Dean Henry Moses first conceived of having an outdoor orientation program at Harvard, and with the help of Cate Huisman and the early leaders, FOP first offered trips for some 49 students in 1979. Each of the eight subsequent directors – Jeff Smith, Vic Henningsen, Steve Whisnant, John Duvivier, Sharon Bassett, Beth Bellman, Brent Bell, Jess Ross and current director Coz Teplitz – have added his or her own unique vision to the FOP program. The basic premise, however, has always been that the wilderness is a unique learning environment, providing a setting in which incoming first-years can interact with one another, acquaint themselves with Harvard with the help of the leaders and make the transition to college life.
FOP has been well-received. Initial numbers of 200-300 FOPper applications each year swelled in 1996 to a record level of over 600. Fortunately, the creation of programs like FAP and FUP has allowed more incoming first-years to take part in orientation programs, so our numbers have dropped somewhat since then. On campus, FOP has attracted increasing interest, and leader applications have soared as well. We hope to satisfy such enthusiasm by offering more trips, though risk management and the quality of each trip continue to be our highest priorities.
The types of trips FOP offers also has evolved with time. Initially, hiking and climbing trips were provided. From 1984-1988, bicycling trips were also offered, but due to the dangers of being on the road and the extra training required to facilitate the experience, they were terminated. Currently, FOP offers traditional backpacking trips, switch trips which are half hiking and half canoeing, service trips with one or two days of trail and campsite maintenance, and observant trips for religious needs.