Gearing Up and Stepping Out

February 14, 2018

Maggie Hardy, a graduate student in the Outdoor and Adventure Leadership M.A. program, works as the Challenge Course Coordinator for HoneyRock. Maggie shares her journey from Arkansas to the Northwoods with us and provides insights on living and working in the HoneyRock community as a part of the graduate program.

Q: Provide some background on your undergraduate experience and what led you to choose the graduate program at HoneyRock.  

A: I studied Outdoor Leadership Ministries at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, AR. I hope to one day be a high school program manager at a camp with a gap year or internship program. One of the recent trends in camping has been the implementation of gap year programs that partner with universities so participants can earn school credit. I decided to pursue a masters degree so I could teach at the collegiate level in a gap year. I appreciated the immersive learning context at HoneyRock so the Christian Formation and Ministry degree with an emphasis in outdoor leadership was a no brainer for me.

Q: What do you enjoy about living in the rural Northwoods? What are some of the challenges?

A: When I moved from Northwest Arkansas to the Northwoods of Wisconsin, I was first struck by the sheer amount of coat racks and hooks accompanying the entrance of nearly every establishment. Of course it is because everyone wears their big puffy coats for almost ten cold months out of the year (cold, at least, if you are from Arkansas) but it made me feel strangely at home. As if everywhere I went people were saying, "Come on in. There is a place for you. Take off your coat and stay awhile. "Similar to life in any small, rural town, I enjoy the peace which I encounter in close-knit communities, woodburning stoves, and an exorbitant amount of coat racks.

Personally, most of the challenges of living in the Northwoods were weather related. My version of May involves tank tops and shorts but my first May in the Northwoods required scarves and snow pants. I quickly learned that one's comfort is not determined by the weather but rather one's gear. One piece of gear that you never want to be without is your car's heater. After my car heater stopped functioning, I kept at least two or three blankets stashed just in case. Also, learning to drive in the snow felt like learning how to drive all over again. Luckily, I had some great teachers in my cohort who got me road ready.

Q: How have you seen your faith develop or shift since being at HoneyRock?

A: God has taught me a lot about myself through HoneyRock. It was really hard for me to adjust to a new camp environment at first. I did not want to trust that God knew what he was doing when he brought me here. I tried to rely solely on myself but I just felt empty and exhausted from striking out on my own. Trusting God with my future, relationships with the HoneyRock community and academics were not easy steps to take or ones that I wanted to do, but God kindly showed me His way.

Graduate students sitting by river near HoneyRock

Maggie, 3rd from the left, sitting with fellow graduate students at HoneyRock

Q: How has living in a small, tight knit community focused on Christ influenced your lifestyle or the ways in which you build relationships with others?

A: One phrase that gets tossed around a lot around here quips "You don't get to choose your friends." Before you judge, let me explain. It's reminiscent of the phrase, "You don't get to choose your family”. Like a family, the HoneyRock community sees all sides of its members - the good, the bad, and the ugly - yet everyone is met with acceptance. Wherever I go after HoneyRock, I want to carry this attitude with me.

Q: What stands out as your best experience as a graduate student at HoneyRock?

A: I will never forget competing in the Hodag with my best friends and roommates, Breann Lindsey and Morgan Vannoy. Initially, four out of 24 all female teams competed in the 54 mile canoe race. Only two made it to the finish line and I am proud to say my team was one of them, coming in at 7th place. We paddled all night, lost a paddle, saved a paddle, and screamed our favorite songs all the way through rainbow flowage. It was the hardest and best thing I've ever done. 10/10 recommend.

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering the OAL program?

A: It seems simple but I would advise people to know why they want to go to graduate school. I have known for a long time that I want to be a camping professional so it made sense to do a graduate program that would combine living, learning, and working in one environment. This experience is not for everyone. Decide what is most important to you. Is it a degree? Is it a graduate assistantship? Is it an immersive learning environment? Know what you want before you come and seek to get the most out of your experience.

OAL graduate students posing in airport terminal

Maggie poses with graduate students headed to Jamaica to build a Challenge Course at New Generation Ministries