Quest Develops Student Leaders


Ali Schmidt '08 rappels down a sheer rock face.


The College launched its inaugural Quest Leadership Program in August as 40 students, faculty, and staff members traveled to Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, for a rigorous 18-day wilderness expedition. Andy Miller, director of Quest and assistant director of alumni relations, has carefully developed an annual pre-orientation program that includes backpacking, rock climbing and rappelling, canoeing, and sailing, as well as a two-night solo experience in the woods for each participant.

“I could not have been more pleased with the enthusiasm, character, and devotion to excellence displayed by the Quest student leaders. The responsibility of facilitating the emotional and physical safety, as well as the leadership and personal development, of their peers is a challenging and substantial mission for anyone. The superb work of the 12 student leaders—Brooks Barhydt ’08, Scott Baumgartner ’07, Gwen Hopkins ’08, Julia Hoppock ’06, Courtney Hugo ’08, Crystal Nieves ’08, Andrew Pedro ’08, Alison Schmidt ’08, Kara Takesuye ’06, Katrina Voorhees ’06, Rebecca Wetzler ’06, and Sam Zivin ’07—in rising to that challenge speaks volumes about the high quality of students that Trinity College attracts and develops.

“The program, which is made possible through the generosity of the Board of Fellows, would not have been the success that it was without the persistence and dedication of the guides—Martha Burke, director of the Health Center; Michael Heaney, visiting lecturer in legal studies; Michael Kellogg, a friend and colleague with extensive wilderness experience; Jeff Lea, climbing instructor with Connecticut Mountain Recreation; and Anne Parmenter, head field hockey coach. In addition to each year’s pre-Quest preparations, we coordinate the logistics of keeping people fed, equipped, and moving through the park as well as facilitate each group’s climb and rappel experience. Perhaps most important, we instruct and mentor the leaders during the 10-day leadership and wilderness skills training immediately prior to the program and then support them throughout the expedition.”

Andy Miller, director of Quest

“The beauty of the surrounding park was obviously awe inspiring. But I was equally inspired and humbled by the ‘quality’ individuals who participated—by their humanness and kindness. I also became aware of how silence can be comforting and how things I previously perceived as ‘necessary’ to live, be they physical or emotional, can truly be dictated by our will, and not by others or our current community mores.”

Martha Burke, director, Health Center

“For me, being out in the woods with fellow human beings is one of the most primal, and connective, experiences there is. It’s not being ‘out there,’ it’s being ‘in here’—as close, I believe, as I will ever get to companions, to creation, to God, to my own heart. There is something among those of us who shared it that will stick forever, a rod and a staff for all our journeying.”

Mike Heaney, visiting lecturer in legal studies

“Quest was an experience unlike anything I had ever done before. A week into it I could hardly remember the ‘old me.’ I came out of Quest as a more mature, experienced, and responsible person. There is no other experience that can give a person the things that Quest has to offer, and it’s an indescribable feeling that you only get by going through it.”

Kara Takesuye ’06, Quest leader

“I am proud to have been part of this amazing experience. From the early training in April, when I first met most of the leaders, to the actual hands-on experience of working together in the pouring rain as we ferried people and equipment across the lake with great efficiency—we all grew as individuals and as part of the larger team.”

Anne Parmenter, head field hockey coach

“A frail girl of 98 pounds, backpacking across mountain ridges with a canoe on her shoulders—it is an image that might provoke pity from an onlooker. But, for me, that image is a source of fortitude and accomplishment. The 18 days I spent at Quest brought about a significant change in my mindset that 18 years of my life had been unable to bring about. Everything that I thought was insurmountable gave way to my will. I learned what I am capable of.”

Nikunj Oli ’08, Quest participant

“Trinity offers our students a wide variety of opportunities: on campus, in our surrounding neighborhoods, in our global sites around the world, and now in a very remote, incredibly beautiful national park in Ontario, miles from the media-deafened and plasticized existence most of us lead on a daily basis. The best proof of Quest’s influence will undoubtedly come over the years from student participants and from their student peer leaders. I have often wondered who learns the most transformative life-lessons up in Killarney. And I am delighted to report that I will probably never have a definitive answer, given all that transpires in that setting on such an adventure.”

James F. Jones, Jr., president and Trinity College Professor in the Humanities

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