New AOP director brings mountain sense to the prairie


Whether trekking through the Himalayas, rock climbing in India, or hunting and fishing in the midwestern United States, Augustana’s new coordinator of the Augustana Outdoor Program, David Schulz, loves the wilderness.

With shorter hairstyle, Schulz poses with children he met abroad while working at YWAM.

“I’ve always had a passion for doing different things in the outdoors,” Schulz said. 

Schulz takes the reigns of the AOP in the program’s seventh year. Director of Recreational Services Mark Hecht is excited for what he can do. 

“David is someone who is really enthusiastic about the outdoors,” Hecht said. “He has the passion and the experience that we need to grow the program.” 

Schulz, who spent three years at South Dakota State University, says he knows how the college lifestyle lacks for experiences in nature, and he hopes the AOP can provide opportunities for students to get involved with wilderness. 

“I remember going to college myself, and it was a lot of time spent in your room doing homework,” Schulz said. “Augustana does a great job having students involved with intramurals and sports, but it’s important to not lose that outdoor aspect. The AOP is a good outlet for students to get involved that way and stay balanced.”

Schulz’s experience in the outdoors varies widely. Growing up in southwest Minnesota, there was no shortage of opportunities.

“When I was really young, it was more an interest in fishing and hunting,” Schulz said. “But as I got older, I became more involved with different sports.”

 After studying agricultural business for three years at South Dakota State University, Schulz decided he had other interests. 

“I wasn’t too passionate about the agricultural field,” Schulz said. “My father was involved in the field so it was something I knew and was familiar with.”

In 2013, after leaving SDSU, he went to New Zealand to work with the organization Youth With A Mission, or YWAM, an interdenominational, Christian missionary organization working from more than 1,100 locations in more than 180 countries.  Working at YWAM, Schulz’s passion for nature deepened, and he developed a love of rock climbing.

“I had always seen rock climbing and thought it was cool, but I never had the opportunity to try it until I started at YWAM, Schulz said. “I got to climb in a lot of different countries.”

“New Zealand and Thailand had the best sport climbing [climbing with ropes anchored to the rocks], and bouldering [climbing on large boulders or rock formation without anchors or harnesses] in India was awesome, so I got really interested in the sport.”

Working out of New Zealand for three years, Schulz helped teach YWAM’s Discipleship Training Schools. The program is twofold with a lecture phase and an outreach phase. Schulz led outreach teams of backpackers, climbers and missionaries to India, Nepal and Thailand. 

“Schulz’s work with YWAM is important for the future of the AOP in developing a more comprehensive program, in regards to both availability of activities and leadership opportunities,” Hecht said.

Hecht also noted how recreational services plans to grow AOP leadsership opportunities. 

“One of our goals is to develop a core group of student leaders who can work to convey the opportunities and excitement,” said Hecht. “We want students to learn how to lead and train in regards to different outdoor activities. We think David, with his leadership experience in all sorts of different situations, is really well suited to do that.”

In 2015, an assessment survey of students showed that 48 percent of responding students expressed desire for an indoor climbing wall and an expanded AOP.

“We have a lot of the parts of a solid recreation program,” Hecht said. “The area we’re behind in is outdoor recreation. We didn’t even have an outdoor rec program seven years ago, so what we have is really new. We want to provide students who come here and have never experienced camping, rock climbing, hiking and other activities with the opportunity.” 

Augustana senior Max Boyum said he has enjoyed his experiences in Augustana’s recreational programs, and he believes that more outdoor opportunities for a school situated in the center of a metropolitan area would be beneficial.

“I’ve had awesome experiences in intramurals,” Boyum said. “But I think an outdoor program that provides a way for Augie students to get active in nature would make the Augustana experience just that much better. An AOP that helps students get wild and active would make the campus a much more enticing place.”

For the future, both Hecht and Schultz are excited to expand the AOP into a more important part of the Augustana community.

“Visibility and awareness are big for us. Just getting folks to know these things are available,” Schulz said. “The program can help students just get outdoors, get active, make connections and develop new passions.”

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