Katie Hansen’s college experience has been no different than that of many other Clemson students who are navigating the complexities of higher education and trying to find their way. She wanted to influence and impact others. To no longer question the importance of her contribution to the Clemson community.

That’s when she found CORE.

Known formally as Clemson Outdoor Recreation and Education, the Campus Recreation program gradually altered Hansen’s experience by supplementing her love for the outdoors with an injection of leadership, trust and skill development.

Katie Hansen, a Clemson senior, delivers a powerful speech during the Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center naming ceremony on Jan. 23, 2020

Katie Hansen delivered a powerful testimonial about the CORE program during the naming ceremony for the Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center on Jan. 23, 2020.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

“I no longer doubt my impact but instead am inspired to work harder and better because I know that through my work, CORE is able to transform lives,” she said. “I know that because it transformed mine.”

Hansen offered about five minutes of remarks during a powerful testimonial to conclude the Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center naming ceremony on Jan. 23. The event was held at the Snow Family Outdoor Fitness and Wellness Complex following a $2.2 million donation by Don and Hayden Quattlebaum, whose late son Andy tragically passed in March 2019. The Quattlebaum family gift provided funding for the new 16,500-square-foot facility that now serves as home to the CORE program.

A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Hansen applied for a job with CORE as a student trip leader. Through the program, she was able to transfer her love of the outdoors by leading adventure trips such as backpacking, rafting, rock climbing and skiing.

She said it’s been incredibly fulfilling to take groups of students to the top of a climbing route for the first time or see the excitement of a boatload of first-time whitewater rafting participants.

“Every mile of driving or extra pound of gear in my backpack becomes infinitely worth the work when I see the empowerment and joy of the outdoors being shared,” said Hansen, who has led more than 20 trips during her time with CORE. “We may only have these students for hours or days at a time, but the privileges of leadership, service and teaching are ones that we strive to make the most of each and every trip.”

Katie Hansen, a Clemson senior (middle), with two fellow Clemson students on an adventure trip

Hansen, middle, cited Western backpacking and rock climbing adventures among her fondest memories within the CORE program.
Image Credit: Katie Hansen

Hansen’s favorite memories have been spring break trips and Western excursions. Backpacking through Paria Canyon in Arizona. Rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park outside of Palm Springs, California. She’s also helped lead a ski trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Hansen’s favorite aspect as a CORE trip leader has been the camaraderie with fellow group leaders and colleagues. She’s found her Clemson community through outdoor recreation and developed some of her closest friendships.

But, most of all, it’s provided her with a deep, genuine investment that has afforded a new perspective of what it means to impact the lives of others.

Katie Hansen lifts a mountain bike on an adventure trip

Hansen, a political science major, has led more than 20 CORE trips as a student leader.
Image Credit: Katie Hansen

“I have given of myself to CORE in many ways, but this organization and the community that surrounds it has matched, if not exceeded, what I have invested,” explained Hansen, noting the responsibility of leadership, trust and professional development that has resulted from her involvement. “I cannot imagine my Clemson experience without having been involved in CORE.”

And now she’s able to enjoy one last semester — she’s set to graduate in May with a degree in political science — with the program as it acclimates to a new home, one that will serve as a “national model for recreation and leisure space and experiences that promote physical, mental and emotional health” according to President Jim Clements.

Hansen, like many others, offered her condolences to the Quattlebaum family on the loss of their son, Andy. But she also praised their generosity for committing a gift in his memory that will benefit countless students in the coming years the same way the CORE program has impacted her life.

“This new facility, a tremendous gift for which we are so grateful, will undoubtedly highlight Clemson’s outdoor recreation resources to students and community members,” she said. “I have no doubts this space will unite and strengthen a unique and powerful outdoor community.”