Jessica L. Ross ’03 will blaze the trail for future generations of freshmen as the new director of the First-Year Outdoor Program (FOP), the Freshmen Dean’s Office (FDO) announced Tuesday.
Ross has served as FOP’s interim director since last September, when former FOP director Brent J. Bell left for a professorship at the University of New Hampshire.
Ross has had a long history with the program, which runs six-day pre-orientation camping trips in New England for incoming freshmen each September. After participating in FOP as a freshman in 1999, Ross went on to become a FOP trip leader as well as a member of the steering committee—which coordinates leader selection, leader training, and trip planning. After graduating, Ross remained involved in planning the pre-orientation camping trips for incoming freshmen.
“I still remember my parents telling me how big a smile I had on my face coming back from my FOP trip,” Ross said. “I am really excited about seeing more smiles come back.”
Ross was one of forty candidates vying for the position, according to Gretchen M. Gingo, department administrator for the FDO. A search advisory committee, consisting of administrators and the 2006 FOP steering committee, screened applicants and conducted interviews, Gingo said.
Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 approved Ross as the search committee’s top choice.
“Under Jess’s leadership, FOP should continue to be the envy of institutions across the country, concerned with providing a real wilderness and community-building experience for first-year students and a chance for upperclassmen to take significant responsibility,” Dingman said in a press release.
Gingo said Ross’ enthusiasm, outdoor experience, and skills as a mentor were qualities that impressed the committee.
FOP leaders also expressed their excitement about Ross’ new post.
Andrew J. Bestwick ’07, member of the 2005 FOP steering committee praised Ross’ legacy in the program.
“There is this sense of lineage in the program. Everybody is trained by an older leader, and if you work out our ancestry, pretty much everyone in the program can trace their lineage back to Jess Ross,” Bestwick said.
Steering committee member for the past two years Jessica L. Daigneault ’08 said she expects Ross will continue to do a fantastic job.
“Now that it is a permanent position, I think there is room for her to own it, which will be great for her and great for the program,” Daigneault said.
As an undergraduate in Currier House, Ross also participated in intramural crew, taught swim lessons, and sang with the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College.
After graduation, she traveled to South America on a National Outdoor Leadership School trip, according the the FDO. Ross also worked at two outdoor education centers and taught “science and adventure” in a start-up school before returning to the College, Gingo said.