SUNY Oswego class successfully summits Mount Kilimanjaro

A 23-member team from SUNY Oswego successfully reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in mid-January as part of a class that brought learning to new heights.

The course, PED 399: “Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro,” covered mountain-climbing techniques and preparation in terms of fitness, health, nutrition, essential gear and travel to Tanzania to scale the highest peak in Africa. An October climb of Mount Marcy, New York’s highest peak, served as a preliminary test.

Students climbing rock face on Mount Kilimanjaro.The students aced their final. “We had 100 percent success,” Mehran Nojan reported by satellite phone Jan. 10. Nojan is the college’s director of institutional research, the project’s founder and one of the course instructors. “Everyone made it to the top! Other than exhaustion and a few headaches here and there, everyone is in great shape!”

At 19,340 feet high, Kilimanjaro is also the world’s highest stand-alone peak. The team’s ascent and descent took eight days and required assistance from a team of porters.

Various members of the team called back to college staff member Teresa Casanova, who posted their messages on the Oswego Going Global Facebook account,

Preparation paid off, as the team exceeded its ambitious schedule at times. “We’re supposed to be at Barafu Camp, but we decided to push forward to a higher elevation, so we are currently at 17,000 feet; preparing to summit tonight,” team member Leila Karkia announced from the high base camp Jan. 9, the day before the final push.

Hands-on lessons

Lorrie Clemo, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, noted that while the course offering was unusual, it provided experiences that challenged students mentally and physically as well as exposed them to the culture of Tanzania.

Ariel Powers with schoolchildren.“As with all of our international education offerings, the course provided knowledge and understanding of culture, language, geography and global perspectives,” Clemo said.

“One of our strengths is hands-on learning, and students learned about working as a team, how to prepare their minds and bodies for the trek and about the importance of setting and reaching goals,” she said. “The next time they face a challenge during their college years or careers, they can look at everything they did to scale Mount Kilimanjaro and be confident they can succeed at anything.”

A Jan. 6 update from Gary Morris, the college’s director of career services and co-instructor of the program, explained some of the challenges the climbers encountered. “The air is thinning out, and it is clear that any movement above a slow walk will get us all out of breath,” he said. “A few more headaches and nausea, but every single team member remains in high spirits and (is) having the time of their lives.”

Team members also took time to visit a school in a Maasai village to distribute school supplies as well as to go on a safari.

The high-profile effort represents a first, innovative step to encourage donations to support international education scholarships at SUNY Oswego.

Ryan Lemon, who coordinated the study-abroad course for the Office of International Education and Programs, reported the day after summiting Kilimanjaro that it was an experience and accomplishment everyone—from participants to supporting family members and friends—could view with pride.

“It’s been a pretty epic trek up and down Kilimanjaro,” Lemon said. “This has been a really fantastic tour so far and a really fantastic program.”

More information on the climbers, their experiences and photographs from the trip will appear at

PHOTO CAPTIONS: Courtesy of Gary Morris/SUNY Oswego

Such great heights—Junior zoology major Stefanie Cornnell and a guide from Roof of Africa Adventures scale a rock face on their way up Mount Kilimanjaro. They were part of a 23-member SUNY Oswego team, many taking a course for credit, to summit the highest peak in Africa.

Giving back—In addition to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the SUNY Oswego Going Global team, including junior metoerology major Ariel Powers, visited a Maasai village to distribute school supplies. 

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(Posted: Jan 19, 2012)

Tags: world awareness, study abroad, mehran nojan, kilimanjaro, health promotion and wellness, gary morris, africa