Reaching new heights

MU’s Alpine Tower helps groups to build teamwork and trust
Monday, July 2, 2007 | 12:40 a.m. CDT; updated 1:47 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008
Lisa Ewing, left, and Tacy Hoover belay fellow climbers on the 60-foot wooden Alpine Tower.

What appears to be a menacing medieval structure near Epple Field on the southwest edge of the MU campus is really a tool for personal growth and team building.

The Alpine Tower, part of Venture Out’s adventure program and team-building curriculum, gives participants a chance to test not only their agility and balance, but also their mental strength. Climbers are given options for routes to the top of the 60-foot wooden tower, including climbing a “missing link” cargo net, traversing on swinging poles or scaling what Venture Out calls the “giant’s ladder.”


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Venture Out is part of MU’s Student Life department and Office of Experiential Education. In addition to the tower, it offers other chances for adventure through activities such as backpacking, rock-climbing and canoeing to student groups, university staff and faculty, community groups and businesses.

The tower’s location allows for higher visibility in the community than the previous location behind the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. Scott Owen of Venture Out said the move and name change two years ago allowed the organization to appeal to a market beyond the university.

“The best thing about teaching is seeing how people grow as individuals and as a group,” said Owen, who has been an instructor for three years. Owen said the course is more about the mental motivation than the physical strength it takes to make it to the top.

This is one reason why MU’s occupational therapy program participates in Venture Out’s team-building programs. MU professor Sandy Matsuda said these courses allow her occupational therapy students to “learn about teamwork and trust one another.” The ropes course is especially relevant as an educational tool, Matsuda said, because it teaches students “what to do when you don’t know what to do and how to work a problem when you don’t know the answer.”

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