my most valuable social connections, a space I feel completely comfortable in, a new and challenging activity/growth opportunity, and a way to give back to a community and sport I love.

Can you describe some of your responsibilities?

As an instructor, I am responsible for planning and executing weekly lessons with my peer instructor team. We have responsibility for the safety and skill development of a class of approximately 16 students. Often, students have no prior experience, meaning we facilitate and support them through moments that range from emotional and daunting to empowering and exciting.

As student representative to the advisory board, I am a liaison between the current COE employees and the full-time staff and alumni who make up the board. I attend board meetings and work with COE full-time staff to execute initiatives. I am a spokesperson for the interests of the current staff, and as the only student voice, I contribute an essential perspective to the shaping of the current and future directions COE takes.

What skills have you developed in your campus job? Professionalism:

  • Equity and Inclusion: I engage with students from a variety of backgrounds and identities. I teach a unique version of our introductory climbing class called “Basic Rock Climbing: Closing the Adventure Gap.” The class is a DEI-initiative aimed specifically toward BIPOC-identifying students to experience rock climbing in a safe and supportive space. We provide resources and discussion opportunities for students to learn about the historical marginalization of BIPOC individuals in outdoor spaces and to discuss how this relates to them and their experiences. Teaching this class is very meaningful to me and includes dimensions that challenge me to deepen my skills and understanding. It encourages me to think critically about outdoor education, access to nature spaces and opportunities for skill-building, student identities and experiences in PE classes, and much more. Interacting with students in this way has given me new perspectives, respect, and understanding for a wider variety of my peers and their experiences.
  • Career and Self-Development: After teaching a class, I often find myself reflecting about how I responded to students’ demeanors and needs, how I can be more effective, weaknesses in my interactions, my own understanding of the skills I teach, and much more.
  • Professionalism: Leading a class of students roughly my own age has helped me develop the assertiveness, public speaking abilities, confidence, and humility to teach skills, relate to students, and conduct a class.
  • Leadership: This year, COE is celebrating its 50th anniversary. In part, COE aspires to honor this milestone by carrying out 50 service engagements throughout the next year. My role is to facilitate a number of projects on and around Cornell’s campus by involving current COE staff and their networks. Additionally, I have surprised myself with the sheer amount of excitement, joy, and energy teaching gives me. I have often found myself jumping up and down or getting chills when a student has a big breakthrough. This job has offered me a world of positivity and investment in others’ growth that I’d never experienced before.

What’s come out of your position that most surprised you?

I’ve been surprised at my own enjoyment and comfort in the role of instructor. Becoming an instructor made rock climbing a larger part of my identity and something I’m proud to represent at Cornell. I feel I’ve made connections that will benefit me beyond Cornell. COE has become my most relevant and important community at Cornell, and being an instructor is a crucial part of that.

What experience or skills have you developed that you feel will help you down the road in your career?

Leadership. This job has opened my eyes to the possibility of teaching and/or working closely with others in future jobs. In academic settings, I often gravitate toward smaller-group or independent work, but the environment of a rock climbing class has changed my view of what a workplace might feel like and how I want to relate to it.

I believe I’ve developed assertiveness with my ability to teach and speak to groups of people, my ability to explain and convey new ideas and experiences to people, and a lot of empathy for others!

What advice do you have for other students interested in an on-campus job?

Cornell is a vast place and there are opportunities of every kind. Identify your genuine interests and passions and investigate whether there’s a job that relates to it! I think the biggest reason my instructing job has been so rewarding is because it’s genuinely a passion of mine, and I feel lucky I can get paid to do more of it!