Meet George Morris, Director of Research Computing


George Morris, Director of Research Computing at ITS

George Morris joined ITS as Director of Research Computing in January. Before arriving at Dartmouth, George was Chief Information Officer for Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum and Weld Hill Research Center. His role at Harvard included research computing as well as leadership responsibility for the division’s administrative and academic computing services. George has also held scientific informatics leadership positions at biotechs and pharmaceutical firms including Genetics Institute, Wyeth, Zycos, and Novartis. Throughout his career, he led initiatives to integrate computing systems with research and development lifecycles to help companies innovate, discover, and develop novel therapeutics.

We asked George a few questions about his background, his interests, and why he made the move to Dartmouth.


Why did the Director of Research Computing position appeal to you?

The primary appeal lies in the transformational nature of this role at Dartmouth. Secondly, it’s an opportunity to return to my passion for research. I join Dartmouth at a unique point in time where there is a vast appetite across all levels to leverage resources and talent in research computing. Higher education institutions across the globe are increasingly looking to research computing as a means to attract and retain faculty, drive student success, and compete for research grants. It is my view that success in this role will greatly enhance Dartmouth’s capabilities and standing. It is an immense challenge that I relish.

What would you like to accomplish in your first year as Director of Research Computing? 

I hope to accomplish many things, but my priority is to work collaboratively with Dartmouth’s faculty and IT community to build a common vision of high-performance computing. By doing so, we can leverage the vast amount of talent and resources already in place and simplify researchers’ usage.

[Ed. note: In order to solve large problems in science, engineering, or business, high-performance computing aggregates computing power in a way that delivers greater function than one could receive from a typical desktop computer or workstation.]

To remain competitive, Dartmouth must define a high-performance computing vision that meets today’s diversity in supply and demand. Our vision involves harnessing the power of the Discovery cluster and other high-performance computing resources available at Dartmouth; looking towards promising cloud-based opportunities; and working with our most important resource: people. We aim to expand a core team that will work with faculty and ITS to weave research computing technology into the fabric of teaching and research at Dartmouth.

What is the most surprising little-known fact about you? 

I’m a fairly mild mannered, low-key type of individual, but I have been an avid participant in amateur autocross and drift racing. This outlet permitted the “beast mode” in me to express itself. A squealing tire is a happy tire.

Where did you last go on vacation? 

This past summer, I spent two weeks in Europe with my daughter, Emily: one week in France, and another in England. My trip to France included fulfilling a lifelong desire to visit the Normandy beaches. It was a very memorable trip and perhaps a capstone vacation with Emily before she attends college.

Read any good books lately? 

Since I was headed to Europe for the summer, I most recently read D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Battle for the Normandy Beaches, by Stephen Ambrose. Since the summer, I’ve put a moratorium on recreational reading to focus on my transition to Dartmouth.

Are you using any new apps?

While not necessarily new, I have an increased appreciation for Waze, as I am commuting from my home in Salem as I transition to the greater Hanover area. It’s a terrific example of crowdsourced surveillance of traffic conditions.

Anything else you’d like us to know about you?

Before moving into the world of computing, I performed laboratory research in gene expression. My first job was working as a lab tech at MIT for Dr. Susumu Tonegawa who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. It was quite the experience for me at such an impressionable age.


Staff Profile: Ben Morgan, User Experience Designer/ Information Architect

By Elizabeth Kelsey, editor of Interface

Ben Morgan, User Experience Designer/Information Architect in ITS at Dartmouth.

Ben Morgan, User Experience Designer/Information Architect in ITS at Dartmouth.

Before Ben Morgan joined ITS Web Services in 2012 as a user experience designer/information architect, he worked as a more traditional architect—the type who designs buildings.

There was, after all, some correlation between the two fields: “My old boss at the architectural firm used to say we have to know a little about a lot,” Ben says. “Our role was to take the electrical engineer, the mechanical engineer, the contractor, and the client, and bring them all together to make everything work. And I think that’s pretty similar to building websites.”

According to Ben, the person in the “webmaster” role once managed all aspects of a web project. Things are now too complex for any one person to handle everything:  “So we convene experts in the various sub-fields in this space and try to get all of the pieces to fit together,” he says. “At a macro level, Web Services is doing a lot of that with external groups with the recent visual redesign and platform migration to Drupal, but our group works like this on a micro level too.  Each of us is better at one thing or another, and I rely on the expertise of those people to get my work done.”

In the role of information architect, Ben organizes a website’s components, determining, for example, which material belongs on a landing page versus a secondary or tertiary page. As a user experience designer, he makes sure the College’s systems are easy to navigate, whether users access systems from the inside, as content editors, or from the outside, as site visitors. Although he had WordPress experience before working at Dartmouth, Ben says he hadn’t previously given much thought to what happens to a website after handing it to a client:

“This job has opened my eyes to the concept that you can have a really great design, but it can be like giving a Ferrari to someone who doesn’t know how to drive: if they don’t have the tools to maintain it, then it’s kind of a moot point.” His role at Dartmouth was also his first exposure to the idea of a content management system, or CMS:

“Giving folks the ability to edit content in their own site via a WYSIWYG [what you see is what you get], without knowing any HTML, is a really big first step,” he says. “It gets people on the road and driving. There are the purely mechanical issues that must be supported after that—like how to create a new page, or edit an existing one.  That’s the easy stuff though.”

The more challenging bit is helping people drive well. A lot of that is done through training and support, but a CMS can also help people by design.  “Whereas Dartmouth’s legacy CMS, OmniUpdate, is fairly open ended, Drupal allows us to create a more structured environment,” Ben says. For example, Web Services can design a system that automatically formats imagery in the best way, or assigns proper header tags to text. These steps set site editors on the right path, leading to a more consistent look on all the College’s websites. That consistency leads to a better user experience.

Ben has always been interested in technology.  “I don’t know what term applies to me, whether it’s geek, dork, or nerd — a little bit of each, maybe.” In his job in the architecture firm, he kept the file server running and the software and hardware up to date. As a self-taught developer, he’s been making his own HTML sites since the late 90s.

He arrived at Dartmouth in 2012 when looking for a career change. For someone who had only known small architectural firms, the College was a switch. Suddenly, he’d gone from working in a small business with a maximum of 13 people to what seemed like a massive organization.

“There was this sense that you were part of something very big and important,” he says. “I just suddenly felt like I was part of this larger community. I’d go out and meet people to train them, and for the most part, everyone was really positive and supportive. There’s a sense that you’re all on the same team—you go out to work with staff and you feel that you’re all in it together.”

More about Ben:

Favorite app:Strava, a Facebook for athletes. You can post your GPS data for a run or ride.”

Hidden talent: “I can whistle pretty well.”





On the Fast Track to Discoveries: Dartmouth’s Science DMZ

Elizabeth Kelsey, editor of Interface

Adaptive evolution. Space weather patterns. Complex systems. Dartmouth researchers carry out important work in fields including biology, physics, and computer science. In such a fast-paced intellectual environment, scientists need information technology that can keep up with their research. Dartmouth’s new high-speed research network, the Science DMZ, will now quickly transfer the large files associated with the field.

Usually, when we think of a DMZ, a demilitarized zone, we see images in our mind’s eye of neutral territory between nations or military powers, free of weaponry. But in the case of a Science DMZ, we have a computer network free of the campus security tools that slow down data transfer. Dartmouth’s new network will have fast-data switches designed to move large data, and will be free of other campus traffic that congests the information highway.

In January 2014 faculty from Dartmouth’s Biological Sciences, Mathematics and Physics departments, as well as ITS staff, won a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to implement the new network at Dartmouth. The team included Professor of Biological Sciences Mark McPeek, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Dan Rockmore, Professor of Physics Mary Hudson, Director of Network Services Frank Archambeault, and Interim Director of Research Computing Susan Schwarz.

“The Science DMZ will allow Dartmouth to consolidate our high-performance computing assets onto one network to make computing more streamlined and efficient,” says McPeek, who serves as a principal investigator on the NSF grant. “It also opens up opportunities for building greater links between these assets and makes storage and computing more efficient on these machines.”

Instead of the different computing clusters and storage systems that currently act as silos on Dartmouth’s Enterprise Network (the main campus network to which Dartmouth’s laptops, desktops, and wireless networks are connected), the Science DMZ will be an entirely new network that consolidates all systems to operate at high speed. Based in the Berry machine room, the DMZ will run parallel to the main campus network to reach science buildings. Once there, new, faster network switches will reach research equipment, computers, and devices that collect and distribute scientists’ data.

A diagram shows high latency (slow links) versus Science DMZ pathways that are low latency (faster). Also depicted: the Science DMZ’s parallel position to the campus network.

A diagram shows high latency (slow links) versus Science DMZ pathways that are low latency (faster). Also depicted: the Science DMZ’s parallel position to the campus network.

Last April, ITS engineers began building the network’s core and data center switching infrastructure in the Berry Data Center, which will link to academic buildings. Network Services is currently installing a Data Transfer Node (DTN), whose purpose is to send and recover data from off campus, and is optimized for fast transfers.

Because of these changes, the Science DMZ will be able to route into campus without having to pass through packet inspection tools, which are used for security level inspection of data, but can slow down high-speed data transfers. “This becomes very critical when you’re trying to move terabytes of data in a short amount of time,” Archambeault says.  His team is working closely with the ITS Cyber Security group to provide the required high level of security while maintaining fast data transfer.

Assistant Professor Ming Meng uses the MRI machine in Moore to learn more about perception and facial recognition. An MRI  machine collects large amounts of data—making it a candidate for placement on Dartmouth’s high-speed research network.

Assistant Professor Ming Meng uses the MRI machine in Moore to learn more about perception and facial recognition. An MRI machine collects large amounts of data—making it a candidate for placement on Dartmouth’s high-speed research network.

In the next phase of the project, ITS Research Computing staff will contact faculty to determine who will need to use the Science DMZ.  Archambeault: “For example, in Psychology and Brain Sciences, there’s an MRI device that scans brain waves and collects large amounts of data—that’s a great candidate to be put on the high speed research network because scientists have to transfer that data, either to Discovery [a high-performance shared computing resource] to run application codes that analyze the data, or to a colleague at another university.”

According to McPeek, the faster-paced work being done on the Science DMZ will see broader impacts—at Dartmouth and beyond. “It should open up the opportunities for using these high performance clusters to a wider array of applications and users,” he says. And those include projects on clean energy, climate change, neuroscience, and ecology—areas where society needs solutions as fast as possible.

Collaboration in Action

What does a collaborative learning team look like?

Ashley Kehoe, an instructional designer in ITS, gives a first-hand account as a member of the Dartmouth Vietnam Project — a student-driven experiential learning program.

Read Ashley’s guest post, “Collaboration in Action,” on Inside Higher Ed’s Technology and Learning column. Josh Kim, director of digital learning initiatives at DCAL, is a frequent contributor to the column and had asked Ashley to write a guest post on the subject.

IT Services Headshots at Dartmouth College. Copyright 2014 Rob Strong

Ashley Kehoe, Instructional Designer, (Photo: Copyright 2014 Rob Strong)

The Vietnam Oral History Project team, including undergraduate student researchers, faculty from The Department of History, librarians/archivists, an instructional designer, a digital media specialist, a guest lecturer/oral history expert, and a local Army veteran. (Photo: Susan Simon)

The Vietnam Oral History Project team, including undergraduate student researchers, faculty from The Department of History, librarians/archivists, an instructional designer, a digital media specialist, a guest lecturer/oral history expert, and a local Army veteran. (Photo: Susan Simon)





A Return Trip to Holland is Different with a Tablet

By Elizabeth Kelsey, Editor of Interface

This column originally appeared in The Valley News on Sunday, October 19, 2014


When I returned to Holland after a 10-year absence, I realized how much technology complemented my connections with people.

I traveled to the Netherlands for vacation in July. I once lived there, and the trip was my first time back in 10 years.

As I boarded the plane to Amsterdam, I thought of how much I had changed since I last made this journey as a vagabond grad student. But another type of transformation dawned on me in flight as I binge-watched episodes of Girls on my iPad: Technology would make this trip different.

When I last lived in Holland, Gmail was Google’s newborn infant and the iPhone was probably a mere napkin sketch on Steve Jobs’ coffee table. Still, on this trip, I wasn’t keen on using any of the advances that have come since those days. Why fly all the way to Amsterdam to look down on a retina display and not up at the city’s gables?

I limited Internet use to the evenings, when I contacted my husband Maroun on FaceTime to say good-night (good afternoon, for him, in New Hampshire). In the U.S., I’d used the service to chat with out-of-state family, but I always reverted back to regular phone calls. But intercontinental use proved a revelation as I connected with my husband from my cousins’ home in the village of Wassenaar.

Maroun had never met the Dutch side of my family, and I introduced them all one evening as my cousins and I mingled in the kitchen after dinner. My husband laughed when he noticed that the television in the background was tuned to the World Cup semifinal, the orange-clad national team darting across our screen and his. And he was surprised at how light it still was at 10 p.m. in the Netherlands, something that struck me too the first time I visited there. On his end, our cat Stella, hearing my voice, approached his iPod. She butted up against the device and I could hear her purr.

After I said goodnight to my husband and cat, I signed on to Facebook briefly, just to reassure myself that my community back in New England hadn’t changed in the three days since I’d left. Indeed, judging from their photos, friends still went to farmers markets, baked pies and took vacations. Even the Fourth of July was celebrated without me.

One afternoon I visited a couple of friends in The Hague. Over wine and apple tart, I described my home in America. The mountains I had hiked. The college where I worked.

“Show us,” they said, and handed me an iPad.

On Google Maps I hovered over New Hampshire.

“It’s all forest!” they said.

I zoomed in closer, to my office building, to the track where my running club trains, to my house, where my husband’s car was parked in the drive. I felt an unexpected pang of homesickness as a Dutch drizzle tapped against the windowpane.

But I would be going home soon enough. In the meantime, I had another social call. And unlike my serendipitous brushes with FaceTime and Google Maps, this was one technological encounter I had planned for.

My grandmother, who died over 30 years ago, had preserved several photo albums from her youth, which chronicled her time with our European family. In the years preceding World War II, she and her Dutch first cousin, Betty, took turns visiting each other, either at my grandmother’s childhood home in Trumbull, Conn., or in Wassenaar, where Betty, 91, still lives.

Before I left for my trip, my father scanned hundreds of my grandmother’s photos and placed them in a shared DropBox folder on the Web. On one of my last evenings in Holland, Betty, her son and I sat in her library, huddled around my iPad. As I uploaded photos, it crossed my mind that we looked like a multigenerational Apple ad. The images displayed beautifully: vibrant, even in black and white. Betty’s eyesight was poor, but I enlarged photos with my fingertips on the screen.


I show family photos to Betty on the iPad.

We scrolled through photographs of my grandmother. My great grandmother. A great aunt. A neighbor, once forgotten, but now remembered. Like a magician, I conjured the past with a wave of my hand. Cousin Betty marveled at photos of herself she had never seen; at images, too, of those long dead, now resurrected.


My grandmother, left, with her cousin Betty, circa 1930

“Mijn schat (my dear),” she said, resting her hand on the tablet. “How did you fit so many pictures into one book?”

Later, on FaceTime, I recapped the evening for my husband.

“She really liked the albums,” I said.

At that point, my cat approached at the sound of my voice. I called Stella’s name and she purred back. Instinctively, I reached out to pet her, but my fingertips fell against a hard flat screen. It wasn’t time for that kind of iPod touch. But maybe it would happen. In another 10 years.

Student Voices: eTextbooks on the Horizon

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Stacy Lee ’17

By Stacy Lee ’17

Writing for the exchange of thought, information, and knowledge has over 6000 years of history: Various characters and texts had been carved into mud bricks and animal bones and carried onto papyrus, then paper. And with the invention of printing, a myriad of published human thought became available to everyone. Now, the eBook has joined the list and is on its way to topping paper books in usage.

EBooks—digitized reading materials that can be downloaded to computers and portable devices—eliminate certain disadvantages of paper books. EBooks may be saving trees and also that trip around the block to the nearest bookstore, but what exactly may we be losing in exchange?

Looking around our own campus, not many classes are taught with eBooks, nor are many students aware that the exact textbooks they’re using in class are actually available to them in digital form. I have some avid-reader friends who claim to have “converted” to Kindles or Nooks—not for academic purposes, but for their own leisure reading. I myself am a Nook-convert because I’m attracted to its portability. My reading habits quickly diminished in college, since so much of my life began to take place outside my room. But the Nook’s portability was the right fix: I found it so much more convenient to have on hand when I arrived to class ten minutes too early, for example. It was easier to bring with me to the gym, as well, since I didn’t have to hold down the corners of a book while spinning on the elliptical. And the text-size control was just one more benefit to the bundle.

But apart from personal reading, I want to examine the plausibility of eBooks’ prevalence over textbooks in the Dartmouth classroom. The first advantage is convenience. The first week of a Dartmouth quarter always involves a hustle for grabbing books at Wheelock Books before everyone else in your class. If, by chance, Wheelock runs out of the required texts—which, most of the time, it does—you are stuck on the wait-list or paying shipping fees for used books of unknown quality, while the profs carry on with the material regardless. With eBooks, though, you can  easily buy a textbook anywhere within minutes. You can create a virtual library of 3000 to 4000 books without killing a single tree; you can even lend books in your virtual library to others. No more frustration in trying to sell old editions of a textbook for a fraction of its price.

With eBooks, buying textbooks could become much more affordable since many books that cost over a hundred dollars are $14.99 and under in Apple’s iBooks application. The pay-per-chapter and pay-per-page models allow professors to select excerpts from various materials to address their course topic. I believe this feature is especially useful in humanities classes, where exposure to many different texts are vital to a well-rounded, unbiased understanding of topics.

For all those students who aspire to be authors, eBooks present a faster path to publication by eliminating the publishing company. Writers can decide to only publish their work digitally and with comparably little cost. Software such as Kindle Direct Publish and iBooks Author allow new authors to debut their work relatively easily.

Although the benefits of eBooks keep growing, there are aspects of paper books that aren’t yet flawlessly emulated in digital form. There is a certain appeal to holding a tangible paper book in one’s hand that sometimes affects how one feels about the content of the book. Like all things outmoded by technology, paper books carry a particular charm that black and white e-Ink readers cannot imitate. The colorful covers, the feel of the paper, and the ability to highlight text and write in the margins are all part of the experience. I know an eBook definitely could not have replaced my art history course textbook from last term, which had big, colored pictures of paintings at every turn of the page.

Still, the advantages of eBooks outweigh their shortcomings. In no way does a paper book’s analog beauty compare to the cost they do to the environment. With more than seven hundred million eBooks being sold on iTunes U alone, it seems only a matter of time before digital texts make their way into university classrooms. As more and more analogue books become outmoded in the future, I am probably still going to miss sitting in a corner, carefully turning pages so as not to bend the spines of novels amid the smell of paper. More so, receiving a textbook from an upperclassmen and finding highlighted, scribbled remnants of their previous work would also become a melancholic thing of the past.

Editor’s note: The verdict is still out on whether eBooks are environmentally superior to their paper counterparts. Several factors must be taken into consideration, such as the materials used to construct an eBook, whether a paper book is purchased locally or shipped, and even what time of day you read your eBook or paper book. One 2010 study by The New York Times concludes: “With respect to fossil fuels, water use and mineral consumption, the impact of one e-reader payback equals roughly 40 to 50 books. When it comes to global warming, though, it’s 100 books; with human health consequences, it’s somewhere in between.”

Read more:

Should I stop buying paper books and use an e-reader instead? The Guardian, January 2013

Five Reasons why eBooks Aren’t There Yet Wired, June 2011

Are e-readers greener than books? The New York Times, August 2009



Want to stay safe online? Go green!

When you visit a Dartmouth website that requires your Dartmouth username and password, you should look for a GREEN URL. If it’s NOT Dartmouth green, don’t proceed.

Any Dartmouth website that requests login info should have the GREEN bar. This  includes sites protected by WebAuth ( such as Banner, Canvas, Kronos, and Library Services) and Blitz Web, Calendar, and OneDrive.

We’ve recently added these green extended digital certificates to our websites to help you avoid being phished.

Here’s a glimpse at how the extended digital certificates appear in different browsers:




Internet Explorer





October: National Cyber Security Awareness Month

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Elizabeth Kelsey

With the start of a new term, security engineer Adam Goldstein sees students attempting to download free eBooks to avoid paying for textbooks. But the texts come with a hidden cost: “These books have malware Trojans,” Goldstein says. “By downloading them, students introduce harmful software that can delete files and steal data.” In addition, Goldstein has noted a significant uptick in copyright violations online—also fairly routine for this time of the year. “We caution students not to illegally download material because they’re subjecting themselves to lawsuits from media companies,” he says.

Ebook malware and copyright violations are just two of many security issues Dartmouth’s Cyber Security Team confronts on a daily basis, which is why the College is taking part in National Cyber Security Awareness Month. The U.S. Federal Government designated October as a time to reach out to the general community about various safeguards to protect privacy and personal data.

“It’s important for everyone to do what they can to protect themselves, and we hope to help them by giving them some tips on ways to conduct themselves online safely,” says Chief Information Security Officer Steve Nyman. According to Nyman, one of the most common threats at Dartmouth is phishing, a type of attack in which users receive an email link to a legitimate-looking site, click on the link, and enter sensitive information into a malicious website.


Steve Nyman, Chief Information Security Officer

“No one is immune from it,” Nyman says. “Bad guys and spammers are out to take advantage of any resource and any information they can get their hands on. People find phishing emails popping up in their mailboxes and they need to be aware and delete those messages.”

Staying safe online is important at an institutional level, as well. Nyman and his team protect Dartmouth’s broader IT infrastructure to prevent economic espionage and attempts to steal university research.

“We had a system that was developed and maintained by a graduate student and a faculty member, which was not adequately designed and therefore was subjected to a routine type of attack,” Nyman says. If the College’s IT professionals had managed the system, the breach would have been easily prevented. Nyman: “Individuals who are going to set up systems need to reach out and get professional IT assistance in making sure those systems are secure.”

Cyber criminals also target higher-ed resources, such as library subscription services. According to Nyman, hackers have already infiltrated such systems at several universities. Once inside, thieves use subscriptions without charge and violate an institution’s licensing agreement to the point where vendors threaten to shut off a university’s access. Dartmouth’s Identity and Access Management project has deployed Knowledge Based Authentication (KBA), a series of security question challenges, to thwart the use of these hijacked accounts.

ITS offers several security tips online. In the coming weeks, we’ll post more information about cyber security attacks and how to combat them. In the meantime, Nyman says: “Be careful what you click on.”

See also, in Dartmouth Now:

Network Security:  ‘The Barriers to Entry Are Very Low,’ July 2014, by Joseph Blumberg

Dartmouth Researcher Tackles Ubiquitous Internet Insecurity, March 5, 2014, by Joseph Blumberg

Defending Dartmouth Against Cyber Crime, Nov. 12, 2013, by Joseph Blumberg

Dartmouth-Led Team Receives NSF Health Care Cybersecurity Grant, August 2013, by Joseph Blumberg

Dartmouth Conference Features Experts on Cybersecurity, July 11, 2013, by Keith Chapman






Connecting through First-year Trips

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Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips gather in front of Robinson Hall. (Photo: Eli Burakian ’00)

Elizabeth Kelsey

Earlier this month, the Dartmouth Outing Club wrapped up its First-year Trips prior to the start of the academic term.

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Trippees experience their first visit to Moosilauke. (Photo: Eli Burakian ’00)

The excursions, a tradition dating back to 1935, welcome new Dartmouth students by taking them on adventures in the wilderness that surrounds the College. “Trippees” choose from different journeys that include hiking, canoeing, and horseback riding. All trips last five days and conclude with a night at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.

Although Trips are a Dartmouth tradition dating back to 1935, some things are bound to change over the years. According to the program’s Director Gerben Scherpbier ’14, he and fellow organizers take advantage of modern technology while also restricting its use.

“In order to facilitate bonding between students, we actually take all of the trippees’ cell phones on their first night and store them until they get back to campus,” Scherpbier says. “We think this helps students focus on the beautiful environment surrounding them and the other people in their group.”


Spencer Lambdin  ’18 (back row, far left) with fellow trippees during their five-day canoe trip in September 2014 (Photo: Spencer Lambdin)

Peter Skow ’18, from London, who went on a climb and hike trip says, “I didn’t miss my phone at all. Being away from it was calming.  I didn’t notice anyone in my group having a serious reaction to the disconnect, which was a pleasant surprise.”

Spencer Lambdin ’18, from New Canaan, Connecticut says he was glad devices were collected before he and his group set off in their canoes.

“In high school I went on a few mission trips with my church where they instituted the same policy,” he says. “Eliminating the distraction of a cell phone made it easier to get to know everyone on my trip and on the other trips in my section.”



“Not having our phone definitely made the outdoors experience a little more real. We were still able to have a camera if we wanted to take photos or anything like that, but being without our phones let us really enjoy the outdoors.” —Spencer Lambdin ’18 (Photo: Spencer Lambin)

Lambdin adds the absence of his cell phone made the social experience more focused:

“While anyone could be tempted to text their friends at home if we had our phones, having them taken away made us talk to each other and be fully present in each conversation and interaction we had. At the same time, not having our phones definitely made the outdoors experience a little more real. [Lambin says his favorite part of the journey was jumping into the river with his mates]. We were still able to have a camera if we wanted to take photos or anything like that, but being without our phones let us really enjoy the outdoors.”

One area of DOC trips that has improved significantly, according to Scherpbier, concerns safety. Trip leaders once relied solely on satellite phones to communicate with trips in the Second College Grant but now can also use Skype or Google chat to stay in touch with these groups.

Cell providers increasingly cover trip routes, and leaders record all safety information in an online database: when an incident occurs Vox Croo (a DOC group that provides medical attention to injured or sick trips participants) can view trip updates and documents from Hanover. “If a student is allergic to bee stings for example, all of our safety personnel can view that information without having to pass out paper copies,” Scherpbier says.

One of the technology’s biggest improvements has been in logistics, says Scherpbier. While trips are underway, he uses a GPS tracking system to locate buses throughout the day, which helps leaders make sure everything is running on schedule and enables them to alert others of delays. Organizers perform all registration and pre-Trips communication through email and an online database. As recently as 2012, the DOC still relied on snail mail to get some information from incoming students. Previous directors would need to scan hundreds of pages of registration information.

“I am so thankful for that change!” Scherpbier says.

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