Near the Foothills

Nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks, our campus is right in the heart of The Natural State. Arkansas boasts more than 50 state parks with hiking trails, mountains to climb, and rivers and lakes for fishing — abundant opportunities to enjoy God’s creation that Professor of Kinesiology J.D. Yingling wishes to share with students.

For Yingling, being outside is the best way to connect with God. A passion that began while he was a student, Yingling's love for the outdoors had to be put on the back burner after graduation. It was later rekindled when he and his wife, Kim, went on their own hiking adventures once their children were older.

“I see God’s beauty all around us, from the stars at night to scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef,” Yingling said. “Talking about beauty and the creativity of God, you reflect on that with the different colors of the coral and the different fish and the patterns. … You can’t grasp how God could be that creative …”

Yingling wanted to share that passion with his students and started the Explore Club in 2019 to equip students who are interested in the outdoors with the information and resources they need to explore safely. Each semester, they organize camping and hiking trips with activities like paddleboarding, kayaking and caving. Student favorites include Petit Jean State Park, Pinnacle Mountain State Park and Blanchard Springs Caverns. 

This year’s president, Lydia Radke, enjoys meeting new people with similar interests and finding new ways to explore together and experience the beauty of God’s creation. 

“[When I’m] walking on the trail and thinking about the root systems underneath my feet or the clouds in the sky, it makes me think about how God knows the big picture,” Radke said. “He’s also detail-oriented and cares about each of us so much. … It helps me remember that God created me and the people around me as the most beautiful part of this creation.”

Yingling and Radke are also leaders of HU Outdoors, an initiative that provides gear for students to use on their own adventures. Through generous donations from faculty and friends, they have gathered tents, sleeping bags, kayaks, fishing gear and much more. Students especially love the tandem bikes, and they have recently added sleds in preparation for the next University snow day. Thirty to 50 students are taking advantage of this resource each semester, and the effort continues to grow.

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