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WKU graduate student receives outdoor recreation group’s top honor

For the second year in a row, a graduate student in WKU’s Recreation and Sport Administration program has received the top student award presented by the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE).

Ben Ramaeker

Ben Ramaeker, WKU Challenge Course Graduate Assistant, received the Bill March Student Achievement Award, sponsored by Osprey, during the conference awards ceremony Nov. 6. Along with the award, he received an Osprey Raptor backpack and visor.

The Bill March Student Achievement Award is presented to an individual who makes outstanding contributions to an outdoor recreation and education program while pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. WKU student Amanda Even received the award in 2010.

Ramaeker began his outdoor career as a challenge course intern with the Stout Adventures program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. He then became a ropes course and climbing wall facilitator at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Adventure Program. He further developed his outdoor skills and became an Outdoor Specialist at UW-La Crosse.

During the summers, he served as the Assistant Chief Interpreter at Northern Tier National High Adventure Base where he managed, supervised and trained the guide staff. His diverse experiences in recreation include two additional internships in recreational facilities at UW-Eau Claire, and recreational programming at UW-Stout. He has worked for six different AORE Professionals in the past four years. One of his most unique professional experiences was being a Zamboni driver at the Onalaska Omni Center.

Ramaeker has a strong history of proactively seeking professional development experiences. He has attended the AORE conference every year since 2008, and has found ways to get involved, network and truly take advantage of all the opportunities the AORE provides its student members including serving on the Environmental Stewardship Committee and the Student Development Committee. He has also attended the Wilderness Education Association conference and the Wisconsin Parks and Recreation Association conference.

While attending UW-La Crosse, Ramaeker asked Tim Mertz about working on the Challenge Course at UW-Stout as an intern during the summer. His professionalism, maturity, attention to detail, and charisma led him to quickly become a leader among the staff at Stout Adventures Challenge Course. At the end of the summer, he returned to UW-La Crosse an excellent Challenge Course facilitator. In fact, Ryan Olson, the Challenge Course director at UW-La Crosse, mentioned that he was very happy with Ramaeker’s skill set and confidence on the Challenge Course shortly after Ramaeker started working there.

Upon beginning his graduate education at WKU, Ramaeker undertook the daunting task of being a graduate assistant who reports to directly to two units and indirectly to a third. He has responsibilities to the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport as well as the Intramural-Recreational Sports Department.

Tammie Stenger-Ramsey said that during his first month at the Challenge Course he took great initiative in solving some of the facility problems at the course and was able to mitigate some of the tension between the different campus units overseeing the WKU Challenge Course. He also created a plan and started promoting the challenge course to a variety of departments in the WKU community. “Ben hit the ground running and shows no signs of letting up,” she said.

During the AORE Awards Ceremony, AORE President Tim Mertz said: “In reflecting on Ben’s journey over the past few years, I look back with pride. As full-time outdoor professionals, we have all seen students come and go. Some make an impact and others do not. I believe Ben’s greatest impacts on our field are yet to come and I am excited to see what the next few years offer Ben while at WKU.”

In 2010, Amanda Even, Outdoor Recreation and Adventure Center Graduate Assistant in the Intramural-Recreational Sports Department, received the Bill March Student Achievement Award. Even completed her master’s degree in May 2011 and is the Coordinator of Adventure Trips at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Contact: Tammie Stenger-Ramsey, (270) 745-6063.

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