New Polar Expedition Scholarship for People of Color

PolarExplorers is seeking applicants for its newly minted Matthew Henson expedition scholarship for people of color. The U.S.-based expeditionary organization targets applicants that aspire to become polar guides or outdoor leaders.

“There is a massive lack of diversity and equity in the outdoor industry. This is particularly true in the high-adventure/expedition corner of the industry,” said PolarExplorers director Annie Aggens.

Matthew Henson’s legacy for people of color

Matthew Henson and four Inuit explorers near the North Pole, c. 1906. Photo: Creative Commons

Matthew Henson and four Inuit explorers, circa 1906. Photo: Creative Commons


The Matthew Henson Scholarship is named after the Black polar explorer who lived from 1866-1955. With the scholarship, the PolarExplorer’s committee aims to provide people of color with the confidence and preparedness necessary to flourish as cold-weather expedition leaders.

“Henson…embodied the traits and characteristics that define the world’s most successful adventurers…With his wide-ranging knowledge and passion for learning, he developed a vast skill set that led to the success of many expeditions,” said the PolarExplorers committee.

“Because he was African American, he did not receive the recognition he was due until well after he died. His legacy lives on in the countless people who have been inspired by his life.”

Polar expedition scholarship information

Two successful bidders will receive the Matthew Henson Scholarship, which fully subsidizes PolarExplorers’ Polar Shakedown Training. Held in northern Minnesota in early February 2022 (exact dates TBD), the Polar Shakedown Training seminar provides one-on-one, hands-on expedition training by polar guides. The scholarship will cover the core costs of the course, including the following:

  • Guides and permits
  • Group equipment
  • Ski systems
  • Sleeping system
  • Sleds
  • Communication and safety equipment
  • Lodging and meals

All people of color with aspirations to work in polar expedition are encouraged to apply. Qualified applicants will come to the program with the following:

  • Prior experience in backcountry camping
  • Physical fitness to endure long and laborious days
  • Keen interest in the training program’s “steep learning curve”

PolarExplorers does not provide travel to and from Polar Shakedown Training. Recipients must provide apparel and personal equipment for the seminar, but the organizers will assist participants in sourcing some of the required equipment when necessary. It requires both scholarship recipients to complete additional paperwork and provide proof of COVID vaccination before official enrollment in the training program.

Applications are due December 1, 2021, and scholarship winners will receive notification by December 15, 2021.

Learn more and apply for the Matthew Henson scholarship at