Adventurous URI: Outing Club gets students off campus, outdoors

One of the oldest clubs on campus provides mental and physical health benefits through pandemic, and beyond

START HERE: The URI Outing Club, one of the oldest clubs on campus, offers all students a chance to get off campus with added mental and physical health benefits. They hope to welcome new faces on future trips. (Pictures courtesy: URI Outing Club)

KINGSTON, R.I. – Feb. 26, 2024 – A group of University of Rhode Island students can’t wait to get out of class.

But the members of this group are not getting the typical college-campus Friday feeling — many can’t wait to see where the URI Outing Club, one of the oldest clubs on campus, will bring them this weekend.

Graduating senior Ellie Madigan has been a part of the club for all of her URI years, serving as the president for three. Madigan started at URI during the pandemic and says the Outing Club was a “saving grace” for her that year, even if very modified. Since then, she and several other students have poured themselves into the club, rebuilding and rejuvenating an organization that’s become a special part of their URI experience. They are proud to report that the URI Outing Club has rebounded — and then some.

Saying that outings are a healthy tool for students, Madigan and others in the club would like to see more students from across the University enjoy its fresh-air benefits, saying, “it’s just good for your mental health.”

Since Madigan grew up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and worked in outdoor settings, being outside comes naturally to her; she hopes to provide a similar comfort level to other students.

“I think adult outdoor education is lacking,” she says. “Of course, it’s cute to see a little kid holding a snail but nature is not only for little kids! Adults can connect outdoor experiences to their own lives. It’s important for people to know it’s never too late to get into new things.”

Outing Club gives URI students a way to see more of their new community, with excursions around Rhode Island and across New England ranging from easy to challenging. No experience is necessary and equipment is provided.

Sights on spring

Madigan will soon be hanging up her clipboard as president of the club but hopes the organization remains on steady footing. With much attention to mental health on college campuses these days, she and her fellow club leaders say spending time with other URI students outdoors is beneficial. Club leaders underscore the club’s welcoming and supportive philosophy, where students can build confidence and work up to challenges gradually, or just join for low-key trips, as preferred.

Later this semester, students will climb at RockSpot in Wakefield, visit Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Sutton, Massachusetts, and explore nearby Jamestown with President Marc Parlange. When the snow melts, the club will kayak, paddleboard, and try to spot seals off Rome Point. 

“I tell people, ‘Go on one, go on all.’ You can just try something to see if you’ll like it,” says Madigan.

Interested students don’t need to buy or bring expensive equipment. The club provides it. 

The upcoming trip to Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire on April 8 is a regular offering each semester. Madigan says she still gets a charge out of seeing members summit a mountain for the first time.

Anyone can go 

While the club draws a fair number of students from the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, it draws a varied membership, with students from business, art history and other majors. A number of international students have joined programs to see more of New England and engineering majors have flocked to programs to get off campus this year.

Sophomore Norah Aguirre of South Kingstown joined the Outing Club in her first semester at URI. “Outing Club was the perfect way for me to meet new people and explore more, to step out of my comfort zone in a safe but fun way,” she says. “I’ve made so many amazing connections and met people who I now consider some of my closest friends.”

Aguirre describes a recent overnight with the Outing Club as a weekend of non-stop laughing, games, puzzles, cooking and quality conversation with newfound friends, with the added bonus of a beautiful sunset hike. Outing Club has also been a confidence booster, she says.

“Meeting new people almost every week led me to feel much more comfortable in who I am, and to have a more open mind about the people I surround myself with,” she says. Aguirre says the club offers a perfect mix of challenges and benefits and calls Outing Club a good gateway to getting more comfortable with meeting new people. 

First-year fun

First-year student Anna Jasinksi arrived at URI in August from Maryland, with two extracurricular goals in mind: to stay involved with sports and spend time outdoors. 

Her favorite trip with the Outing Club so far is the Noble View overnight, when the club ventured to a cabin in Massachusetts. “Everyone was friendly and happy to be there, and it felt like I was with old friends instead of people I had just met,” she says. “I was surprised by how friendly everyone is. It makes the club feel like a group of close friends.”

Although Jasinski is still in her first year, the supportive nature of the club helped her feel comfortable enough to run for a trip leader position. “Now I get to be even more involved with planning and leading outings, which is not something I thought I would do my first year!”

All welcome

To learn more about the URI Outing Club, see its website or @urioutingclub, stop by a meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday nights in Quinn Auditorium, email, or get on the mailing list

Interested students can join a trip before joining. All day trips are free (unless otherwise noted) and overnights have a small cost associated with them to pay for food, transportation, lodging, and any needed permits. 

The club has also started working with multicultural organizations to make sure students of all backgrounds feel comfortable and welcome on their trips. They want to see the club be diverse and for all URI students to be comfortable in outdoors settings. 

“We give everyone a way in,” says Madigan. “Outing Club is a nurturing place to get involved at URI, meet new people, make connections across campus and try new things. Just show up at the Boss Rink lot with sturdy sneakers and water and you’re all set!”