With their new degrees in hand, three Tufts students will hit the road next month, traveling down the east coast while making documentary films for the PBS show Roadtrip Nation.

Mike Stone and Sebastian Chaskel, both Tisch Citizenship and Public Service Scholars, and Linda Schultz will embark on what RTN—Roadtrip Nation—calls the journey.

“We’re looking forward to traveling and meeting with people who are successful – people who have createdRoadTripNation their own unique path and are making an impact,” explained Stone, who majored in psychology. “We’re also looking for small town heroes who may not receive a lot of recognition.”

RTN was started six years ago by three friends just out of college who were unsure about their career paths but who wanted exposure to non-traditional life roads. The got an old RV and hit the road to talk with inspiring people from all walks of life to learn how they came to do what they love for a living and what advice they could offer college grads. From this evolved the RTN philosophy which says that instead of following prescribed paths you can set your own course by traveling the open road and finding your true calling.

Today, Roadtrip Nation embodies a PBS series, three books, an online community, and a student movement.

Chaskel, an anthropology major, Schultz, an international relations and community health major, and Stone got involved with RTN last winter when they applied to be one of four new documentary film crews. The application asked for raw film from on-street interviews similar to what the crew would produce for the TV series. The three interviewed the founder of Spare Change magazine, a publication founded by a homeless person.

The Tufts team’s story reflects the spirit of RTN. The three, friends since freshman year, were deciding what to do after graduation when they learned about RTN. Stone said Producing Films for Social Change, a course he took through the Media and Public Service program at Tisch College, inspired him to make documentary films.

“I’m interested in social entrepreneurship and Tisch allowed me to explore that field. After I learned about RTN, I felt it was just what I wanted to do,” he said. “Linda and Sebastian felt the same way.”

Right now, the Tufts trio is lining up interviews, mostly by cold calling people, and hopes to film 15 to 20 people over nearly three weeks. They have complete freedom to choose their route and the people they’ll interview. RTN will subsidize gas, food and lodging.

“People have responded very well when you explain who you are and what you’re doing,” said Stone. “Documentary film making is about spreading their knowledge.”

Schultz echoed the sentiment: “I thought it would be more of a struggle, but everyone we’re talking to has been willing to meet with us if their schedule allows.”

Come July 9, Schultz, Stone and Chaskel, will load up an SUV belonging to Stone’s mother and head to Philadelphia and then Washington, D.C. They’ll continue through Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia before driving back to New York.

Although the Tufts team will film for PBS, their trip is being done in collaboration with MSN. They’ll be contributing to an interactive MSN website along the way while a back-up camera crew from PBS records their experience.

PBS plans to air the Tufts documentary in the fall.

The Road Trip Nation website is http://www.roadtripnation.com/

Originally published June 2007