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climbing mountains AND changing lives

| Judy Berthiaume

Raymond Hatzenbeller has long known that he wants to someday work as a medical professional of some sort, so majoring in biology was a logical choice when it came time to declare a major at UW-Eau Claire. While the Cumberland native always has been interested in science, he was surprised by how much he enjoyed the biology classes themselves, especially microbiology. But his love of biology wasn’t the only thing Raymond discovered about himself at UW-Eau Claire. Always shy as a youth, Raymond never thought of himself as a leader. Then he discovered UW-Eau Claire’s Environmental Adventure Center, where he found adventure, new friends and a talent for leadership that he never knew was in him.

In the EAC, Raymond does it all, working with the ropes course, the rock climbing wall and the equipment rental desk. But the highlight, he says, is leading other students on EAC adventure trips. He’s one of the EAC’s few rock-climbing instructors and he leads paddling trips. Working in the EAC is more than a job; it’s an experience that has opened up a new lifestyle that he never knew was possible. For example, he spent Winterim in Nevada climbing thousands of feet in the air with good friends at his side. The shy freshman has morphed into a confident senior who now leads up to a dozen students on adventure trips and facilitates groups of 50 people on the challenge ropes course. He’s a team lead on the rock wall and coordinates an adventure program for kids. It all started by taking a chance and signing up for a couple of EAC trips when he was a young Blugold.

While the EAC has been an important part of his college years, it’s not the only Blugold experience that’s shaped how he sees his future. An immersion trip in Nicaragua also was life-changing. In Central America, he and several other Blugolds worked as part of a traveling clinic that serves rural areas where people have limited access to healthcare. The experience reminded him how fortunate he is in his life and how much he can make a difference in the world around him. With that in mind, he now hopes to become a physician assistant and work in a rural area. His love for adventure also is motivating him to think differently about his future. A university honors student, Raymond earned his physician assistant degree, and now wants to become certified in mountain medicine so he can save people who are in need in areas that normal paramedics can't reach. His hope is to help people who find themselves in trouble doing the same activities he loves, and ultimately, to get them back in the mountains chasing their own passions. By combining his interest in medicine with his love for adventure, Raymond Hatzenbeller is climbing mountains AND changing lives … and that’s pretty powerful!