New Challenge Course to Offer Leadership, Team Building Training

The use of ropes courses for developing leadership and teamwork skills has been standard practice in the corporate world for some time. Georgia Tech'S Division of Student Affairs is working to make such a course available for Tech students, faculty, staff, alumni, and external community organizations.

Ropes challenge courses consist of outdoor personal development and team building activities that usually include some elements that take place on the ground or a few feet above the ground, and others that are constructed in trees or made of utility poles and linked by ropes.

Matt Marcus, coordinator of Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech (ORGT) in the Campus Recreation Center, is spearheading efforts to establish the Georgia Tech Leadership Challenge Course Complex, which will be located near the Burger Bowl at Ferst Drive and Hemphill Avenue.

"The main marquee-type event will be the ropes course," explained Marcus. "It is an engineered structure built of wood and steel, ropes, and cables. There would be a series of rope and cable "bridges" to cross at various heights ranging from three feet to twenty feet and all the way up to thirty-five feet. The course is used much like the infamous "Widget" is in business schools. Participants will utilize the structure to represent a real-life problem to be solved, using only the intellectual and physical resources of their group to reach the solution.

"By having participants utilize this unusual and novel structure, they are forced to rely less on habits and focus more on specific skill sets related to effective communication, group problem solving, and ethical leadership," Marcus continued. "Throughout the learning process, participants are actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning. Only by practicing these important life and business skills will participants be able to complete the challenge and successfully engineer a Widget."

Marcus says that currently, about 750 Tech students are going off campus to outside vendors for ropes course services. With the support of private donors, the Division of Student Affairs is aiming to bring this learning opportunity to students on campus and allow for broader participation. The course can be custom-designed to meet the needs of the various academic and extracurricular groups that will use it.

In addition, Marcus said, a technology-oriented portion of the course will be focused on teaching students the skills of integrating technology with the standard needs of a professional, such as communicating electronically and working with dispersed work groups.

"I have seen this kind of programming used to bridge academics with the life and work skills students will need after graduation," said Vice President for Student Affairs William Schafer. "This exciting program will be an important addition to the array of programs provided by Student Affairs in helping the Institute develop world-class leaders. I urge our alumni and friends to consider supporting this very worthy program for the long-term benefit of our students."

The Leadership Challenge Course Complex will also feature an outdoor classroom pavilion and associated amenities to enhance the experience.

For more information about the complex, contact Matt Marcus: matt.marcus@crc.gatech.edu or 404-385-1374.

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities and the eighth best engineering and information technology university in the world by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, Georgia Tech’s more than 20,000 students are enrolled in its Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. Tech is among the nation's top producers of women and minority engineers. The Institute offers research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and is home to more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

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