Camas man earns national award for volunteer service
A local resident has received national recognition for his efforts to help make history more interesting for younger generations.
Brett Oppegaard, of Camas, accepted the George and Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, in Washington, D.C., in February. The award was presented to him by National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis.
Oppegaard received a crystal medallion, inscribed with the National Park Service logo. The award was presented in an engraved wooden box.
The National Parks Foundation paid for his travel expenses to the nation’s capital.
In October, Oppegaard won the volunteer award for the Pacific West Region, which included Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii. He was one of seven volunteers nationally to receive a regional award. The regional award winners were considered for the national Hartzog Award.
There are 257,000 National Park Service volunteers. The awards recognize the time, talent, innovation and work contributed to national parks through the Volunteers-In-Parks program.
Oppegaard, an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Washington State University Vancouver, is heading up a mobile storytelling project for the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. He has provided more than 5,000 hours of community service, developing and producing mobile applications for iPhone, iPad and Android for the site.
They are the first interactive applications of their kind in the 398-unit National Park System.
“I don’t participate in these kinds of projects for the accolades, but I also am very appreciative when prestigious organizations — such as the National Park Service and the Society for History in the Federal Government — notice all of the hard work and commend those efforts,” Oppegaard said Monday.
The Fort Vancouver mobile applications use geographic location technology in smart phones and tablets to engage with visitors on an interactive tour around the reconstructed buildings of the working class “Company Village” and other park grounds. Based on where the visitor is standing, the applications display interviews and costumed re-enactment videos, slides, maps and audio.
The various elements depict the historic significance of each location and living conditions in the mid-1800s, while asking for the visitor to submit responses, photographs and videos, in return.
Oppegaard’s contributions to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site are part of the research he conducts as a WSU Vancouver faculty member. Some of his digital technology and culture students work alongside him.
Oppegaard, 42, has received almost $70,000 for the project from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of a Digital Start-Up grant and a “We the People” initiative.
The latter program was designed to encourage and enhance the teaching, study and understanding of American history, culture and democratic principles.
“The grant money funded all aspects of app development, production, and delivery, including buying equipment, paying media producers and web developers, buying rights to images, etcetera,” he said.
Oppegaard received his bachelor’s degree in communication from WSU Pullman in 1993. He earned a master’s degree in communication from the University of Portland, in 1999, and a doctorate in technical communication and rhetoric, from Texas Tech University, in 2011.
Oppegaard was a staff writer at The Columbian, from 1994 to 2007.