Alumnae-Led Camp Scripps Just Might be the “Scrippsiest” Event Ever

Camp Scripps is the College’s signature retreat created by, for, and about its talented alumnae.

By Emily Glory Peters

Every summer since 1994, the College has played host to one of its most beloved campus traditions: Camp Scripps. Originally conceived by the Class of ’69 as their gift to current and future alums, Camp Scripps is an annual retreat that celebrates and shares the brilliance of the Scripps community.

“It was started in recognition of our 25-year reunion. They wanted to do a poetry retreat, and thought holding it on campus would be so much fun, as we’d be able to stay in the dorms,” explains Ann Merrill Westaway ’69, a longterm member of Camp’s “Creative Caucus” planning commitee and its sanctioned historian. The plan was to hire famous writers to come, she says, until Scripps Professor Emerita Lois Langland asked the group a simple question: Why bring in presenters from the outside when there were so many talented women among Scripps alumnae?

Nearly three decades later, Camp continues to embody our alumnae’s most notable characteristic: an appetite for lifelong learning.

“Camp is for, by, and about alumnae,” says Emily Rankin ’97, one of this year’s tri-chairs along with Westaway and Devanie Candelaria Dóñez ’94. With support from Scripps’ Office of Alumnae Engagment, she continues, every event in the program is planned and produced by a Scripps alum, with rare exceptions. Camp’s other Creative Caucus volunteers are responsible for marketing and building the agenda, from writing workshops to yoga lessons to themed costume parties.

This summer’s program is virtual—a consequence of the waning pandemic. Still, regardless of what’s on the Camp docket, there’s one rule everyone accepts.

“Our motto is ‘everything possible, nothing required,’” says Rankin. In a non-pandemic year, Camp differs from Reunion Weekend by welcoming Campers overnight, with some foregoing workshops to ramble through Claremont haunts recalling (and adding to) Scripps memories. Also unlike Reunion Weekend, Camp draws alumnae from all class years who leave families and commitments at home for a few days of mental refreshment and a chance to learn something new from their peers.

“Some people may not identify with their class year, or maybe they weren’t residential for personal reasons. That’s what’s so cool about Camp Scripps—it appeals to everyone,” Rankin adds.

Whether as a workshop presenter or Camp attendee, participation is something both Westaway and Rankin encourage young alumnae to consider. A wider range of Campers, they explain, unearths hidden gems—like the addition of burlesque dancing instruction from one alumna—and enlivens the entire Camp experience.

“What I look forward to the most is connecting with all the amazing, talented Scripps women; not just those I’ve known, but meeting new people from different class years,” says Westaway. “They create an infusion of happiness at Camp: a lot of laughter, a lot of contemplative wonderment.”

Camp’s intrinsic Scrippsness is also reflected in how it’s supported. The retreat is priced to break even—not make a profit—with alumnae-backed funds covering the cost of speakers, supplies, and even “Camperships” to help their peers attend. As Rankin observes, these are just a few ways Camp allows Scripps alums to support one another.

“It’s not just alums giving back in the form of workshops or Camperships, but we’ve also created scholarships, offered internships, extended opportunities to work with campus libraries, and more,” says Rankin. “It’s been fascinating over the years to figure out not just how Camp can support Scripps, but how it can support Campers themselves.”

This climate of mutual uplift is something Westaway and Rankin continue to see even in the retreat’s temporary web format. And while some of Camp’s traditions can’t be fully replicated online, its spirit persists.

“The most sacred thing is the closing brunch—and we’ve continued that virtually,” says Rankin. “Here people gather to share a word, a short sentiment, about their time at Camp. The words vary from ‘renewal’ to ‘tea,’ ‘food’ to ‘friends,’ but what our alumnae feel at the end is pretty powerful. The importance of sharing that can’t be minimized.”

Camp Scripps is currently in session every weekend now through July 31, 2021. To view sessions and learn how to register, please click here.