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What Winter Doldrums? University celebrates the season

Nov 16, 2011

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CASE Currents Magazine
November/December 2011

When Franklin Pierce University President James Birge looks out his office window on any given day in February, he might glimpse students on snowboards doing backflips, spins, and other stunts. Or he might catch the human dog sled race, that peculiar competition in which teams of four students anchored in harnesses pull a fifth student in an inner tube.

Every year, the New Hampshire institution takes advantage of the hills and the snow to create a winter terrain park at the 1,200-acre lakeside campus. Birge, who took the helm in 2009, first learned about the park during his interview in the president’s office. “It was one of the endearing memories I have from the search process. I thought it was a nice statement about the character of the institution and our students,” he says.

The university constructs the terrain park over winter break using rails borrowed from Crotched Mountain ski resort (a couple of alumni who work there make the annual donation possible) and huge piles of snow. The park opens in February and lasts three to six weeks, depending on Mother Nature’s cooperation. Events include the Rail-Jam snowboarding and skiing stunt competition and the Winter Olympics, featuring a toboggan run and the human dog sled event.

Doug Carty, director of campus recreation, says it’s his job to “monopolize students’ free time. It’s important that we give students the opportunity to do something on and off campus to keep them engaged and socializing."

In addition to winter sporting activities, the institution in late February hosts an “up all night” event featuring an indoor beach. The tropical-themed party includes a mechanical shark, instead of a mechanical bull, and volleyball games.

“We actively encourage students to be involved in the outdoors. For us,” says Birge of the institution where new student orientation involves climbing Mount Monadnock with the president, “it’s the natural thing to do.” -TC

                 An education that matters.

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