MPA Students Fly into First Year


First-year MPA students Elyse Barnes and Haley Beckstrand fly down the zipline at Sundance Mountain Resort.

Looking out at wide valleys and steep mountain peaks, Ted Jackson took a deep breath and stepped into thin air.

One wire, strung out thousands of feet over tree-filled valleys, held him aloft as he flew down the mountainside.

Jackson, a first-year MPA student, is terrified of heights. But since he rode the zipline side-by-side with a classmate, he was able to overcome that fear and had a surprisingly good time.

“It was exhilarating! I felt like I was flying,” he says.

Overcoming fears was just one aspect of this year’s MPA Adventure Trip. Instead of the program’s annual rafting voyage in Wyoming, last fall the Romney Institute held a weekend retreat in Provo’s very own Wasatch Mountains. The trip included floating down the Provo River, staying in BYU’s Timp Lodge, and ziplining at Sundance Resort.

“Just twenty minutes away from BYU we have some of the most beautiful mountains and terrain in the world,” says Kip Smith, the Romney Institute’s branding and marketing manager. “We wanted to get our students involved with local events and also out of their comfort zones. That’s what our program is about: learning new things and becoming something better than we are.”

Smith spearheaded the change in event and locale and hopes that in the future the program can switch up the trip so students get a different experience each year. Both first- and second-year students are encouraged to attend, as are Romney Institute faculty and staff. The result is a fun, inclusive weekend that allows everyone to get to know each other outside of the classroom.


First-year students Lauren Arnold and Lauren Flores float down the Provo River.

“Seeing the professors in that situation made me more confident to speak up in class,” says first-year student Katie Bair. “They’re just people, and we got to know them as people and have fun with them.”

The adventure kicked off Friday afternoon with floating down the Provo River on tubes and kayaks. Gliding past cottages and fly fishers, students helped each other avoid capsizing as they made their way downstream. After floating the river, students and professors went to Timp Lodge, where they had time to play sports, eat dinner, and engage in fierce lip-synch battles.

On Saturday, groups had time to zipline and hike before meeting up for a barbeque at a nearby park.

Mackenzie Wood, a first-year MPA student, says her favorite part of the weekend was ziplining and getting to know the second-year students. This year more second-year students than ever before were able to attend the retreat since it was so close to home.

“I got to hear their take on the program as well as their advice on how to do well,” Wood says. “It helped me know that I can make it through the program.”

Wood and her fellow students are looking forward to more than just making it through the program. After the adventure weekend, they’ve got the support circle to help them succeed.