It’s the fall of the year when three things always flourish in fine fettle: students’ return to school, wondrous outdoor activities and football. The Michigan Outdoor Writers Association (MOWA) steers clear of the pigskin and the sidelines, but its new program is helping to bring the other two together in a special and meaningful way.

MOWA is the state-level professional group for men and women who communicate about the outdoors and related experiences: writers, photographers, videographers, bloggers, broadcasters and artists. They cover everything from hunting and fishing stories to natural resource issues, from outdoor cooking to boating and travel. Part of MOWA’s long-standing mission since it began 74 years ago has been to undertake a “campaign of educating people to the urgent need for conservation of our wildlife and our natural resources,” and this new program puts its money where its mouth is.

But it’s not MOWA’s money, exactly.

Thanks to a grant from Toyota Motor North America, MOWA is able to offer college students the MOWA/Toyota “Let’s Go Places” Scholarship, worth $3,000 in 2019. “So much is fresh and new about this scholarship that it’s difficult to hold back on the excitement,” says MOWA President Jeff Nedwick.

In the first place, the scholarship is aimed at a specific clientele. Toyota expressed a desire to help MOWA encourage and give a financial boost to young people who want to communicate about nature and the outdoors as at least a part of their eventual career paths. A positive byproduct of such efforts is they also familiarize young people with MOWA and help grease the skids for them to eventually become eligible to join the group.

Additionally, the clientele comprises Michigan residents who have achieved junior, senior or graduate student status at any four-year institution. So there’s $3K available to any Michigan upperclassman at any university in the country who envisions communicating the outdoors experience in some professional manner.

Nedwick continues, “The scholarship represents a crowning moment for a program we’ve wanted to offer to the public for several years. As a small, private, non-profit group, we simply have not been able to raise the funds to offer Michigan college students this level of opportunity that we had always hoped to provide. Thankfully, Toyota stepped in to underwrite the program, so all we have to do is to find a deserving student and hand out the cash!”

And that’s not the half of it.

Though it’s called a “scholarship,” the money does not have to be used for tuition, books or anything academically related. It may be used for formal schooling expenses, but it doesn’t have to be. The presumptive theory working at the core of the scholarship is that it will provide “seed money” to a student striving to achieve the “next level” as a professional outdoor communicator.

That next step can come in the form of the acquisition of new writing or photography equipment; covering the costs of taking workshops or seminars in topics as varied as self-publishing, identifying water plants or starting a podcast, for example; travel for story-gathering activities; or helping to pay for actually self-publishing that book.

And what follows is probably the freshest idea involved in the entire scholarship application/awarding process.

How often do we see scholarships being awarded on the basis of an essay all applicants must write? How fair is that to the student who is scholarship-worthy but not a good essay writer? How much more uneven the playing field for someone applying for a scholarship as a communicator who isn’t interested or talented in communicating through the written word?

What’s special about the MOWA/Toyota scholarship is applicants are asked to communicate in the format and genre they want to pursue. So … an essayist might include an essay or part of a proposed book chapter; a videographer, a brief video; a photographer, a small gallery of images. In other words, student applicants are free to explore and display their strengths when they apply. Such a treatment of applications means the scholarship committee will have samples from several young people to share with publishers or producers who just might be looking for someone to do some work for them. Thus, in a way, the application can also serve as a mini-portfolio, if you will.

That part of the process as well as every other aspect of the scholarship program leads Nedwick to conclude, “We hope this announcement brings as much excitement and hope to potential scholarship applicants and their families as it does to us.”

For application instructions, please see the accompanying sidebar. If you have any questions about the scholarship or the application process, please feel free to write me at

2019 Michigan Outdoor Writers Association/Toyota

“Let’s Go Places” Scholarship Application Process


1. Submit a letter of application that includes:

• Name, address, phone number, email address

• College/university attending, major and minor

• Primary career goal plus outdoor communication goal if different

• Favorite area/topic to explore when communicating the outdoors

• Preferred mode of expressing the outdoors experience (writing, video, photography, etc.)

• How you envision using the money if you win

2. Sample of your preferred mode of expression on one angle of your preferred topic of exploration – cover the topic as deeply as you can while staying within maximum lengths

• Written (news story, essay, sample book chapter, scientific writing) – 800 words, maximum

• Photography (photo essay or “gallery” on one topic/subject) – 10 photos maximum

• Video or podcast (audio or video “essay,” news report, news feature) – 5 minutes maximum

3. Writing or photo samples may be sent as a PDF attachment with the application letter

4. Videos or podcasts: Please provide links, clearly marked as such and included in the application letter. Please provide a specific public URL link (YouTube, Vimeo, your website, etc.). The URL must not require members of the committee to open an account or subscribe to any kind of service to view or listen to the sample being submitted.

5. Submissions that exceed the stated maximum will be discarded

6. The decision of the judges is final.

7. Submit the application packet to Drew YoungeDyke, Chair, MOWA/Toyota Scholarship,

8. Application packet must be received by March 31, 2019