Oregon native puts skills learned from Peace Corps and outdoor challenges to use as a geography graduate TA

Just north of the California border is the town of Klamath Falls, Oregon, where University of Missouri graduate student Bradford Hanson spent his childhood growing-up. 

“Klamath Falls had about 20,000 people,” Hanson said, “so it’s a bit of a shock to move here (to Columbia).”

The Oregon native is a graduate student working in the Geography department at MU.

“I attended community college in Oregon along with doing my undergrad at the University of Oregon,” Hanson said.

Hanson spent most of his childhood and teenage years enjoying the outdoors while his parents were the opposite. He became very close to his uncle, who helped him find his way in following his passions. Growing-up he enjoyed playing basketball and had dreamed of it becoming a possible future career.

“Basketball was my life,” Hanson said. “I played throughout high school and even in community college. The guys at the University of Oregon were a bit more talented so there was no way I would make the team there.”

After ditching the basketball dream he decided to focus on working with others who share a fondness for outdoor activities. He joined several organizations that worked with teens and adults that enjoy activities such as whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, hiking and plenty of other activities in the western mountainous region of the country.

“Colorado Outward Bound School and Voyageur Outward Bound School are the outdoor schools I have been working with for the last six years,” he said. “Our student population ranges from 12 to 60 + years old, most being from 16 to 25 years old. The older groups usually are military veteran courses that are donated free of charge. We facilitate self-discovery through outdoor expeditions including whitewater rafting, backpacking, technical canyoneering, rock climbing, alpine mountaineering, canoeing, dog sledding, and backcountry skiing. No previous experience in these activities is required.”

Professor Soren Larsen, Hanson’s master’s thesis adviser, spoke fondly of how his past has helped him succeed so far here at MU.

“Brad is one of the most determined and intentioned people I have ever met,” Larsen said. “A lot of this comes from his experience in Peace Corps and Outward Bound, where he was an instructor helping others develop self-confidence, intention, and willpower through physically and mentally taxing experiences, like an 18-day backpacking trip. Here at Mizzou, those skills are translating into the classroom where he engages a lot of hands-on stuff for the development of the ‘whole person’ — not just the academic/intellectual part of a person, but the ethical and spiritual part of a person as well.”

Hanson now lives in Columbia, Missouri, where he plans on finishing graduate school at MU with a degree in Geography. Along with taking classes of his own, he is a teaching assistant for Professor Douglas Hurt.

“Brad brought diverse perspectives to our TA team and has worked hard to incorporate his unique educational, employment, and travel experiences into his discussion sections,” Hurt said. “He typically seeks out original ways to bring Geography to life to his students and wants them to become critical thinkers with a global perspective of cultural and environmental issues.”

Brad’s family all still reside in Oregon. His partner, Tawny, who he met at the Grand Canyon, travels all over so he rarely sees her, but her dog, Lily, kept Brad company here while she was away. Unfortunately, Lily passed away during the writing of this article. Hanson plans on using his time at MU to prepare for an education based, adventurous life path. He dreams of giving back to the community through his teachings and activities that he enjoys.

Jacob Fenwick

About the Author Jacob Fenwick

Mizzou had always been my dream school growing-up. Now it seems surreal to actually be a freshman at the University. I grew up in Bonne Terre, Missouri; a small mining town located about an hour south of St. Louis. My graduating class consisted of fewer than 200 students so it is very exciting getting to meet all the new people here. Throughout high school, I sang in the school chamber and concert choirs, held an above 4.0 GPA, and helped the community through Student Council activities. I plan to major in animal sciences with a minor in captive wild animal management and possibly pre-journalism. I look forward to working for Corner Post to captivate my audience and help start up my writing career.