the westminster review logo

Climbing Higher

Kelly Carolan climbing rock wall

Donor-funded project creates student development opportunities

By Keely Carolan ’23

For the last few years, I’ve watched many students come to Westminster’s climbing wall to explore—explore a new part of campus, their social communities, the sport of climbing, and of course, themselves. That exploration, curiosity, and spirit of adventure is a common theme among climbers; it’s what brings us together and makes us who we are.

As I delved into this little pocket of Salt Lake’s climbing community, I found the opportunity to explore more. While I had been climbing for many years when I first came to Westminster, I had yet to uncover the fact that to be a great climber means to be constantly learning. The more you engage with that, the better your experience is going to be.

The climbing wall at Westminster is largely student-run: two student managers work closely with the Assistant Outdoor Program Director to manage a team of 10-15 student employees, open climbing hours, events and clinics, and routesetting. I’ve been one of the student wall managers for the last couple of years.

While I knew there would be opportunities for development in that position, I couldn’t have anticipated the ways that being empowered in this role has shaped who I am and who I’m becoming. I learned how to foster a community that’s inclusive and welcoming. How to navigate relationships with peers while also being a manager. How to teach others the importance of mentorship and how to be a good mentor yourself. How to dissect the lessons you’ve learned from your experiences, and help others learn them more gently.

The value of this sort of hands-on learning that comes from student employment can’t be understated, and I believe it increases tenfold in high-adventure sports such as climbing, where high risk potential and intense interpersonal relationships can mean life or death. Outside of the climbing context, being a staff member of the climbing wall or outdoor program gives students real-world experiences that will empower them not only in their future careers, but in every facet of their lives. This sort of hands-on learning is one of the most rewarding parts of the Westminster experience—and it wouldn’t be possible without the donors who support 
our education.

In fact, thanks to a generous donor, we opened a new climbing wall to our student body this past September. This project was a massive undertaking and has been critical to keeping the facility running well for many years to come. As the college transitions to Westminster University, other new academic programs and learning experiences will inevitably be implemented. That means new opportunities for donors to support student learning will grow as well.

I firmly believe these opportunities are not only helpful but vital for a college to provide to its students. Spaces like the climbing wall create wonderful development opportunities while also helping the campus feel alive. Keeping these spaces usable and useful for students wouldn’t be possible without the support of donors. It’s largely thanks to them that we’re able to continue running our programs and making spaces where everyone feels empowered—and welcome—to explore.



About the Westminster Review

The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.