By Ashley Herndon, Staff Reporter
The Leadership Program is participating in the Bike Ride Across Texas (BRAT) program this Christmas break to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. The students participating will meet back on campus Jan. 4, to drive up to their starting destination—Quannah. They will then cycle for five days to Big Bend National Park. After taking a much-needed break at the Rio Grande, the bikers will return to Abilene on Jan. 10.
Dr. Coleman Patterson, director of leadership studies and professor of management and leadership, shared how the bike ride started and explained more about what it entails.
“Our rides began in 2013 as a way for leadership studies students to practice the concepts that they study in their classes. Once on the road, team members work together to make daily decisions for riding, safety, route adjustments and contacts with hosts and media,” Dr. Patterson said.
Veteran riders start planning one of these trips the summer before the fall semester. Route options are discussed with returning participants and riders are recruited once the fall semester begins. Training rides and planning meetings also take place in the early weeks of the semester.
“With days growing shorter and colder throughout the semester, we made as many group training rides together as possible in September and October. Having gone through this process on eight previous occasions, we are getting good at getting things organized,” Dr. Patterson said.
Before Dr. Patterson and his students completed the first ride in 2013, the long-distance rides were only an idea. This idea was born from the motivation to find a project that would allow the leadership studies students to apply what they learned in the classroom.
“Unlike many in-class and typical group and team educational projects, the BRAT projects are real. The projects provide a wonderful laboratory for making sense of the topics of leadership, teamwork and organization,” Dr. Patterson said.
These trips are also an amazing bonding experience. Many students return, even after they have graduated, to complete another bike ride. “Among our team members, we have one who is back for her sixth ride, one for her fifth, one for her fourth, one for his third and one for her second. I have done all nine rides. Everyone else is a rookie,” Dr. Patterson said.
While most of the riders are leadership studies students, anyone can join Dr. Patterson and his team on these inspiring rides across Texas. Though the rides are tough, all who participate claim them to be extremely rewarding.
“The sense of accomplishment and the high that comes from knowing you’ve worked hard for something big is something that becomes very addictive. The people who complete these rides are extraordinary individuals [who] prove they can do something that most other people write off as undo-able,” Dr. Patterson said.