Erica Van Steenis
Originally from southern California, this is Erica’s eighth season regional director. She has a master’s degree in community development from the University of California, Davis, and is currently working on a PhD in education at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is an experienced sea kayaking and backpacking guide, Wilderness First Responder, and holds her Avalanche Level 1 certification.
What led you to work in the outdoors? When I was a kid, my dad would take my brother and me to the river in Colorado. He had two foldable poolside chairs, one for my brother and one for me to sleep on. I remember not even minding the slightly uncomfortable sleeping arrangements because the river and all the stars and my surroundings were fascinating. Fast forward 10 years, and I was turning 22 years old in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness while on a multi-week backpacking trip. Now I am 32, and central to my work is educating youth in the outdoors. How I got here is sort of a blur, but I like to think that those river trips with my dad has something to do with it.
What keeps you at AT? Those who organize their lives around the outdoors and appreciate the educational opportunities that take place in such settings are my people.
Why do the outdoors and teaching young people matter to you? There is a certain rhythm that exists in teaching youth in the outdoors. It is experiential, and so different from the typical classroom setting most youth experience. I am a big believer in the idea that all young people should be afforded opportunities to learn exponentially and outside of their comfort zone.