Most students spend at most four years involved in the First-Year Outdoor Program—but FOP Director Jessica L. Ross ’03 will have spent over a decade with the program by the time she leaves FOP this May.
Ross—who became acquainted with FOP after attending a six-day pre-orientation camping trip as a freshman, then participated as an undergraduate FOP leader for three years—has resigned from her position to lead one to three week youth empowerment courses through the North Carolina Outward Bound Program.
Ross, who has served as FOP Director since 2006, said that the time had come for her to move on to a new position.
“I’ve reached a point where my learning curve is not as steep as it once was,” she said. “And I’m excited to see where the next learning curve takes me.”
During her time as director, Ross has focused on expanding the program’s socioeconomic diversity. This year, at least 63 percent of the FOP participants received financial aid from Harvard—in comparison, over half the undergraduate population at large received need-based aid.
Ross has also expanded the program’s commitment to fundraising to support the increase in the number of students on financial aid. When Ross entered the program, FOP received $14,000 in donations per year, a figure that has since reached $36,000.
Past FOP participants said they would remember Ross’s influence after her departure.
“She’s been the leader and source of inspiration for the entire program,” said Jonathan M. L. Rosenthal ’13, who participated in FOP this past fall. “Her enthusiasm really gets everyone involved, from the new all the way to the Steering Committee.”
Ross said she intends to stay connected to the FOP community even after her departure.
“I’m not leaving the program, just simply leaving the directorship,” she said.
A replacement for Ross has not yet been chosen. Director for Freshman Programming Katherine W. Steele said she will head a committee comprised of two students and two College staff members to evaluate potential candidates for the position.
Ross’s advice for the next director of FOP was simple.
“Model the kind of leadership that you’d like to see in the students who go on the trips,” she said. “Listen to the students and help empower them to make their dreams a reality.”