From the President

As Georgia State’s president, I have many opportunities to talk with students and learn about what drives them to succeed. Those talks are among the most rewarding and invigorating aspects of my job and remind me why I do what I do.

MarkBeckerThis spring, I’ve had a unique opportunity to go beyond conversation with 10 of our students. I’ve been training along- side them in preparation for a summit attempt at Mt. Baker, a glaciated mountain in the North Cascades in Washington State. We’ve hiked weekly with back- packs, learned how to work as a team at our Indian Creek high ropes course and talked a lot about preparing mentally and physically for the challenges of mountaineering.

As you read this, we’ll be in the final prep for the four-day climb that will test our physical and mental endurance, as well as our ability to work efficiently as a team. A portion of our time on the mountain will be dedicated to learning the basics of mountaineering. Fellow trip leader Carson Tortorige and I chose the 10 stu- dents from more than 75 applications. The group is broadly representative of the university, and this experience is taking shape to be a transformational one for every member of our team.

By the end of our journey the students will have acquired important life skills. These students, none of whom have ever climbed a glaciated mountain, will be challenged mentally, emotionally and physically.

With proper planning we’ll travel relatively comfortably, regardless of what weather we’ll encounter. Just as important, our work with the students has been aimed at doing everything we can to make the trip to Mt. Baker enjoyable rather than something to be endured or survived.

I started hiking and backpacking in high school and fell in love with the moun- tains. As life and the adult responsibilities of work and family mounted I did occasional hiking, but nothing too challenging, perhaps other than a scramble up Mt. St. Helens in the late 1980s.

Mt. Rainier, a magnificent, heavily glaciated mountain, looms large to the south of Seattle. In the late 1980s I was a post- doctoral fellow at the University of Washington, and when I left the Pacific Northwest in summer 1989 I promised myself someday I would return to climb Rainier. Climbing Mt. Rainier became a “bucket list” item for me, but as the years passed many more pressing or convenient priorities took precedence. Finally, in the fall of 2012 I decided I needed to make time in my life to train for and climb Mt. Rainier. I was not getting any younger, and climbing a mountain like Rainier is more than a day hike. My climbing group was fortunate to experience ideal weath- er and conditions, summiting as planned shortly after daybreak on the morning of July 8, 2013.

The sheer joy and peace I found on the mountain has led me to return to climbing again and again. I’m excited about sharing this experience with students, but even more excited about what they will come away with. There is no doubt this will be a learning experience for us all.

If you are interested in learning more about the trip, please visit