Thursday, November 11, 2010

Conferences, Hair, and Teaching

There was no doubt in my mind they’d be sitting by me. The moment they entered the plane I knew it was destiny. Even from the distant vantage point of my seat in unlucky row thirteen it was obvious I would be seated by yet another set of eccentric travelers.

Aisle seating on airline flights always seems to yield unusual travel companions. Some of you may remember my encounter with the vomit puppet and a quarrelsome married couple on a flight out of Ohio. Others may also be familiar with my encounter with Nestor the Argentine Ninja (a story for another blog) en route to Buenos Aires.

Today I am pleased to introduce yet another entertaining inflight experience as I traveled home after my recent trip to Columbia University in New York. It was likely the pink hair that caught the attention of passengers as my two travel companions walked down the aisle and took their seats next to me complete with matching pink wardrobes. I did my best to hold in laughter as they raised their arms high in the air and screamed roller coaster-style as our plane took off.

Setting all things pink aside for a moment, I return to my recent trip to Columbia University to represent Uncharted at the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s national journalism conference.

Every six months, students and advisers from various publications gather on campus to learn from each other and the many qualified instructors who come from around the country to serve at the conference. These instructors come from a variety of disciplines, teaching anything from reporting to photography, to design and leadership. And they all do it for free, donating their time, money, and resources to make the event a success.

This time, Uncharted participated by teaching on the Power of the Huddle, a leadership and organizational session designed to help students and advisers faced with low funding to work effectively as teams and save time, money and resources.

Uncharted is made up of many professionals and students from a variety of career paths and employers who have benefited personally from similar organizations such as CSPA. We are committed to any opportunity to help students as they prepare for their careers, just as others have done for us. It’s a cause worthy of attention and we are honored to participate.

So speaking of causes, you may have noticed a lot of pink around lately, usually in the form of ribbons displayed on clothing, a tactful but sobering reminder that there are well over 200,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year in the United States alone.

And, of course, hair salons have joined the fight as well, sending out armies of pink-haired patrons to support the fight. So while my two roller coaster-riding pink-haired aviation marvels provided an unexpected diversion near the end of a long trip, it should be noted that their efforts reached beyond entertainment and reminded this weary traveler that it’s important now and again to take up a good cause.

Alan Murray is Executive Director of Uncharted
He likes snowshoes and seahorses, traveling,

taking photos and getting away from home.

You can contact him at

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thanks, Aunt Betty

When I was a kid, my Aunt Betty Saltzgiver of Salt Lake City, who knew people who knew people who worked for Morton-Thiokol, the Utah contractor that built the solid rocket boosters and main fuel tank for the United States' space shuttles, had them send me a bunch of photos of the shuttle, the rockets, and just about everything to do with the shuttle, including a little patch I had Mom sew onto my jacket.

I literally wore those photos out looking at them, poring over every detail, wondering what it would be like to be one of those astronauts flying up into space in that magnificent black-and-white bird.

One thing led to another, as life often does. I went on to a career in small-town journalism, followed by another career as a technical writer at a nuclear waste dump. But space always remained that final frontier.

Now Joseph Burkhead, Uncharted's resident pilot, has taken me on a voyage to a shuttle launch -- one of the few remaining launches before what's left of the fleet is retired in 2012. Thanks, Joe. Read his story here.

And thanks, Aunt Betty. I've still got those photos somewhere.