National Geographic On Campus Initiative Unleashes Spirit of Exploration Among College Students

National Geographic Explorers traveled to Miami, Florida, on Nov. 9 and 10 to speak at the inaugural National Geographic On Campus event held in partnership with the University of Miami (UM). On Friday, more than 500 students filled UM’s Shalala Center for the “World Without Borders” Science and Storytelling Symposium, a daylong event consisting of inspiring talks and compelling panels.

Michael L. Ulica, chief financial officer and chief operations officer of the National Geographic Society, started the day with an exciting announcement that the Society is offering three $5,000 scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at UM who are pursuing degrees in fields related to science, storytelling and education. These disciplines are the foundation of the Society, which is proud to support those selected in their endeavor to further their education and develop solutions to critical issues facing our planet.

Following the announcement, National Geographic photographers, scientists, storytellers and educators took the stage along with UM scholars and local thought leaders to help students realize the immense impact they could have on the world. The program comprised four panels and two keynotes. The first keynote was delivered by National Geographic Explorer Anand Varma, a science photographer who beautifully captures the stories behind primate behavior, hummingbird biomechanics, amphibian disease and forest ecology. That was followed by three dynamic panels that addressed challenges facing our planet, from issues that hit close to home, such as the rapid transformation of the state of Florida, to issues with global impact, such as wildlife and human migration.

National Geographic Explorer and UM alumna Mireya Mayor, affectionately referred to as the “female Indiana Jones,” then delivered a keynote on her life-changing expedition to Madagascar where she inspired the Madagascan prime minister to establish a national park to help protect a species of mouse lemur. The last panel left students with one final message to take home — that photography and storytelling are immensely powerful mediums that can inspire social movements and positive change. UM President Julio Frenk took the stage for closing remarks and invited students to continue the conversation at the Explorer Meet and Greet, during which they were given the opportunity to network with the speakers.

The exclusive access didn’t stop there. The following day, there were National Geographic Explorer-led, hands-on workshops where students gained real-world skills in photography, journalism, conservation, storytelling and more. Students registered to attend one of the 11 half- and full-day workshops. Among the opportunities on offer were learning the process of constructing multiple-exposure portraitsto create layered storytelling with photographer Daniella Zalcman; walking knee-deep in the Everglades with Explorer Carlton Ward Jr., learning about camera trap systems used to capture images of the endangered Florida panther; and becoming a visual storyteller like Explorers Neil Losin and Jenny Adler, who taught students how to reach the right audience with the right message at the right time to create real change.

The On Campus initiative gives college-aged students the chance to connect with National Geographic in an interactive, accessible and authentic way. These students are future innovative changemakers who are entering the professional world with open minds and fresh perspectives. If we can instill in them a spirit of exploration and a commitment to protecting our planet, the possibilities of a better tomorrow are endless!

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