Ulemj "Lenny" Enkhbold: Outdoor Nation Campus Ambassador

From Outer Mongolia to Outdoor Nation: With a broader global perspective than many of his peers, an undergrad in Virginia shares his love and gratitude for nature to grow the outdoorist tribe.

By Sarah Tuff Dunn May 31, 2016

Research shows that attrition from outdoor pursuits is greatest during the post-secondary-school years. In an effort to combat that attrition and ensure young adults maintain or develop a lifelong love of the outdoors, Outdoor Foundation and Merrell teamed up to create the Outdoor Nation Campus Ambassador program. Merrell sponsored 14 college students across the country who are charged with increasing outdoor engagement at their respective schools through programming and recreation opportunities. In this series, we’re sharing a few of their stories. 

At an age when most American children are riding carousel ponies, Ulemj “Lenny” Enkhbold was riding a real horse across the windswept steppes of Mongolia and helping his grandfather herd their sheep and goats. When he was 7, his family moved to Virginia, where everything exploded in sound and color.  

As Lenny wrote in his application to the Outdoor Nation Campus Ambassador Program: “The mountains, the rivers and lakes, the animals, and the lush climate that allowed for these conditions truly inspired me.” Lenny, meanwhile, inspired the selection committee with his deep-rooted passion for the natural world, and for bringing it to Washington and Lee University. Outdoor Foundation and Merrell—who have partnered on the Outdoor Nation Campus Ambassador Program—selected Lenny (one of 28 campus ambassadors across the country) to receive a $2,000 Merrell Pack Project grant, which includes a $1,000 stipend for Lenny and $1,000 for the Washington and Lee Outing Club (OC).  

“The Merrell Campus Ambassadors are a group of inspiring, motivated and talented people,” says Leslie Rasmussen, who does sports and event marketing for Merrell. “They have not only increased brand awareness on campuses all over the country, but they consistently inspire people to get outside and break down barriers to outdoor adventures. They are the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts who have shared their passions with over 10,000 people last semester.” 

Lenny is the epitome of that. “My goal truly is to help people engage in the outdoors,” says Lenny, who just completed his junior year. “I want to help other people discover who they are through outdoor recreation.” A vital staff member of the Washington and Lee Outing Club (OC), Lenny has led nearly every kind of trip under the sun, from hang-gliding to hiking, rafting to climbing, caving to kayaking, skiing to biking, and, yep, horseback riding. Every fall, he takes 50 first-year students backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, hoping to not only guide them to the trails top viewpoints, but also to lead them to a different perspective on college life. 

 “There’s a giant fear of missing out on certain weekends,” he says of W&L students, noting that some campus activities lure the student body indoors on beautiful days. “I want people to be fearful of missing out on the wonderful outdoor opportunities around Washington and Lee.”  

Those include hiking nearby House Mountain, cycling along the Blue Ridge Parkway, slacklining, rock climbing, and venturing out in the darkest possible conditions to gaze at the Milky Way. So far, Lenny has led about 25 trips as an Outdoor Nation campus ambassador and has worked extensively with Merrell to share stories through Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets.  

“Members of the Merrell Pack are some of the most fun and amazing people I’ve ever met,” says Lenny of the Merrell team that helps support his on-campus programming. Lenny, spreads Merrell brand lovesunglasses, koozies, pens, mini first-aid kits—around campus and, in turn, Merrell pays it forward, even in unexpected ways. For example, “there was actually a student house fire on campus, and Merrell gladly donated a lot of money to help the affected students get back on their feet, says Lenny. 

With the $1,000 Merrell provided W&L’s OC, Lenny created a Merrell nature scholarship (for one student who completed  a series of activities and purchased key recruitment tools to attract students to meetings: tasty snacks and drinks. But because a majority of Washington and Lee students belong to the OC, Lenny says that it’s been mostly a breeze to engage their inner yearnings for the great outdoors. Students who don’t have their own equipment or gear can rent it from the OC equipment barn, which is a great resource for those new to outdoor adventure. Once students get hooked and ready to purchase their own gear, Lenny says Lexington’s Walkabout Outfitters is a friendly local retail spot .  

Thirteen years after leaving Mongolia and immersing himself in the American way of life, Lenny hasn’t let go of everything he learned in his early childhood. In fact, many of his native customs and rituals—like the ceremonial gathering to gut and cook a goat over hot stones—have amplified his outdoorist sensibilities.  “It’s about making use of what we have,” he says of the ritual. “Everything has a life force—a life spirit—I do, the trees do, the grass does. Even the winds are a life force.”  

If you’d like to get your company involved with the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge or any of the Outdoor Foundation’s youth engagement grant programs, visit outdoorfoundation.org.