Granting New Possibilities

Sometimes you have to step outside your realm of comfort and challenge yourself to explore new ideas before you can secure a true sense of growth and direction in life. Rachel Shaffer, a senior chemistry major, came to this realization with the financial assistance and academic opportunities provided to her through the Reber-Offner Research Grant.

A Minute With...Chris Morton

By Catherine Amoriello ’17

It’s safe to say Lt. Col. Chris Morton, professor of military science, is one of the most well-traveled people on Ship’s campus. 

Having a father serving in the US Army, Morton got an early taste of military life as a self-proclaimed Army brat. He later graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2000. The Oklahoma native’s military career took him to places such as Alabama, Kentucky, Texas, Washington, DC, South Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In 2016, Morton settled down in Pennsylvania as the chair of the Military Science Department at Ship. 

What is your favorite part about working at Ship? 

I think my favorite part of the job is interacting with the students. ...I get the opportunity to sort of give back because you get all these opportunities and you just want to be able to give them back to someone else so that they will do a better job than you did. I think because of how important it is, the things we do, it’s really important for us to get it right. So, if I have a little bit of opportunity in my little corner of the world to influence a couple students who are going to be lieutenants to do better than I did, then that’s just a fantastic opportunity. 

What do you do in your free time?

I’m married with two kids, so I love hanging out with family. My kids do sports... my oldest does cross country, both of them swim, (and) they do track and field, so hanging out and doing stuff with the boys. I’m into country music. ...I like to hunt, so I’m in the right state, obviously. Although, I am a rabid Oklahoma Sooners football fan, so if the Sooners are on TV, that’s usually where I am, in front of the TV watching them.

If you could meet anyone, who would it be?

I think I would go meet Bobby Stoops. He just retired as the head football coach of the Sooners and I would just love to sit and talk with him about football. That would be really cool.

What was the last movie you saw in a movie theater?

The last movie I saw in a movie theater was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I was born in the year the first Star Wars came out, and my dad is a big sci-fi fan, so I’ve kind of always been a sci-fi (fan). I think Star Wars is best viewed in a movie theater. And my kids love it. They think it’s cool, so we took them to the movie.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

It seems like a lot of times these days people can’t just have a discussion without it turning into a really angry disagreement. It’s OK to have a talk about something. I’m like, “Man, did you really have to turn this into something bigger than it is?”

What’s your current favorite television series?

I started watching The Good Doctor. It’s pretty neat because I think it’s interesting to see how, on the one hand, he’s got some disabilities, but he’s really good at medicine, so he’s able to overcome those things because he’s so good at everything else. 

Can you speak a foreign language?

I speak a little bit of German. I’m not like Angela Merkel, but I can have a conversation about what we’re having for dinner and things like that. I lived there when I was a kid. My dad was stationed in Germany, so I guess I lived there for about three years. I took it there, obviously, and took it in high school and in college. I know enough to make my kids think I’m fluent.

Sheetz or Wawa?

Oh, Wawa for sure. I’ve had Sheetz sandwiches but (when we go to our ROTC headquarters in New Jersey) I will not eat until I get to Jersey so I can eat a Wawa hoagie. Gotta get the chicken salad with bacon.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

I would fly. (My son) claims that super speed is better than flying, and it’s not. It’s just not.

Where is the coolest place you’ve been?

Have you ever been to Disney World? You know the princess’ castle, right? Well that castle was modeled after a palace in southern Germany called Neuschwanstein. So, there’s actually a palace that the princess castle is modeled after, and it’s absolutely gorgeous in the Bavarian Alps. 

Catherine Amoriello ’17 is an intern for SU Magazine. 


Steep Adventures, Substantial Rewards

By Katie (Paxson) Hammaker ’93 

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2014 was a great adventure for Michelle Deller ’96, but the biggest thrill was knowing that her efforts would provide clean drinking water for nearby villages. 

That trip inspired Deller to develop Steep Adventures, a Lancaster-based company that organizes adventure challenge trips throughout the United States and around the world.

Deller is not a typical travel agent. Her trips combine adventure with the opportunity to raise money for various humanitarian organizations and projects. “I’ve always been an explorer by nature, always wanted to try new things. All of our participants have a love for adventure. But the idea of tying something good to it, that’s what gives the trip purpose.”

Deller and a group of twenty-four men and women raised $100,000 through the Kilimanjaro climb. The money was donated to Compassion International, which enabled the organization to build two wells and sanitation facilities in two villages in Tanzania. From that trip, she launched Steep Adventures in January 2017.

A sociology major at Ship, she previously worked as an administrative director for a start-up company. The job prepared her to start her own business.

Deller’s close connection to other Ship alumni also has helped grow her business. Deller was a member of the campus Christian Fellowship group. Several former members have provided encouragement and financial contributions toward her fundraising projects.

Steep Adventures’ pilot trip was a six-day, 334-mile bike ride from Washington, DC, to Pittsburgh in July 2016. The trip raised $2,200 for Humankind’s efforts to provide clean drinking water around the world. 

In October 2017, Deller took a group of nine adventurers from Lancaster-based Eastern Mennonite Missions to Peru, where they hiked for sixty-one miles around Ausangate Mountain. At 20,945 feet, it is the highest peak in that region of Peru. The hikers crossed four mountain passes of over 16,000 feet. A highlight of the trek came on day three, when the hikers reached the Rainbow Mountains. Its peaks are naturally covered in beautiful bands of color.

Several participants described the climb as one of the hardest things they had ever done. Altitude sickness and unpredictable weather made the trek even more challenging.

“We saw snow, sleet, hail, rain, sun, and clouds, sometimes all in one day.”

According to Deller, for most trekkers the best part of the trip came at the end when they visited PROMESA, the Peruvian school they had worked to support.

“When possible, I try to arrange interaction with the people who will benefit from the money raised. This creates a connection and makes the trip more personal,” she said. “The students were so grateful. They held an assembly to honor and thank us.” 

The adventurers raised $58,000 for PROMESA. The funds will help finance the construction of a new road and bridge to the rural, mountainside village where construction of the new, larger school will begin.

Steep Adventures treks range from mild to more challenging. A low challenge trip, according to Steep Adventures, could include hikes of up to six miles on rolling hills instead of mountains. A high challenge trip might include bike rides of up to seventy miles daily for multiple days, over mountains with elevations of up to 14,000 feet. Some adventures combine multiple sports, like kayaking and hiking.

Deller will customize challenges based on a client’s request. She’s up for just about anything. “Trekking a volcano in Guatemala, or biking the villages of Vietnam, I’m willing to try it.”

Due to the physically-challenging nature and potential risk, adventure trips are for adults only. Deller maintains an intense training regimen to keep physically prepared for trips, and highly encourages clients to do the same.

“It depends on the grade of challenge as to the physical training required,” she said. “For Peru, I suggested a twelve-week calendar of running, weights, swimming, and cardio activity such as hiking and biking.”

Once the trip and fundraising project are planned, both team and individual fundraising goals are set. Participants then raise the funds from friends, family, coworkers, and others.

Plans are underway for a return trip to Peru as well as trips to Chile and Nepal, each raising funds for a different cause.

“It is my hope that Steep Adventures will connect adventure and mission in a way that changes lives forever,” she said.

For more information, visit 

Katie (Paxson) Hammaker ’93 is the director of development and marketing for the Susquehanna Chorale and is a freelance writer based in Mechanicsburg.