Summer Opportunities: Off the Beaten Path Washington and Lee students blazed their own trails this summer to pursue their passions.
“No matter what my future shapes up to be, the lessons I’ve learned will change how I see and interact with the world.”
~ Jess Kishbaugh ’24
As summer winds down and the campus welcomes students into the 2022-2023 academic year, our ‘Summer Opportunities’ feature series explores the valuable experiences our incredible students participated in this summer. From at home to abroad, W&L provides a wide scope of possibilities for work experience, community engagement, research and adventure during the summer months.
This final installment of our series features students who chose to hit the open road this summer to pursue passion projects. Ned Newton ’24 and Jak Krouse ’24 were seasoned adventurers by the time they applied for a Johnson Opportunity Grant to make a film about traveling the TransAmerica Trail, a 4,253-mile recreational pathway across the United States that uses a minimum number of paved roads and is designed to be traveled by off-road vehicles or bicycles.
The Johnson Opportunity Grant program provides funds to support W&L student projects across the country and around the world. The grants are awarded on a competitive basis and are open to rising sophomores, rising juniors and rising seniors. The grants cover travel, living expenses and other costs associated with the proposed project or summer activity.
Along with classmates Teddy Jacobsen ’24 and Chris Torre ’24, Newton and Krause embarked upon a three-week journey in July that taught the group valuable lessons on scriptwriting, film production, teamwork and project management.
The group traveled through several national parks while following the trail, camping in many locations on the way and hiking to remote vistas to get footage. The four friends co-wrote the narrative for the script, which was inspired by their classroom discussions in English and religion courses at Washington and Lee.
“That’s part of the richness of a liberal arts education,” Newton said. “You can be, say, a business administration major, but still be able to tell creative stories and gain experience with different kinds of writing.”
Jess Kishbaugh ’24 also spent her summer in the great wide open through the Johnson Opportunity Grant program. Her project was a month-long photography road trip across the U.S. following the route used by influential Swiss photographer Robert Frank during the creation of his seminal work “The Americans.” The 1958 book earned Frank comparisons to a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville for his fresh and nuanced outsider’s view of American society.
“When I discovered ‘The Americans’ in my first year, I knew I wanted to do what Frank did,” Kishbaugh said.
She worked extensively with the Johnson Program to fine tune her grant application, and credits university photographer Kevin Remington with offering valuable advice and guidance on technique as she photographed her way across the country. She invited a friend, Elena Lee ’25, along on the journey.
“I love that I have this opportunity to not only spend time with one of my closest friends, but to also really push the limits of my comfort zone,” Lee said. “I’ve expanded my own style of shooting photos and playing with black and white shots.”
The two chronicled their collaboration through social media and a blog Kishbaugh created for the project. She said the experience is one she will always carry with her.
“I don’t know what my future is going to look like, but I know this experience taught me a lot about independence, collaboration and how to drive in cities,” Kishbaugh said. “No matter what my future shapes up to be, the lessons I’ve learned will change how I see and interact with the world.”
Caroline Wise ’23, who spent her summer as an alpine guide, echoed Kishbaugh’s sentiment. Wise, a politics and environmental studies double major, has spent the last two summers guiding for St. Elias Alpine Guides in McCarthy, Alaska. She was looking for summer jobs involving the outdoors, and she found the initial opportunity with this guiding company online.
“While I am not sure where guiding in the outdoors fits into my future plans, I know that I am learning how to be a team player and add value to a company,” Wise said, “which will benefit me with any career path I choose.”
Read more coverage of W&L students’ summer opportunities here.
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