Got spring fever? Who wouldn’t prefer the buzzing of bumblebees around fragrant cherry blossoms to the paper jam indicator on the office copy machine? SJSU administrator Stephen Branz and his SJSU colleagues regularly invite others to step away from their desks, dust off their hiking boots and GO. Get Outside, that is.
An associate dean of undergraduate studies for curriculum and director of general education, Branz brings San José State faculty, staff, students and friends together on trails, under bike helmets and in kayaks—instead of around conference room tables.
“Everyone who goes on the trips is connected to San José State in some fashion,” says Branz, who tired of taking trips with the Sierra Club and never seeing his fellow hikers again. “I figure, why not go with a group of colleagues, build some camaraderie on campus, and be able to go with the same people more frequently?”
What started out with a 2005 hike to Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park continues to grow as family, friends and colleagues tag along. Eight trips were organized in 2008 and several more are planned for this year. He says that something about trekking beneath stately sequoias far from campus strengthens friendships as well as ties to the university.
Patricia Julien, financial coordinator for the University Police Department says, “Sometimes you think professors or deans are a little intimidating. Then you get to know them in a setting like the GO group and realize they’re just regular people.”
Branz says he didn’t have a mission statement when GO began. The trips are easy-going and not over-planned, and he insists that there’s no secret handshake. Even the conversation flows like a windy mountain stream—from the thrilling details of the latest bestseller to sophisticated composting outhouse design.
From biking around the city of Woodside and cross-country skiing around Lake Tahoe to backpacking in Yosemite’s Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and kayaking near Point Reyes National Seashore’s craggy headlands, Branz’s trips draw GO-getters of all ages. For Jack Kurzweil, retired professor of engineering and longtime hiker and backpacker, GO has kept him connected to the university since his 2007 retirement.
“Among the many ways one can remain part of the campus community is going on these absolutely fun and wonderful trips,” says Kurzweil, who taught at San José State for nearly 40 years. “And you don’t have to write or read any memos.”
No memos? Alfresco fun? Go ahead. Get out there. Rock scrambling could bring people together in your organization, too.