News Blog

OP gets new director, expanded mission

Idaho. More than 40 percent of the state is covered in forest. There are 107,500 miles of river. The terrain ranges from the sharp Sawtooth Mountains in the east to America’s deepest river gorge, Hells Canyon, in the west, the vast waters of Lake Pend Oreille in the north and the lava flows of Craters of the Moon National Park in the south.

And with the hiring of Genny Gerke—the first full-time director of the Outdoor Program—C of I students, staff, faculty, and community members will be able to take full advantage of Idaho and all its natural wonders.

“I think it’s really cool to be the first full-time Outdoor Program director,” said Gerke, a 2008 alumna of the College. “This program has such an awesome history and it’s an awesome opportunity to help grow the program and give students great experiences outside the classroom.”

Gerke’s vision is to offer a vast array of trips and day excursions for students of all abilities—whether that’s biking the Boise greenbelt or going on a week-long backpacking trip. Events planned for September include rafting the Payette River on Sept. 4 and a backpacking trip to Alice Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains Sept. 16-18. Signups are available in the OP, located in the McCain Student Center basement.

The OP, which also incorporates intramural sports, will offer flag football this fall. Students are encouraged to catch the club fair on Aug. 30 for more information.

“Genny brings a well-rounded combination of professional and personal experience, education, passion, and institutional knowledge, which will allow her to hit the ground running,” said Paul Bennion, Vice President for Student Affairs. “With her fulltime oversight of the program, we intend to enhance the connections to our PEAK Curriculum, give students rich opportunities for safe engagement in the regions’ spectacular outdoors, and provide an educational foundation for students to fully appreciate the experience.”

A cross-country runner at the C of I, Gerke grew up exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, and later the landscapes of Idaho—especially her favorite region near Challis.

Since earning her master’s degree from the University of Idaho, Gerke has spent time at the MK Nature Center as an environmental education instructor, Friends of Zoo Boise as a volunteer program coordinator, the Peregrine Fund as an education specialist/volunteer coordinator, the US Forest Service as a fire prevention technician/firefighter, and the McCall Outdoor Science School as a mobile environmental education instructor.

Gerke sees the outdoors as a classroom that can offer students the chance to learn about the environment and sustainability, as well as skills in communication, leadership, team-building, perseverance and self-reliance.

“When you’re out hiking, it’s the end of the day and you’re struggling, and it starts raining, you have to really dig deep and find something within yourself,” she said.

And those lessons are something Gerke hopes every Yote will be able to experience during their time at the C of I.

“Idaho has so much to offer and it would be great if every student could go on an OP outing,” she said.

Check out a video of an OP backpacking trip to Hells Canyon!

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit