Inside USD

Alumnus, Center Share Passion to Explore Nature

Friday, February 18, 2011

Whenever William Rochfort Jr. wants to get away from a fast-paced world filled with countless distractions, one of his most favorite remedies is to head for the hills — literally.

“The first thing is that no one can find me by e-mail or cell phone,” Rochfort said of one of his favorite places to visit, California’s Thousand Island Lake. “And when I took my first trip to the Sierras, everything I’d read about it said it was the best mountain range on Earth. It sounded like hyperbole, but once I went there, that was an understatement. It’s an unparalleled experience, I think.”

While the University of San Diego campus is considered one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation — it was ranked fourth-best in a Princeton Review rankings story — it’s actually inside the Hahn University Center Exhibit Hall where the campus community and the public can see a small sample of the beauty that inspires Rochfort, a 2004 USD alumnus.

His photos of the Sierras, Thousand Island Lake and other majestic wonders, are part of an exhibit called “Adventure Through the Lens” through Feb. 27. The photos are part of a larger display that highlights the programs and experiences available to the campus community, alumni and San Diego residents, too, through USD’s Experiential Learning and Adventure Center (ELAC).

“More than anything, I hope these pictures compel people to want to get outside,” Rochfort stated. “It’s a travesty when the only blow-your-face-off visual experience most folks witness these days is from the lounging end of their TV room, particularly given our physical proximity to many others’ life-list destinations. Geographically speaking, the West (and California) is an embarrassment of riches.”

The ELAC, located on the ground floor of the UC in rooms 129 and 136, offers many ways for USD students, staff, alumni and the community at-large to participate. They host adventure trips ranging from snowboarding and skiing trips to mud caving and moonlight canoe excursions. There are also trips to Santa Barbara’s Channel Islands and Utah’s Zion National Park. Additionally, ELAC seeks to engage students in the sustainability movement by offering programs and workshops that promote environmental stewardship and leadership. The center also offers rental equipment and supplies for kayaking, backpacking, surfing and camping enthusiasts.

For the second Spring Break in a row, ELAC is taking students to Costa Rica for a week of exploration, adventure and fun activities that also have a educational and sustainability theme. Registration has closed for the mid-March trip, ELAC Outreach Coordinator Mark Ceder said, but the center still offers plenty of opportunities to explore San Diego and beyond.

The exhibit hall’s photos — some of which were also taken by Ceder — provide snapshots of USD students who have taken advantage of the ELAC’s opportunities to see and do things that take them away from the stress of studying for a test or writing research papers.

“The center has some amazing resources and great trips that they put together,” Rochfort said. “And, if you want to do your own thing, they can help you do that too.”

Rochfort said he regrets not utilizing the center while he was earning degrees in sociology and communication studies, but he has certainly made up for that oversight. He’s an ELAC alumni guide as well as alumni and volunteer corporation president of Sigma Phi Epsilon. When he’s not working as a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, he’s a weekend gear-tester for Backpacker magazine. He loves to travel to destinations throughout the western United States, and delights in guiding people to places they haven’t seen before, and sharing in their excitement as they experience the wonders of the outdoors firsthand.

So, what’s his advice for the rest of us?

“Just get out there. Live vicariously through yourself. No high-definition unit can compete with the alpenglow of the Eastern Sierras, fitting your boot inside of a grizzly’s print on a riverbank, or navigating through your campground by starlight,” he said. “Go outside and play.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

To learn more about USD’s Experiential Learning and Adventure Center, click here.

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