Meet Yikhwan Dillard of SPU’s Outdoor Recreation Program

During Yikhwan Dillard’s first-year orientation at Seattle Pacific, the 2009 alumnus took part in SPU’s Early Connections program. Dillard made close friends in that community who related to his cultural experiences and strongly supported him throughout college.

After graduating from Seattle Pacific, Dillard, who studied history and theology, spent a year working at World Vision headquarters in Federal Way, Washington. He then earned a master’s degree in higher education from Taylor University in Indiana (class of 2012) and went on to become residence life director at nearby universities such as Huntington University and Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Four years ago, Dillard returned to Seattle Pacific to serve as a residence life coordinator in Emerson Hall. This is his first year as one of two campus program coordinators in SPU’s Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, where he oversees SPU’s Student Union Board and Outdoor Recreation Program.

hike up Granite Mountain

Because Dillard no longer works in the residence halls, he misses getting to interact with students in their day-to-day lives. But the new role gives Dillard many ways to connect Seattle Pacific’s underrepresented students with the outdoors and, he says, “I love what I do.” SPU Voices asked Dillard a few questions so that you can get to know him better.

Voices: What is your background when it comes to exploring the outdoors?

Dillard: I grew up in Tacoma, Washington, but outdoors was not a thing I did. Part of that is because, if you look at the numbers, you can see who is going on hikes and who is not based on socio-economic status. I fell below the line. In the summertime, my friends and I would play basketball at The Boys and Girls Club or go to the YMCA and hang out.

What is the first hike you remember going on in Washington?

After I came to SPU, I still didn’t go on hikes. When I went to grad school in Indiana, people kept saying, “Isn’t it beautiful in Washington?” I remember thinking, “I don’t know, I think it is.” When I came back to Seattle, I started going on hikes and fell in love.

Yikhwan Dillard looks at Mt. Rainier in the distance

In the past few years, I realized, ‘Holy smokes, there are people like me missing out on this,’ and it feels unfair. I decided if there was ever an opportunity where I could cross over and create opportunities for students to do this, I would. And when this opportunity came up, I thought, ‘Match made in heaven, I’m going to go for it.’

One of the first hikes I distinctly remember was with the resident advisors (in SPU’s Emerson Hall). We were just going on the back trails and everyone seemed like they grew up in the outdoors, while I just didn’t know what I was doing. I remember how much fun I had just being in the outdoors. After that, I started going on more hikes around here. Then, I actually started going abroad to do a lot of traveling and hiking. I just wanted to avoid people and the outdoors was a place that I could do that.

What other goals do you have for ORP?

We want ORP to grow. Part of that is just offering more opportunities and making those opportunities affordable for students.

SPU students talk atop Rattlesnake Ridge

How do you plan to make ORP more inclusive?

We hiked up Rattlesnake Ridge with the Early Connections program, since these students may not have had opportunities to explore the outdoors. We plan to continue to partner with Early Connections and potentially other clubs that may not naturally gravitate toward programs like this. I was that student when I was a freshman here. Early Connections was the group that kept me going at SPU, so they have special place in my heart.

The second thing we did this fall was our camping trip to Mount Rainier. This trip was only $20 per person, for two nights and we provided food. For all of our trips, we always leave two or three spots for students who might not be able to afford it. We also encourage students who can afford the cost to pay for it, because it’s still a great deal. We are committed to making things cheap so students can gain the experience — we don’t want money to be the reason why they can’t go.

Photo gallery of Early Connection hike up to Rattlesnake Ridge

Photo gallery of Granite Mountain hike

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