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The front entrance to the University of New Mexico's Outdoor Adventure Center (2400 Redondo Dr NE). Taken on Sunday, July 2.

UNM’s Challenge Course brings the community together

The University of New Mexico offers a multitude of resources for its students, faculty and alumni. One resource is based on growing a foundation to the skills taught at UNM: teamwork.

UNM’s Outdoor Activities Center is located outside Johnson Center and is a part of the University’s Recreational Services. The OAC has a program called the Challenge Course and Leadership Development initiative which consists of the Challenge Course.

The Challenge Course can be scheduled at a group’s availability and consists of several options depending on who participates. There are common activities that take place, such as the low-ropes and off-course group development. No matter who participates in the session, the goal is to strengthen people’s bonds, Charles Gwinn said – the OAC Operations Specialist.

UNM junior Gavin Schorr and graduate student Miles Cargas have both worked within the OAC for the past two years, as well as assisted Gwinn with the course.

“I was very anxious to do the course, honestly. I used to be less comfortable with being social in general, and the Challenge Course helped me build up my confidence – not just with social aspects, but with my whole self,” Cargas said.

Gwinn is the organizer and operator of each session. He has been a part of the OAC for almost 20 years.

“Over the time I’ve worked here at UNM, particularly with the Challenge Course, I’ve seen groups that can range from eight year-olds to 80 year-olds,” Gwinn said. “I love seeing how people come out of the course, whether being upset or happy. At least there’s change in them.”

The overarching goal of the Challenge Course is to bring groups of people to a level where they are all equal and must learn how to work and understand one another as people, Gwinn said.

As students, both Scharr and Cargas said they enjoyed their experiences with the Challenge Course, both watching and participating. Scharr, who has been through the Challenge Course three times, said that the activities themselves are therapeutic.

“It allows people to see their coworkers or classmates as real people, not just as a part of the group and it’s really rewarding for us students, at least once you get out there and try it,” Scharr said.

BillyJack Davidson is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at

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BillyJack Davidson

BillyJack Davidson is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached on Twitter @BillyJackDL 


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