MU Venture Club creates community for students who love outdoors

The organization explores adventurous opportunities in Columbia while welcoming students who are versed in the outdoors and those who are unfamiliar.

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Many people assume that there aren’t many opportunities for adventure in mid-Missouri. MU Venture Club strives to convince students otherwise.

MU Venture Club is an organization on campus that encourages students to come together and participate in outdoor activities.

Venture Club started as a part of the Boy Scouts of America Venturing program, which encourages young men and women seeking adventure and outdoor fun to create a “venture crew.”

Seven years ago, Venture Club became unaffiliated with the Boy Scouts program and became its own organization at MU.

From ice skating to camping to rock climbing, members of MU Venture Club learn and participate in multiple outdoor activities together. Many of these activities take place close to campus, like hikes on the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail or kayaking trips at Finger Lakes State Park.

The MU Venture Club Constitution states that the club’s purpose is “to provide a social and educational outlet for students/faculty/staff who are interested in the outdoors.” For professor John Stansfield, faculty advisor of MU Venture Club, his experience with the club gave him just that.

Stansfield has been doing what he considers “goofy things,” like riding his bike across the state of Missouri, for his entire life. For him, MU Venture Club was the perfect solution to staying active outdoors while teaching on campus.

Stansfield has been involved in MU Venture Club since its start on campus. He says the group allows him to take a break from his hectic life as a professor and to step back and enjoy nature.

“I like to go out in the woods and get away from the bricks and the concrete and have that nature therapy,” Stansfield said.

For Stansfield, MU Venture Club is more than just simply enjoying the outdoors. His involvement in the club and outdoor activities, in general, has taught him many life lessons, including self-reliance and confidence. Stansfield has gained self-assurance from experiences such as climbing a volcano in Ecuador and going on two-week-long hikes.

“You know you'll get through it … You know what you're capable of,” Stansfield said.

While many members of MU Venture Club are versed in the outdoors like Stansfield, members need no prior experience with the outdoors to join.

Casey Thater, president of MU Venture Club, says that the club is open to people of all skill levels and backgrounds.

“There are people that have gone on 100-mile hikes, and there are people that have never been outside before,” Thater said. “We'll take them all and love them and help the people who are new to get used to the outdoors.”

Thater believes participating in the club has allowed him to get out of his comfort zone and meet like-minded people. Thater, who would normally partake in outdoor adventures by himself, enjoys having a group of individuals to join him in his enjoyment of nature.

“I know for myself personally, I can be more of a loner in that regard,” Thater said. “I don’t usually actively seek somebody else out. It’s a good way of actually being like, ‘Okay, I should be social.’”

While MU Venture Club seeks adventure inside state limits, its members don’t shy away from the opportunity to take trips outside of Missouri. At the end of each school year, MU Venture Club tries to take a week-long trip to states like Texas and Arizona.

Although the organization will be unable to take its big trip this year due to COVID-19, it still welcomes new members for the upcoming fall semester and encourages everyone to continue to stay active outdoors. Thater welcomes prospective members to attend MU Venture Club’s first event next semester, which will likely be a hiking trip to Pinnacles Youth Park.

“It is good to get outside and to explore and to push yourself out of a comfort zone,” Thater said. “College is where you have more time to do some of that experimenting in the sense of trying new hobbies and trying new things that you've never done before.”

For more information on MU Venture Club, students can visit the club’s official Facebook page.

Edited by Sophie Stephens | sstephens@themaneater.com

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