Big Sink, Blue Mountains, Oregon (photo by Bob Carson)

Two generous alumni established this fund in 2005. The originally stated goal of the fund was to support the development of environmental leaders by providing support to the Environmental Studies outdoor field trips and projects. Therefore, funds are available for “environmental studies regionals”, weekends of off-campus study by environmental studies students and faculty.

Funds are also available to finance “special projects” related to environmental studies. For example, funds are available for students to attend environmental conferences.
Since the original gift, the founders have expanded the funding goals. Examples include subsidizing participation by students on need-based scholarships in the following: “Scrambles” for new students, ES regional studies courses, Outdoor Program trips, and faculty-led excursions of an environmental nature. The term “environmental” is constrained loosely, so as to include natural history, natural resource management, and issues of social science such as environmental justice.

The founders have recently instructed the College to use the funds aggressively to help offset financial burdens students may face due to participation in environmental and outdoor activities. They added that the fund is for helping develop environmental leaders and getting Whitman students out on trips who might otherwise not be able to afford it. They summarized their intent in January 2010: “The original goal is to help develop environmental leaders at Whitman. The primary tool is financial assistance for promising leaders to participate in field trips they might not otherwise be able to afford. Outside-the-box projects (that might not otherwise have funding), helping students attend environmental conferences and other creative initiatives were also eligible for assistance. The financial strain of the recession may preclude some Whitman students from participating in Outdoor Program trips. Because we believe experiential trips are invaluable in deepening character, environmental ethics and leadership skills, the scope of the fund has been widened to include financial assistance for Outdoor Program trips. One key point is we want to help students participate on trips or projects to happen that otherwise would not. We don't want the fund to become a substitute source to tap for regular programs.”

Lower Granite Dam, Snake River, Washington (photo by Salmon Norgaard-Stroich)


Proposals will be solicited at least twice a year from the Environmental Studies Committee, the Outdoor Program, and student environmental groups at Whitman College. Requests should clearly state the environmental and/or outdoor and/or leadership purposes of the proposal. Alternate and/or additional sources of funds should be listed. Requests from students should have faculty (ideally an Environmental Studies professor) or Outdoor Program (the Director or Assistant Director) approval.

Requests for funds may be submitted at any time, but are not necessarily evaluated more than once a semester. Proposals should be emailed to Bob Carson (, Administrator of the OELF. Contact him to learn the date of the next evaluation and/or to discuss your proposal in advance of submission. The proposals will be evaluated by a committee consisting of four environmental studies faculty and the Director or Assistant Director of the Outdoor Program.

Following are examples of activities supported to date by the OEL fund. The examples are stated here to give those requesting support an idea of the range of potential uses. However, requests for other uses are welcome and will be considered.


Alternative spring break: resource management of the Karuk Tribe, northern California
Environmental studies regional: Natural history, energy, and pollution, Columbia River Gorge
Support for students, Global Warming Conference
Support for students, Northwest Climate Justice Summit
Environmental studies regional: rafting the Hanford Reach, Columbia River
Support for students, water quality sampling in Walla Walla Valley


Support for students, hiking in the Wallowa Mountains
Environmental studies regional: kayaking though Lower Granite Dam, Snake River
Whitman Direct Action: water conference in India
Support for students, Dream Reborn Conference
Support for students, Sierra Leone Conference


Environmental studies regional: John Muir weekend, Big Sink, Blue Mountains
Support for students: Bioneer Conference
ES Regional Studies: Patagonia and Aconcagua
Support for students: Environmental law Conference
ES Regional Studies: Virginia
Environmental studies regional: old growth forest, Hood Canal, Washington


Support for students, measuring the height of Palouse Falls
Whitman Direct Action: community carbon offset program
Environmental studies regional: Johnston Wilderness Campus and the Blue Mountains
Trail maintenance at Johnson Wilderness campus
ES Regional Studies: Kenya


A winter expedition into the Idaho wilderness
A spring expedition to SW Texas
A summer expedition to central Wyoming
Kayaking field trips for 2 courses (to the Walla Walla River delta)
About 15 students went to the Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, OR
Three students participated in an environmental writers' conference in Oregon's Wallowa Valley
About a dozen students were funded for summer environmental internships, mostlywithin 100 miles, but as far away as Boston and Seattle
Partial support for several students teaching about sustainable agriculture and eco-stoves in Guatemala
Scholarships for Scrambles, August 2011
An Outdoor Program trips coordinator position for a student in fall 2011
Funding for students to attend Outing Program related training courses(e.g. avalanche safety, Wilderness First Responder, whitewater rescue, kayak instructor certification, climbing instructor certification)