HMI Gap Announces our Civic Adventure Scholarship

March 7, 2017

Through HMI Gap’s Civic Adventure Scholarship program, we hope to support students who have demonstrated a commitment to civic engagement and outdoor adventure to become part of HMI Gap. This year, we will award three merit scholarships to students who wish to take one of our HMI Gap semesters.

Why Civic Adventure?

The American conservation movement started with early outdoor explorers who drew their inspiration from the land. In pursuit of adventure, people journeyed to, as Terry Tempest Williams puts it, “extreme landscapes.” Through their journeys, they developed strength of character and a deepened sense of their place in the world. This spirit of adventure is central to the American frontier narrative, with its legacy etched across our vast public land system.

In recent years, we’ve seen outdoor recreation, especially adventure pursuits, explode in popularity. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreation contributes $646 billion annually to the US economy and has seen consistent 5% growth per year since 2005. While this rise indicates more people are getting outdoors, it is not necessarily accompanied with responsible use and may lead to a host of environmental, management, social, and safety problems.

Rather than to merely take from these places, to consume an experience that can be conveniently curated on Instagram, HMI Gap invites students to engage with these landscapes, to consider themselves part of their communities, both human and natural. They do so through hands-on and community-based environmental stewardship efforts while also gaining the skills and experience to be competent outdoor adventurers. By exploring some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the world while also working to protect them, students develop a deep connection with place and become part of a community of shared responsibility. Through this “civic adventure” model, students not only cultivate an enduring appreciation of the natural world; they can learn to act as citizens and to work toward positive social and environmental outcomes.

We are not alone in seeing this important and timely connection. Organizations such as the Access FundAmerican Whitewater, and the International Mountain Biking Association, to name a few, are national conservation groups that emphasize initiatives to engage adventurers as caretakers and advocates of wild spaces. Even the National Outdoor Leadership School has recognized the importance of involving their students in more direct stewardship through their new Service Expeditions.

Just as we have the power to transform the landscape, the landscape has the power to transform us. Throughout history, many different cultures have looked to the mountains as sources of meaning and inspiration. From Moses’s ascent of Mount Sinai, ancient philosophers’ reverence for mountains, to indigenous cultures’ vision quests to sacred summits, these “extreme landscapes” have become the mythological stage for some of humanity’s most profound quests. There is something instinctual in outdoor adventure, shared across time and place, in which mountains become, as Edwin Bernbaum claims, “places of inner experience that have the power to transform our views of ourselves and the world around us.”

To learn more about the Civic Adventure Scholarship and HMI Gap programs, visit www.hminet.org/gap. Deadline to apply is April 30, 2017.