April 7th, 2019/ 10:30pm/by Megan Gorss
I sat down with SUOC’s newly elected President, Tim Bova, to discuss leadership, growth, and exploding rocks. Both of us laughed plenty, but only one of us cackled.
Can I get some quick stats from you, like your name, your pronouns, your class, your major, anything that you’d like to include in your introduction.
Tim Bova: Sure. Tim Bova. He/him. Junior. Conservation Bio. ESF student. 20 years old.
You were just elected as president, correct?
Bova: That is correct. Oh jeez, that happened.
How do you feel about that?
Bova: Pretty good. I mean, I like to joke just because it’s funny.
How did you originally get involved in SUOC?
Bova: I’ve been extremely involved in SUOC since my first General Interest Meeting. I saw that there were 14 trips going out and I was like, “Ok this is my new favorite thing. I’m just gonna do this as much as I can.”
When I originally came to ESF, my orientation leader recommended that I join Bob Marshall Club instead of SUOC. I never went to a Bob Marshall Club meeting because I showed up at a SUOC meeting and thought, “This suits me so much better.” Then I stopped doing Woodsmen because I didn’t have time to do that and SUOC and obviously SUOC won.
I’ve been Assistant Eroom Chair for 2 years, been really actively involved in club things, doing whatever I could to help, going on tons of trips…I always wanted to do something for the club, and it turns out being President is the method for doing something significant, definitely. And it also gives me Eroom access, which is really nice.
Yeah, I don’t get Eroom access now and I’m definitely a little upset about it.
Bova: Yeah, I’ve had Eroom access since the beginning of Sophomore year. I am NOT looking forward to this time next year when I lose it.
What has been your favorite or most memorable memory from your time in SUOC?
Bova: I don’t know, I don’t…It’s hard to pick out the specific memory because there’s just…all of my best experiences in college — with the exception of a few herping trips — have been with SUOC.
It’s hard to pick just one?
Bova: It’s hard to pick just one. I have a running list of maybe 5 or 6 “favorite trips” but it’s more like everytime I go on a trip and I’m comfortable calling it my favorite SUOC trip, it goes on that list.
What was your favorite trip you went on over last Spring Break?
Bova: That would be digging with the Butler Cave Conservation Society. That was the last day of Spring Break, I took a couple people out. That particular day was the big surface pit digging day for the Butler Cave Conservation Society, the BCCS. We went up to the house of an old caver, went up to his property which has like 5 or 6 different caves on it. It’s adjacent to a bunch of other properties that have caves on them. So one group ended up working on the Hot Brazilian Yogurt Entrance to some cave. I don’t know why it’s called that or what cave it goes into, but…and then two of our people ended up going to some other dig. I don’t know which one it was. There were like 5 or 6 active digs that day.
What is a dig?
Bova: A dig is when you think there’s a cave underground but there’s ground between you and the cave, so you remove the ground between you and the cave. This day, we got about 5 feet of forward progress which doesn’t sound like a lot for a full day of work, but it was about 5 feet through solid rock. We did a lot of smashing rocks which was pretty fun.
How do you break through the rock…?
Bova: [redacted], which was really cool.
That’s SO cool!
Bova: So, um, budget request: [redacted] and drinking straws.
Soooo maybe not? But…?
Can you imagine submitting that to the school? “We would like [redacted]…and straws.”
Bova: I think we could just buy the straws. I-I’ll just buy the straws, it’s fine.
Alright, so switching from fun things to maybe less fun things-
Bova: Oh no.
Have you ever struggled with anything in the club?
Like is there anything that you wish you had handled differently in hindsight, or that was just really hard to deal with when it was happening?
Bova: [deep maniacal laughter]
We can also skip this if you don’t wanna talk about it.
Bova: No it’s more of just…all of it?
Let’s see. To put a positive spin on this, all of our freshmen this year are so much better setup than I was freshman year. I was scared of everyone in SUOC when I joined. I was very active in caving — like I didn’t go on a non-caving trip until Spring Break — so I really only hung out with the caving section. I didn’t go to any parties. I had friends, but I didn’t have anything close to the relationships I would end up with later in SUOC.
So…I’m really happy that all of the freshmen are so much less awkward and obnoxious than I was freshman year, because they’re so much better set up. I’m really excited to see how they develop. So that’s gonna be my positive take. Freshman year Tim was not as outgoing and I’m glad not many people remember him.
So, wait. When you say you weren’t as outgoing, do you just mean that you specialized in caving and didn’t go to social things?
Bova: No, Freshman Tim was obnoxious for a lot of other reasons. I can attribute a lot of my personal growth to the club. I’m sure most of our members can. Just being involved in SUOC at such a formative time has an effect on people. I like to think it’s a positive effect.
Have you learned anything while you were in SUOC? About yourself, about recreation, the outdoors, I mean anything at all.
Bova: Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot better at my soft skills.
What do you mean by soft skills?
Bova: Working with people. I’m not always great with working with people, but I’ve gotten better at leading trips, better at being patient with people, more comfortable with leadership skills. I was very much of the stereotypical Eagle Scout with lots of backpacking experience. And so, I felt kind of comfortable with leadership, but then I got scared of everyone in SUOC. I kind of had to get back to being comfortable.
You hadn’t ever done a non-show caving before you joined SUOC, correct?
Bova: I’d been on a guided wild caving trip in Mammoth Cave. We had headlamps and protective gear on, so it was wild caving and it was a lot of fun, but yeah that was it.
I’d done rock climbing, but it was with a guide service. I remember going back there a few weeks later to go hiking and I just free soloed all of it because it was so easy. I didn’t even consider it rock climbing, it was just scrambling and they put a rope on us. But, yeah. I’ve learned a lot about backpacking, I’ve learned a lot about the cold. I’ve gotten into a couple new sports I probably never would have even heard of if I hadn’t been in SUOC.
What activities are you a leader in?
Bova: I’m a leader in backpacking, horizontal caving, vertical caving, winter backpacking, and mountain biking. And I’m working on three others.
Which ones are you working on?
Bova: Flatwater, top-rope rock climbing, and ice climbing.
Yeah, that’s not surprising, you seem super into ice climbing.
Bova: I am EXTREMELY into ice climbing. I’m actively in the process of buying my own ice climbing equipment. There’s so much ice in China.
I know that you worked in China last summer and you’ll be working in China this summer, do you expect that you’ll live in China for longer than that?
Bova: Yeah. My boss basically offered me a Master’s position at the end of last summer. I’d hopefully spend two, maybe three years living full-time or part-time in China, who knows yet. But if I have winters when I can’t actually do anything…I can either sit at home writing things during the winter, or I can just go off to Western China, spend a few weeks out there every winter, climb some ice, do some things…That would be badass.
My last question is, do you have any advice for people that are new to the club or who are on the fence about joining the club?
Bova: At the risk of being glib, just kinda jump into it. If you are interested in the outdoors and you don’t immediately despise SUOCers, just go on trips, go to Eroom hours, go to aftermeetings, go to meetings, go to premeetings.
Just go to everything. We want you to be there. You should join SUOC. You should just do all the things. Spend all your money on gear and gas, work hard all week to get your schoolwork done, and spend your weekends doing SUOC things. Just continue to do that every week, all year. Builds character.
If you’d like to meet Tim and learn his secret recipe for exploding rocks, join us at our next meeting! He’ll be the guy running the show at the front of the room.