An Immersive Pre-Orientation Program

Begin your college experience with new relationships, renewed confidence, and an emerging sense of place.

Olivia Helland

Valders 372F
700 College Drive
Decorah, Iowa 52101

Send Email

Phone: 563-387-2113

Jon Jensen

Valders 372D
700 College Drive
Decorah, Iowa 52101

Send Email

Phone: 563-387-1696

The Endeavor Together program is designed to bring together a small cohort of incoming first-year students in order to share in fellowship and adventure while building community and preparing for college life.

Students will spend six days living and adventuring together within the Upper Midwest, including the Driftless Region surrounding Luther College.

Students cross the Upper Iowa River on a hike in the Driftless Area.

Endeavor Together: An Immersive Pre-Orientation Program

August 19-25, 2023

The Endeavor Together program is designed to bring together a small cohort of incoming first-year students in order to share in fellowship and adventure while building community and preparing for college life. Students will spend six days living and adventuring together within the Upper Midwest, including the Driftless Region surrounding Luther College. All groups are led by two highly trained student leaders. Faculty and staff mentors will connect throughout the week with each group. The Endeavor Together program is designed for students of all backgrounds and with a variety of interests. All incoming first-year students are encouraged to attend; however, space will be limited for the 2023 program.

Endeavor Together Leader taking on Luther’s high ropes course

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Sponsored by the Luther College Center for Sustainable Communities, the Endeavor Together Program connects people and place to build lasting community that will ease the transition to college life.

Read the student testimonials below and keep up with previous leaders on the Endeavor Together Instagram page.

Endeavor Together participant engaging with upperclassmen student leader

Grow through participation

  • Build camaraderie with other incoming students through teamwork and challenges that enhance trust, compassion and empathy.
  • Build self-efficacy and strengthen confidence by overcoming personal and group challenges.
  • Broaden your perspective by engaging with students of diverse backgrounds from across the country and the world.
  • Engage in activities throughout the Luther College region that develop a sense of place and belonging.

What Is Endeavor Together Like?

Hear about the program from students and Endeavor Together staff.

2023 Trips

Paddle your way through one of the most scenic rivers in the Upper Midwest, and camp and hike along the shores of the Upper Iowa River while exploring the natural attractions surrounding Decorah, Iowa. Each group will begin near Granger, MN and paddle several miles beyond Decorah.  All gear will be shuttled from campsites for participants. Students will spend six days in community sharing stories and engaging in meaningful conversations about their hopes, fears, identity, and culture.

Trip Difficulty
Easy/Moderate: The Upper Iowa is a meandering float river, so the work will not be too physical, and there will be plenty of time for conversation, team building, and delicious outdoor cooking experiences. There will be beginner friendly canoe training and continued instruction during the trip. No prior experience is required!

Learn More About the Upper Iowa River
https://upperiowariver.org/recreation/

Trip Costs
A program fee of¬†$200¬†covers all meals, transportation, rentals, and rustic accommodations for the week.¬†Significant financial aid is available for program fees and is based on the student’s relative level of need as demonstrated by their financial aid package.¬†Luther College helps to subsidize the cost of each trip;¬†cost should not be a barrier to participation.¬†Please fill out a scholarship application form or contact our office for more information.

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Participants must be deposited at Luther in order to register for Endeavor Together.

Experience the majestic beauty of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the lower 48 states. Students will have the opportunity to challenge themselves while building community with other travelers. Students will spend six days in fellowship sharing stories and engaging in meaningful conversations about their hopes, fears, identity, and culture as they paddle and camp through this unique landscape.

Trip Difficulty:
Moderate/Difficult: Students will be paddling most of the day and hopping from lake to lake by portaging, which involves carrying heavy gear and canoes while navigating some rough terrain. The BWCA is a very remote place and will not have as many luxuries, but allows for deeper connections with the natural world. Participants will learn canoeing and navigation skills before they embark on their journey and continue to improve their skills throughout the week. Prior canoeing and camping experience is helpful but not required to participate!

Learn More About the BWCA
https://www.exploreminnesota.com/iconic-destinations/boundary-waters

Trip Costs
A program fee of¬†$300¬†covers all meals, transportation, rentals, permits, and rustic accommodations for the week.¬†Significant financial aid is available for program fees and is based on the student’s relative level of need as demonstrated by their financial aid package.¬†Luther College helps to subsidize the cost of each trip;¬†cost should not be a barrier to participation.¬†Please fill out a scholarship application form or contact our office for more information.

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Participants must be deposited at Luther in order to register for Endeavor Together.


Backpack on one of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the U.S., while exploring and camping near glacier carved paths through rocky terrain, open prairies, and dense forests. Students will spend six days in community sharing stories and engaging in meaningful conversations about their hopes, fears, identity, and culture, as they hike and camp throughout this hidden Wisconsin destination.

Trip Difficulty 
Moderate: Days will consist of hiking with heavy (25-45 lbs) backpacks through some rough terrain. Backpacks will contain personal and group gear. Participants will receive guidance on how to pack light and navigate the trails prior to trips.

Learn More About The Ice Age Trail
https://www.iceagetrail.org/

Trip Costs
A program fee of¬†$200¬†covers all meals, transportation, rentals, and rustic accommodations for the week.¬†Significant financial aid is available for program fees and is based on the student’s relative level of need as demonstrated by their financial aid package.¬†Luther College helps to subsidize the cost of each trip;¬†cost should not be a barrier to participation.¬†Please fill out a scholarship application form or contact our office for more information.

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Participants must be deposited at Luther in order to register for Endeavor Together.

Pedal your way through some of the most engaging scenery in the Upper Midwest, as you travel through Southwest Wisconsin, Southeast Minnesota, and Northeast Iowa. Participants will set up base camps and explore the surrounding paved biking trails. Along the way participants will enjoy hiking, swimming, sight seeing, camping, and team-building activities. Students will spend six days in community sharing stories and engaging in meaningful conversations about their hopes, fears, identity, and culture. While Luther has a very limited supply, participants are highly encouraged to provide their own bicycle and helmet.

Trip Difficulty
Easy/Moderate: Students will bike roughly 10 miles per day through both flat and steeper terrains. Participants will not carry all their gear with them, but a small daypack could be nice!

Learn More About the Elroy-Sparta and Root River Trails
https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/elroysparta

Trip Costs
A program fee of¬†$200¬†covers all meals, transportation, rentals, and rustic accommodations for the week.¬†Significant financial aid is available for program fees and is based on the student’s relative level of need as demonstrated by their financial aid package.¬†Luther College helps to subsidize the cost of each trip;¬†cost should not be a barrier to participation.¬†Please fill out a scholarship application form or contact our office for more information.

https://www.rootrivertrail.org/root-river-trail-system/

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Participants must be deposited at Luther in order to register for Endeavor Together.

Program Information

When do I arrive for Endeavor Together?
Participants will arrive on campus Saturday August 19, and will be able to move into their dorm rooms before the program starts.

Should I move in with all my things?
Yes, students should bring all their belongings on the morning of August 19 to fully move into their room.

What do I need for my trip?
Check out our gear checklists (Upper Iowa, Biking, Boundary Waters) to make sure you are prepared for your trip!

Luther College is able to provide some gear if needed. Please fill out the Gear Reservation Form if you would like to borrow supplies.

Should I pack for Endeavor before I leave home?
You will go through your gear list with your leaders to make sure you have everything for your trip. To make it easier on yourself it may be smart to pack separately for this week. If you have your own backpacking pack feel free to bring gear in that, otherwise a duffel bag, handbag, etc., work fine as well.

Do I need my phone during Endeavor Together?
No! The majority of the trip locations will not have reliable cell phone reception, and we see this as a great opportunity to become present with yourself, others, and the natural world around you. It is strongly encouraged that students leave their phones on campus during the trips. Leaders will have emergency in-reach devices and a device for pictures. Parents will be contacts by the program director in case of emergency.

What if I have never been in a canoe or camped?
Prior outdoor experience in camping, hiking, or canoeing is not required. Do not let a lack of gear discourage you from applying, either. There is a variety of gear available to check out, please contact Olivia Helland or Jon Jensen in the Center for Sustainable Communities for more information. Inexperienced campers are highly encouraged to apply. To be sure, you may capsize your canoe in the Upper Iowa, feel the ache in your shoulders as you finish carrying your canoe from one lake to another, and long for a soft mattress, but we think you will find the activity worth it.

As one participant wrote: ‚ÄúThis was the best possible way for me to start my college experience. I enjoyed meeting a small group of people right away. I developed a few very solid friendships. It was also nice getting to talk to an upperclassman. This was one of the best experiences of my life and is a great opportunity for incoming freshmen.‚ÄĚ

Who are the group leaders?
In addition to providing first year students an adventure-based experience, the Endeavor Together program provides an opportunity for current Luther students to grow their leadership and outdoors skills. All student leaders receive in-depth training, including Wilderness First Aid and Canoe Safety training. Each trip is led by two student leaders.

What is the program cost?
A program fee covers all meals, transportation, activities, rental fee, and rustic accommodations. Costs will vary depending on the program. Financial aid is available for program fees and is based on a student’s relative need; cost should not be a barrier to participation. Please fill out the financial aid request form, or contact Olivia Helland for more information.

What is the schedule for the program?
The 2023 Endeavor Together schedule is coming soon!

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Do you love to work with people? Would you like to enhance your leadership and outdoor skills? Become a leader for the 2022 Endeavor Together Program!

The Endeavor Together Leadership Program provides current Luther students with leadership and outdoor skills training to prepare them to lead the incoming first year pre-orientation trips. Along with Wilderness First Aid training, leaders will learn how to mentor incoming first-year students through the facilitation of group discussions, active listening, and leading group challenges in the out-of-doors, all while creating positive group dynamics.

If selected, you will participate in on-going spring training to improve your leadership and outdoor skills, along with learning the habits of mind to be a thoughtful and dynamic member of a group, as you learn, teach and mentor others in valuable life long skills. A majority of training will take place during the spring semester. The Endeavor Together Program will take place in late August.

2022 Endeavor Together leadership will be by invitation only. Check your Luther email for more information.

For more information, contact Olivia Helland or Jon Jensen.

Who are some of the 2022 leaders?

Katie Beevers

Katie Bevers, one of the 2022 Endeavor Together leaders

Hey, y’all, I’m Katie and I’m excited to be working with Endeavor Together this summer! I am originally from Charleston, SC and I’m ecstatic about hopping in a canoe or on the trails with new Luther students. Northeast Iowa has some breathtaking landscapes and I’m ready to explore them while connecting with my peers. As a rising senior, I have spent the last three years in different periods of transition, and I know they offer some challenges so my goal for Endeavor is to help create a community in the outdoors that can be taken into the semester. I can make a mean camp spaghetti and enjoy relaxing at night around the campfire. A fun fact about me is that I have gotten lost on the PCT, twice ūüôā See you in August!

Chilekwa Ling’omba

Chilekwa Ling’omba, one of the 2022 year’s Endeavor Together leaders.

Hey, I’m Chilekwa, I’m from Zambia and I’m one of the Endeavor Together leaders for this summer. As a rising Junior I’m really excited to meet a couple incoming freshmen, I really enjoy meeting new people and building new relationships which is one of the main reasons I opteed to be a leader! Frankly I am the last person you’ll see camping, and the least outdoorsy person you’ll ever meet. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to be part of this immersive, fun, and challenging experience. As a leader I aim to help incoming freshmen see the best of what Decorah and Luther have to offer. It’s such an immersive program and I am looking forward to leading some students through it!

Ian Danielson

Ian with his Best friend

I have participated in two endeavor together programs during my time at Luther and both of them have been experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. As a first-year, I was given a group of people that I genuinely connected with on anything from culture and food to our excitement and concerns about college. It was nice to have people that I knew beyond a surface level heading into Luther with who I could hang out, eat meals with, and continue to unpack the great week that was Endeavor Together. As a leader, I want to give other first years the wonderful experiences that I had when I was in their shoes. Endeavor Together has been one of the most meaningful and growth-inducing adventures of my college experience that has given me some of my best friends here at Luther.

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Sakchham Karki ’21
Without a doubt, the Endeavor Together trip was the highlight of my first month as a freshman at Luther College. The program offered a camping trip for international students to get to know domestic students. This opportunity allowed me to connect with the people quite easily. Some of the closest friends I have right now I met through the program. One thing I always tell people about the trip was how selfless the classmates I met were. Being thousands of miles away from home didn’t feel so bad when I was with them. This was one of my most memorable experiences at Luther so far.

Hope Shishilla ’21
This trip gave me a head start to making friends and becoming comfortable with the next chapter of my life. Camping with total strangers in the boundary waters for a week is a guaranteed way to make lifelong friends. The Boundary Waters have always held a special place in my heart, so I was delighted to hear that Luther offers a trip were I could share this special place with new people. I found out about the trip through my sister, who embarked on the college journey a few years before me. Through this experience, I formed unbreakable bonds with outstanding people who I know I will be friends with for the rest of my life.

Elise Johnson ’25
Endeavor Together was a great opportunity to form deep, lasting connections with a small group of students before the intensity of meeting tons of people during orientation. The facilitated conversations and experiences helped students understand and explore who they are, who they want to be, and learn more about their new home of both Luther and Decorah. The program was great at easing people out of their comfort zones, whether it was meeting new people, camping, reflecting, or accidentally tipping a canoe! Making friends, having fun together and sharing stories while experiencing the beauty of the Upper Iowa River was a fantastic way to launch my Luther experience. My Endeavor Together experience was incredibly impactful to me as I made the shift to college, and I look forward to being a leader with the program this year!

Sophiya Khan ’21
This program introduced me to a part of myself I wasn‚Äôt aware I was missing. I grew up in cities and never had the chance to explore nature and all that it encompasses. It was my first ‚Äėreal‚Äô outdoor experience.

It might sound dramatic to say that the trip was life-changing but it truly was for me. It set up a foundation for me as I transitioned into college. It made me more willing to engage myself in things that scared me, or uninterested me. I made friends that I talk to everyday and met upperclassmen who helped guide me into my new life. I encourage every incoming first year student to participate in one of the trips.

Jaraad Ahmed ’25
I could not have prepared myself for Endeavor Together, but I would not have done it any other way. That’s the charm of the experience; no wi-fi, no laundry, just you, a bunch of other first-years, and summer in Decorah. It is led by the most enthusiastic group of people who leave a lasting impression of the student body at Luther and become familiar faces around the new campus. During Endeavor, I made forever friends in the dimly lit cabins and fell in love with the wild side of Decorah. One of my fondest memories is kayaking through the river, my first time paddling even though I come from the land of rivers. The sweet smell of the marsh grass and the currents splashing your face, as you race your group members. The hidden tree stump that catches your oar teaches you to slow down and embrace the fall in the fast streamlined lives we live, especially as college students. Reminding us that there are people who’ll appreciate you in your soaked shoes and will soak their own shoes to help flip your boat back upright. It is imperative you have a go, there’s nothing to lose not even your battery life!

Olivia Helland

Valders 372F
700 College Drive
Decorah, Iowa 52101

Send Email

Phone: 563-387-2113

Jon Jensen

Valders 372D
700 College Drive
Decorah, Iowa 52101

Send Email

Phone: 563-387-1696