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Honors Cadet in Parks Program

Basim Khan and another hiker on the Appalachian Trail.
Basim Khan ’18 hikes the Appalachian Trail with another Partners in the Parks participant. – Photo courtesy of Christina McIntyre.

LEXINGTON, Va., Sept. 1, 2016 -- Basim Khan ’18 probably wasn’t the only VMI cadet who went hiking this summer, but he was the only one who did it as part of an honors program.

Khan was selected to participate in the National Collegiate Honors Council’s Partners in the Parks program and spent a portion of his summer along the Appalachian Trail near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

“The Partners in the Parks trip was a fulfilling experience,” said Khan, who also spent part of his summer at Fort Benning, Georgia, attending Air Assault School. “I got to learn and work alongside honors students from different schools, as well as our two knowledgeable and supportive faculty mentors.”

One of those mentors was Christina McIntyre, associate director of university honors at Virginia Tech. She had nothing but praise for Khan and his contributions to the program.

“His attitude and physical ability were [helpful] to those who were new to backpacking and the physical rigors that come with this experience,” said McIntyre. “Bas was my ‘go to’ when I needed something done quickly. [He] represented Virginia Military Institute in a very positive light.”

Partners in the Parks brought honors students from across the country to Harper’s Ferry, where they learned about the conservation and management of the 2,185-mile trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. Khan noted that the week-long experience included instruction from a team of park rangers, who taught participants about the history, biology, and conservation of the Appalachian Trail 

Khan and his fellow honors students were also part of a community-service project and were able to interact with other hikers on the trail. Nightly campfire discussions wrapped up each day, often focusing on the day’s excursions.

It was during one such excursion that Khan, a biology major who plans on commissioning into the Army upon graduation from VMI, ran into a difficulty.

The group set out for a two-day hike along the Appalachian Trail, and when it was time to set up camp for the night, Khan and his partner from the University of Florida realized that the latter had forgotten to pack the tent. No problem.

“He was upset with himself, and he apologized profusely,” said Khan. “But I really didn’t mind because I was used to sleeping outdoors without a tent during our FTX exercises back at VMI. I told him we’d just figure something out for the night.”

Using some paracord he had packed, Khan rigged up a shelter with a poncho and a plastic trash bag. The refuge was just wide enough to cover the duo, and that proved fortunate when the rains came that night.

“There was substantial rain, [but] our hooch held up and kept us dry,” said Khan.

“That really demonstrates Bas’ character,” said McIntyre, who noted that Khan’s group elected him spokesman for their reports. “He demonstrated leadership beyond just the physical.”

Despite the mishap on the hiking trip, Khan was thrilled with his Partners in the Parks experience.

“I learned a lot about the National Park System and its purpose, particularly about the myriad … career opportunities the organization provides,” said Khan. “By the time the program came to a close, everyone was reluctant to say goodbye. … It was a great time, and I intend to sign up for another PITP trip next summer.”

-- Chris Floyd






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