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An Expedition for Sight

Iqaluit, Canada, is an unlikely spring break destination for a group of MBAs. It's cold, it's windy, the landscape is monotonous, and there isn't a corporate recruiter within a thousand-mile radius. Nonetheless, it's where Alan Lock and Andrew Jensen, both Berkeley MBAs, and Richard Smith, a Dartmouth MBA, found themselves for a week and a half at the end of March.

While on the trip, the men spent five days on their own, traversing the Arctic Circle on skis, each pulling 130-pound sleds full of supplies behind them. They traveled about 10 miles a day, sleeping in frozen tents and cooking on portable stoves. It was primitive and exhausting, but it was necessary training for the challenge they will be undertaking later this year.

Lock, Jensen, and Smith make up the core team of Polar Vision, a 501(c)3 nonprofit they founded to raise awareness for visual impairment, as well as funds for two sight charities, Guide Dogs for the Blind and Sightsavers International. In late November, they will fly to Chile and embark on a two-month expedition to the South Pole.

It's an odd adventure for the newly minted MBAs, but it's very important to the group, especially Lock, who suffers from an eye condition called macular degeneration. "When I was diagnosed, the most beneficial experience I had was hearing from people who had overcome hurdles," Lock says. "The trek was a way to show that, despite the issues with my eyesight, I can take on significant challenges and raise awareness at the same time."

Because of family and job commitments, the team figured the months immediately following B-school would probably be the only time they would have the flexibility to take on such an adventure. "It was now or never," Lock says.

In preparation for the journey, they have been required to call on many of the principles they learned while in business school: marketing, entrepreneurship, logistics, and teamwork, to name a few. They've incorporated the business, raised money, and marketed their company to potential investors. "I like to call it an entrepreneurial nonprofit media startup," Jensen says.

And, like any startup, success is far from given. "You pour in an horrendous amount of time and effort," Lock says, "and there's no guarantee of a certain result."

Story continues on next page.

The Polar Vision team, from right to left: Andrew Jensen, Alan Lock, and Richard Smith, with Garrick Hileman

Photo courtesy of Polar Vision

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