Oh The Places You'll Go

by Jennifer Garfinkel | 5/9/08 5:05am

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by Courtesy of Schenker / The Dartmouth

Standing in the quarry of Easter Island, surrounded by the island's monumental moai statues, Matt Schenker '09 had what he calls a "surreal experience" this past December. Schenker, who was about to spend his Winter term interning in Chile, spent a week hiking and biking around the small Easter Island off the coast of South America.

His week of exploring, photographing and climbing dormant volcanoes was made possible in part by the Dartmouth Outing Club's Wolfgang Schlitz Adventure Fund. Started in the 2003-2004 school year by a 2005 graduate and named for Wolfgang Schlitz of DOC lore, the fund helps students manage the costs of outing trips that they've designed themselves. Each term, $1,500 of the DOC's endowment is earmarked for such student trips.

"We like to fund trips that are unique and entirely created by students and not guided by someone else," DOC President Andrew Palmer '10 said. "They're trips that are completely created by someone's mind."

The first Schlitz-funded trip was for three members of the 2004 class to hike the Inca trail in Peru and Chile, where they climbed some of the world's highest peaks. Since that initial trip five years ago, student treks have included canoeing in Saskatchewan, mountaineering in Grand Teton National Park, climbing up Mount Kilimanjaro and organic farming in New Zealand and Norway -- just to name a few.

Each term, the DOC receives about five to seven applicants for Schlitz Funding and usually about four receive grants, the allotted money being split among the recipients based on each trip's needs.

To apply, students fill out an application that outlines their itinerary, budget, any potential risks and safety precautions, why they want to go and what they will gain as a result. The DOC president reads the applications and makes suggestions to the students on how to make their trips stronger. Applicants then present to a committee comprised of the DOC president and vice president and all of the chairs and presidents of various DOC clubs. The Outdoors Program Office sits in for the presentations but is there just to make suggestions and give advice; the final decisions of who will receive funding (and how much) is left up to the student committee.

The application is open to all Dartmouth students and not just DOC members. Those who receive funding are also required to become members of the DOC. Palmer explained that in this way, Schlitz funding is a way to both reward those heavily involved in the DOC and also get new people involved.

The fund application also asks students how they will give back to the community upon their return. In addition to preparing a slideshow of photographs and writing an article for the DOC's magazine, "Woodsmoke," students are asked to use what they've learned in a constructive manner, such as leading beginner hiking or biking trips back on campus.

Chris Zablocki '10 and three of his friends will kick off their summers by biking from Hanover, through Canada, around Lake Champlain and back to campus. The trip, which Zablocki estimates will consist of 100 miles of biking per day for six days, would probably not happen if it weren't for their Schlitz funding. The money, Zablocki explained, will cover food costs so that they won't need to rush home and therefore can go at a reasonable pace.

"It's going to be tough," he said, "But that's kind of the point."

Mike Wood '10 and Mark Davenport '10 spent part of their winter break climbing in North Carolina, on a trip that they said wound up being an adventure, one where they never quite knew where they would go next. The two deviated from their original plan based on weather conditions and recommendations of other climbers, at one point climbing 30 miles away from civilization.

"We didn't spend a dime of our own money," Wood said.

"Yeah, we also ate nuts and berries," Davenport countered.

Davenport added that having an adventure is what Schlitz funding is all about.

"People think they're going to stay in hostels, but they're told to bring a tarp and a camp stove and really push themselves," he said.

The committee that determines funding is definitely looking for creativity and uniqueness.

"A trip that was funded last year probably won't be funded again this year," Palmer said.

In addition, they are looking for students who are ready to branch out and try new things. Palmer said that the committee wants to see "something that is challenging to the individual, stretching their own experiences."

"Something that will cause them to grow in some way, be it a technical kind of growth or the ability to plan a trip and all of its aspects," he added.

Be it a classic outdoors trip of biking or bouldering, or more of a exploration adventure like Schenker's traipse on Easter Island, the Wolfgang Schlitz Adventure Fund affords Dartmouth students a new level of access to the great outdoors.

Jennifer is a staff writer for The Mirror and a former editor of The Dartmouth. Her middle name is Wolfgang -- weird!

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