My W&L: Will Fulwider '14

I had never been much of an outdoorsman. Before coming to W&L, I had been camping a grand total of two times. The first time I went backpacking was on my Appalachian Adventure pre-orientation. I was intrigued by mountains, but had been forever living in the flatlands of central Ohio. The natural world was out there, but for me, it remained largely unexplored.

As a nascent first-year, I nervously signed up to do a radio show and be on the literary arts magazine staff. As the years wore on, I found myself learning to lead on the fly, scrambling to develop a taste in music suitable for a Music Director of college radio and trying to design a fledgling literary arts magazine called Muse with an elementary-at-best knowledge of InDesign. Amidst the flurry of first-year decisions, a more capricious choice to learn Chinese would prove to be a decisive one that would blossom into a major and a path forward. It was after that fateful week spent out on the Appalachian Trail during my Pre-O trip that I found myself slowly gravitating towards the activities of the Outing Club. Somewhere between those initial hiking and caving trips and taking PE class called Wilderness Leadership, I began to discover a resonance with those who thrive both in the classroom and in the outdoors. This love for the outdoors was initially auxiliary, a fun side-project. It would take a Spring Break backpacking trip in southern New Mexico for the outdoors to become an inextricable component of my identity.

It was something about the way the Ponderosa Pines grew in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, something about the way the rush of the creek reverberated off the canyon walls, shimmering in the sun, the wind roaring like an airplane overhead, the friends huddled around the fire, hands grasping for the warmth of cooling hot chocolate, that planted nature as a indefatigable force deep into my mind. Its presence did not loosen upon my return to school; I began to see it in everything I do.

Where do we as humans fit within the natural world? This question that found its genesis in the wilderness of New Mexico has been a guiding light for the latter portion of my W&L life. This is a relationship reflected in the strokes of Chinese characters, the aesthetics of the latest issue of Muse, the place of mindfulness in higher education and technology, the lyrics of the latest album spun at the radio station, and central to anthropogenic climate change. Encouraged to take the reins of my own education at a school of such liberal arts as W&L, I have seized the opportunity to answer this question through every possible avenue open to me. Only an interdisciplinary method of inquiry could possibly give rise to something approaching an answer.