FEBRUARY 20, 2009

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Student’s Love of Extreme Photography Benefits USAO Students

Photo of USAO student Mike Friend, extreme adventure photographer.
Mountains, rivers, jungles, a multitude of countries, and destinations in the United States including Mount Sopis (pictured), have been included in some of the adventures of USAO student Mike Friend. Friend is an extreme adventure photographer and a communication major at the college. He held a silent auction during his senior communication project. Proceeds from the sales benefitted the travel fund for the USAO Vocal Jazz Ensemble and the Communication Scholarship at USAO.

USAO communication major Mike Friend has lived out many people’s dream – to travel the world. When it came time for his senior communication project, he wanted to help other people live out their dream – a college education.

As his senior project, Friend exhibited his photos from throughout the world and sold many of them in a silent auction to benefit USAO students. He raised more than $700.

“I am excited to be able to give something back to the school that gave me something that is priceless – my education. This school has been patient with me and has helped me succeed in finishing my degree,” Friend said.

The silent auction was a part of Friend’s senior project A Memoir of World Travels held Oct. 6. All communication majors at USAO must present a senior project before graduating.

“Several local sponsors helped with the show’s expenses – printing, framing, supplies. With the expenses covered, we were able to donate 100 percent of the silent auction proceeds to the Foundation,” Friend said. The show featured 50 photos from Friend’s travels to remote areas around the world. One of the photos from the show was purchased by the USAO Art Gallery and added to the permanent collection. Three of Friend’s photos were featured in the Children’s Zoo Art Exhibit in 2008.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to visit The Bahamas, Belize, Mexico (almost every inch), Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica, Columbia (only by sea), The Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other small Caribbean Islands. My interests are primarily the ruins of the Maya, Inca and Aztecs from South America to the tribes of Utah and Mesa Verde.”

With all his travel experience, Friend has some simple advice for travelers. “While most advise not to get off the beaten path in foreign countries, some of my best experiences have come from doing just that. You need to explore -- don't vacation.”

When asked about why he chose USAO, Friend said “How dare you ask me why USAO – because this university is the best in the west – best in the universe! According to Mr. Meltzer, I am a college hopper and I should know a good college when I see one. I have four schools on my transcript.” Stuart Meltzer is a special adjunct in English and foreign language and is an emeriti faculty member at the college.

In addition to attending USAO, Friend is the assistant editor of The Express-Star newspaper and owner of Blue Tree Photography. Blue Tree specializes in photojournalism and extreme adventure photography. He holds insurance licenses in Oklahoma and Colorado.

“My ultimate dream would be to be featured in a major journal like National Geographic or have a column in Backpacker magazine.” Friend’s photos from the show are not on display, but he says that they will be at some point. “I have photos published in the Express-Star (of course) and I own a photography company based in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. With school, the company is on the back burner.”