When Spenser Li first came to Western State Colorado University (WSCU), he had never visited campus. He hadn’t been to Gunnison. He’d never even stepped foot in Colorado.
“My first time in Gunnison was my first day at WSCU,” he said. “I’d heard about it from guiding friends back at home.”
Spenser came from Bethesda, MD. At first, he dismissed WSCU as an option for his education. But then learned that WSCU is the only college or university in the country with its very own search and rescue team. As an avid climber, he was sold on the university’s proximity to world-class climbing in the Black Canyon.
So he packed up his belongings and moved 1,800 miles to attend WSCU.
“From Monarch to Gunnison, I had the most intense anxiety,” he recalled. “I knew one person in the whole community — my roommate.”
But his first weekend at school, his anxiety disappeared. He immediately joined the climbing club and the Mountain Rescue Team (MRT).
“This school has the most incredible opportunities — almost too many opportunities. And it’s the best area for adventure sports possible,” Spenser said.
In just three years, Spenser has become a mission coordinator for the Mountain Rescue Team, which means on top of his already busy schedule, he’s on call for 24 hours every week. He also serves as equipment manager and field trainer for the MRT.
He’s also about as involved as can be. He’s the managing editor for the Top O’ the World student newspaper. He works for Wilderness Pursuits as a media specialist and is lead rock climbing/mountaineering instructor. He works as the climbing wall coordinator at the fitness center. He’s president of the climbing club and is on the climbing wall committee for the new campus fieldhouse.
Spenser likes to climb…a lot. His passion has also allowed him to explore the area, from the Black Canyon to the Taylor to Hartman Rocks, and everywhere beyond and in between.
“I don’t have much free time, but when I do, I climb,” he admitted.
Spenser is in his final year in WSCU's Recreation and Outdoor Education program. He plans to take a year off when he graduates to enjoy some well-deserved free time.