Dean Henry Moses first conceived of having an outdoor orientation program at Harvard, and with the help of Cate Huisman, FOP offered its first trips for some 49 students in 1979. Each of the nine subsequent directors - Jeff Smith, Vic Henningsen, Steve Whisnant, John Duvivier, Sharon Bassett, Beth Bellman, Brent Bell, Jess Ross, Coz Teplitz, and Emily Quigley - have added his or her own unique vision to the FOP program. The basic premise, however, has always been that the wilderness is a unique learning environment that provides a setting in which incoming first-years can interact with one another, acquaint themselves with Harvard with the help of their leaders, and make a successful transition to college life.
FOP has been well-received since its inception. Initial numbers of 200-300 FOPper applications each year swelled in 1996 to a record level of over 600 applications. In 2017, FOP sent out 383 FOPpers on 39 trips. On campus, FOP has attracted increasing interest among Harvard undergraduates, with the number of leader applications we receive increasing each year. We hope to satisfy such enthusiasm by offering more trips, though risk management and the quality of each trip continue to be our highest priorities.
The types of trips FOP offers also has evolved with time. Initially, hiking and climbing trips were provided. From 1984-1988, bicycling trips were also offered, but due to the dangers of being on the road and the extra training required to facilitate the experience, they were terminated. Currently, FOP offers wilderness trips (backpacking, canoeing, and trail work service) and site-based trips.