NOLS Thanks In-Town Staff
Each year, NOLS hands out a few awards to instructors, community members, alumni, and in-town staff to recognize their hard work, dedication, and positive changes in the world. Please join us in congratulating this year's NOLS in-town awardees Alexa Callison-Burch, Debra East and Chris Agnew!
Alexa Callison-Burch: We feel blessed everyday that we get to work with Alexa
Alexa came to NOLS in the summer of 2006 when she completed her first NOLS course, an Absaroka Backpacking course. She is remembered by her instructors, as being passionate about wilderness, having excellent expedition behavior, and fulfilling a role as a mentor for other students. She was engaged with all aspects of the course. This promising performance led her instructors to encourage her to complete a fall Outdoor Educator semester as a step toward becoming an instructor. She completed her instructor course in the spring of 2007 and began working field courses. Since that time, Alexa has worked over 60 field weeks as a hiking and sea kayaking instructor providing many students with inspiring energy and education as they embarked on their own wilderness expeditions. She is committed to providing each student with the opportunity to have life changing experiences on every course she works.
In 2011, Alexa completed a Wilderness EMT course in Lander. She then went on to complete an Instructor Training Course with NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute in November of 2012. Since that time, she has worked WFRs, WFAs, and WFRRs. She is a natural fit given both her organizational skills and teaching acumen.
Alexa’s in-town career began in the NOLS Field Staffing office in 2009, where she helped match field instructors with their courses and students. She moved over to NOLS Rocky Mountain as the evacuation coordinator in 2010. In this role, Alexa has modeled excellence by helping our instructors and the branch manage the diversity of infield challenges and evacuations that arise. She is known and admired for her calm and patient communication style that allows her to support students and instructors in the field. Alexa’s care and empathy for each individual student is felt by all. We have become a more compassionate school due to her influence.
Debra East: For her commitment to inclusion and can-do attitude
After years of running the underground bed and breakfast for NOLS field instructors, Debra began her official NOLS career in 2003. Over the next four years, she shared her skills and passion with such varied departments as purchasing, admissions, marketing, and WMI. In each of these roles she was valued for her upbeat, positive attitude and willingness to do whatever needed doing.
Since joining NOLS in a full-time capacity in 2007, Debra has committed her energies to excellence in customer service. A recent recipient of a Moving Hands Scholarship with American Sign Language interpretation noted, “Her clear and detailed communication, support, and encouragement makes me all the more sure that the National Outdoor Leadership School is the place to be when studying and appreciating the outdoors.”
In 2008, Debra stepped up to become the WMI admissions supervisor. In this role, she has mentored many individuals. One former employee shared, “She allows employees the opportunity and space to navigate their positions and thrive while she stands nearby.” Another reached out to say, “I can’t thank her enough for giving me confidence as a worker and a woman in the workplace.” Debra’s employees hope one day to receive her highest compliment, a new database feature named for them.
Debra’s passionate and tireless work to help NOLS be a school that welcomes everyone has resulted in significant increases in students supported through scholarships, Veteran’s Administration funds, Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards, and most recently 529 Education Awards. Her work to develop an agreement with Western State Colorado University helped students benefit from, and NOLS secure, nearly $1 million in tuition dollars this past year.
Debra goes above and beyond to build relationships with students she supports. After this most recent Wilderness Medicine Expedition for physicians and nurses, three students shared it was their interactions on the phone with Debra that solidified their decision to take the course—because their questions and uncertainties were so well addressed.
Chris Agnew: For his outstanding contributions to our students and mission
Chris took a Spring Semester in Kenya in 1998, and his instructor wrote, “Mr. Energy had a positive effect on every situation he was involved in. He plays hard and works equally hard. He assumed leadership roles and actively learned the stations on the sailing dhow. He was a role model of good expedition behavior to the rest of the expedition members.” Another instructor added, “His undefeatable positive attitude, sense of humor, navigation ability, and easy-going style all contributed to his selection as small group leader.”
In May of 2001, Chris took an Instructor Course at NOLS Rocky Mountain and followed that by working his first course—a July North Cascades Wilderness Course—as a patrol leader.
In January of 2007, Chris transitioned into administrative work as WMI staffing manager at NOLS Headquarters. Staff who worked with him during his in-town years commented that, “he is exceptionally strong in the area of judgment and decision making. He is a critical and organized thinker who weighs the variables quickly and makes sound decisions. He is an articulate and direct communicator who quickly grasps the tenor of the conversation at hand regardless of its impromptu or challenging nature."
Since 2010, Chris has served as Pacific Northwest director with additional oversight over both NOLS India and NOLS Scandinavia. During his time in this role, NOLS has increased the number of students we educate on our Scandinavia program, moved to a more permanent location in Sweden, and created a legal entity in that country. We have also expanded our course offerings at the PNW with the addition of new courses like the Pacific Northwest Spring Quarter and the Pacific Northwest Mountaineering and Sailing and introduced adventure age programming. In India, NOLS has maneuvered through numerous, complex Indian bureaucratic systems and introduced the Himalaya Cultural Expedition. In addition to his directorship responsibilities Chris also currently serves on the leadership team for the NOLS Strategic Plan goal for Exceptional Student Experiences.
What Wilderness Means to Us
I have spent my whole “adult” life guiding in the wilderness! The feeling that we have in this country is beyond words. Aren’t we so lucky that those with insight were able to put aside these lands in perpetuity, where man is “only a visitor?” It just seems incredible that we have these jewels for ourselves and future generations and they will remain essentially untouched. As has often been said, “They aren’t making that any more.”
—George Hunker, longtime former NOLS instructor
‘Invest Everything in the Quality of Your Teaching’
By Alexa Rosenthall, Faculty Summit Intern
Despite snow flurries and muddy roads in the Red Canyon, the 2014 NOLS Faculty Summit was a great success! Over 200 participants came to the Wyss Campus for three days of presentations, workshops, networking, and high spirits.
The fourth annual NOLS Faculty Summit was kicked off with a welcome from NOLS Executive Director John Gans and Chair of the NOLS Board of Trustees Kate Williams.
Williams encouraged instructors to “invest everything in the quality of your teaching in the moment and, at the same time, believe and be changed by your belief that the impacts and rewards of this investment with your students and yourselves must be realized in places and times far beyond these fabulous classrooms we get to move in.”
The Summit hosted inspiring speakers such as Shawn Benjamin, former NOLS instructor and principal of Leadership Public Schools (LPS) Richmond. LPS Richmond sponsors students to pursue summer opportunities, such as NOLS, to encourage character development. Benjamin presented on how non-cognitive factors like self-control, gratitude, and leadership profoundly influence the likelihood of college graduation and life achievement.
Scott Briscoe, Expedition Denali member, spoke on Wednesday morning about the journey of the first African American team to attempt the Denali summit. He highlighted how the project has sparked an interest in the outdoors in diverse populations and those who may otherwise never have been exposed to the wilderness.
Other excellent morning plenaries included Jim Halfpenny, Jeff Jackson, Drew Leemon David Chrislip, and Richard Adams.
For the afternoon workshops, 21 NOLS instructors and five guests presented various topics ranging from “Sappy Natural History: Making Environmental Studies Stick” by Jeff Wohl and “Beyond the Five Senses: Opening Your Perceptual Fields” by Suza Bedient to “Tribal History is Part of Wilderness: Making the Connection Through Indigenous Perspectives” by Lynette St. Clair.
Tuesday evening brought the presentation of the Instructors Awards. Jared Spaulding and Fabio Oliveira won the Instructor of the Year award, Briana Mackay won the combo In-Town/Field Staff Award, and Ariel Greene won the Thomas Plotkin Memorial Award. The audience was filled with supportive peers and roaring cheers.
The keynote address was delivered by Caroline Byrd, a former NOLS Instructor and the current executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. She spoke on how outdoor leaders make great conservation leaders. Byrd linked common character traits and habits of NOLS instructors to the skills necessary to make gains in conservation of wilderness.
If you missed the Summit, check out the videos of the presentations and workshops here.
Radio Stars: NOLS Southwest Course
Odessa, Texas NPR affiliate KXWT interviewed NOLS Southwest instructors and students before they hit the river Monday morning. The instructors shared their passion and believe in a NOLS education with Marfa Public Radio, and the students rattled of the many reasons they were there and goals they have for their Spring Semester in the Southwest.
Listen to the interview here.
FORMER OLYMPIAN & NOLS INSTRUCTOR, SARAH KONRAD, FEATURED ON NBC 2014
During the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Sarah Konrad made history when she became the first American woman to qualify for two sporting categories: Nordic skiing and the biathlon (pictured above). Fast forward eight years and Konrad has, for the second time, agreed to serve as an expert educational correspondent for NBC’s Emmy award-winning video series entitled, “The Science and Engineering of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.”
Konrad served as a NOLS instructor from 1986 to 1994 on courses ranging from Semesters in Patagonia and Alaska Mountaineering to Sea Kayaking and Semesters in the Rockies, and now she can be found teaching the rudiments of snow science in a different sort of classroom. The “NBC Learn” and “NBC Sports” webisode series, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, “explore the science, technology, engineering, and math at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games” and provide great visual aids for children and adults alike in learning about all of the applied science that goes into making the Olympic games run smoothly and efficiently behind the scenes. NBC’s “Learn” series also provides, “lesson plans and activities in conjunction with the National Science Teachers Association.”
During the NBC “Learn” webisode “The Science of Snow,” Konrad, a glaciologist, conducts a brief scientific experiment in the University of Wyoming’s Geology Building using “supercooled” water and explains the freezing process of water and how it can be directly applied to ski course maintenance and race outcomes. The video also touches on the importance of snow engineering during the Winter Games. Being a former Winter Olympian as well as an accomplished academic with a PhD in geology (specializing in glaciology), Konrad’s webisode on snow science is the perfect fit for NBC’s 2014 Winter Olympic “Learn” series. Konrad is currently serving as the Chair of the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) Athletes Advisory Council. According to TeamUSA.org, "the AAC is responsible for broadening communication between the USOC and active athletes, and serves as a source of input and advice to the organization’s board of directors". Konrad is currently serving as the Associate Project Director for Wyoming’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research Department (EPSCoR).
Expedition Denali Wins Outdoor Inspiration Award
Expedition Denali: Inspiring Diversity in the Outdoors earned the Outdoor Inspiration Award for its work to inspire youth, particularly youth of color, to get outside, get active and become stewards of our wild places.
The Outdoor Inspiration Awards recognize individuals, groups and companies whose efforts are above and beyond in inspiring others to enjoy, participate in and support outdoor activities. Expedition Denali won the group award, in the company of individual award recipient Timmy O’Neill and company awardee Timbuk2.
Organized by NOLS, Expedition Denali is the first African American team to attempt to summit the tallest peak in North America—Denali. Though they had to turn back just 1,000 feet from the summit due to a lightning storm, the team made history and is inspiring a generation of youth to reach their own great heights in the outdoors.
Expedition Denali on the mountain. Hudson Henry photo
“The class of 2014 Outdoor Inspiration Award winners truly have a love for exploring the outdoors and use their passion to impact and change people’s lives,” said Kenji Haroutunian, Emerald Expo Outdoor group vice president and OR show director.
“Last fall we shared our story with about 3,000 youth, and this spring we’re on par to share that with an additional 6,000,” said Briscoe upon accepting the award. “We’re going to schools, community centers, churches, colleges, and talking about our climb and trying to inspire and get more people in the outdoors and diversify the outside.”
This tour of the nation will inspire youth of color to connect with America’s wild places and take on outdoor pursuits they never imagined possible by sharing the story of their historic attempt on North America’s tallest peak. Their story will have an even broader reach upon the completion of a film about the expedition by Distill Productions, LLC. Watch the latest teaser of the film below.
Imagine your 2014 summer
Summer is here!
Well, at least the 2014 summer NOLS course catalog is here, and that's even better, because you still have time to plan the perfect summer with NOLS.
We have boxes and boxes and boxes of the summer catalog here at NOLS Headquarters, so request one here. If you'd prefer a paperless version, we've got you covered, too. Download the iPad version of the 2014 summer catalog here.
Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Jan 16, 2014 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, Amazon, Australia, Curriculum, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, India, Instructor News, Leadership, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, On The Net, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus, Yukon
The 12 Days of NOLS
We’ve found the perfect way to get you into the holiday spirit and fight the cold snap with a hearty laugh. Watch NOLS Creative’s newest (and possibly goofiest) release, “The 12 Days of NOLS,” a NOLS variation on the classic tune, to get a taste of the NOLS experience or reminisce about your course! Written with extensive input from the peanut gallery, shot and edited in less than 12 hours, and brought to you with only mild shame, we now ask you to watch the video and sing along.
On the first day of my course Paul Petzoldt gave to me ...
Windpants with a reinforced knee
Two trekking poles
Six dudes belaying
Seven miles a' shwackin’
Eight malt balls missing
Nine quickdraws clipping
Ten backpacks bulging
Eleven toasty hot drinks
Twelve students mapping
Happy Holidays from NOLS
Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Dec 10, 2013 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, Amazon, Australia, Books, Curriculum, India, Instructor News, Leadership, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, On The Net, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Yukon
Wilderness medicine in South America and Africa: Dispatch from WMI Instructor, Mike Moxness
I am a registered nurse living in Anchorage, Alaska. I spent much of my career in the emergency room. I got my Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) from NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) back in 1999 in preparation for a tour of duty up with the mountaineering patrol on Denali in 2000. I started teaching for WMI in 2001, mostly WEMTs with a few Wilderness First Responder (WFR) courses up here in Alaska.
About 5 years ago, I started signing on to medical teams going to developing nations, and once I started, there was no looking back. I've worked in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Uganda and Kenya on multiple occasions. I am typically a member of a small expatriate team sent in to support local medical staff during emergencies. My last two trips have been to Uganda at refugee camps along the border with Congo. In January, I'll be back in Honduras, teaching at a rural hospital.
My work has been with Medical Teams International, located in Portland, Oregon, and MEDICO, located in Austin, Texas. There are quite a few good outfits out there, but these two have been good fits for me. I've also been seconded to World Concern (on the Somalia border) and worked in multi-organizational teams with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Humedica.
The wilderness medicine model is extremely useful in these assignments where resources are few and problems are many. Wilderness medicine is a context of practice: improvised or inadequate gear, inconsistent or non-existent communication with outside support, challenging environments for patient and caregiver, and independent risk-benefit decision-making.
Water World - Lynn Petzold's 9 Favorite Backcountry Locales
NOLS Senior Field Instructor and Professional Training Account Manager, Lynn Petzold is no stranger to stunning and captivating backcountry locales. Working NOLS courses in Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, British Columbia, and the U.S. and living in Bolivia and Spain has given her access to so many beautiful spots, it came as a real surprise when she agreed to whittle down her favorite spots to just nine. While she has experienced some of these places as an instructor on NOLS courses, there are a few that she has pursued on her own accord. Here they are, in no particular order...
1) Baja coast from San Felipe to La Paz (Sea of Cortez, Baja, Mexico)
"This coastline holds a special place in my heart. I started paddling here in 1993 and since then, I've witnessed changes like development of the area and a decline in the fisheries that used to thrive along the coast. I've enjoyed reconnecting with the local Mexicans every couple of years."
"While I was paddling at sunrise one morning along the southern end of San Basilio, I encountered these formations just off the coast. There was something really captivating about the contrast between these sharp protrustions and the serene, white beaches just behind me. This area holds some great memories!"
2) El Pulpito (Sea of Cortez, Baja, Mexico)
"2009 was a great year for paddling down in Baja! There was a point at which we were able to get really close to these caverns at El Pulpito. This is a north facing wall coming straight out of the ocean near San Nicolas. When there are high winds (which is typically the case in winter) and a built up sea, this is an area that you want to steer clear of. We were lucky enough to hit it just right. Being able to get close to these features was pretty special."
3) Laguna San Ignacio (Baja, Mexico)
"I've visited San Ignacio several times. These particular photos were taken during a NOLS Alumni Trip in 2008. We were there to witness part of the annual Gray Whale migration. The Baja Pennisula is the final stop along their journey from the Chuckchi Sea (which is just north of the Bering Strait)."
4) Deer Isle Archipelago (Maine)
"Deer Isle is one of my favorite spots to paddle on the Atlantic coast. This photo was from a NOLS Alumni Trip in 2008. I'm a member of the Maine Island Trail Association, which is an organization that promotes stewardship of this Archipelago. They also provide information to members regarding camping spots, since many of the islands are privately owned."
5) Rangitata River (South Island, New Zealand)
"Rangitata River is a unique spot on the South Island of New Zealand. I lived in nearby Christchurch for a year in 1995 and on the weekends, we'd escape to the river to go rafting. It is a little more remote and off the beaten path, a favorite spot for locals. Paddling with local Kiwis made it that much more special. Their fun-loving, adventureous spirit was infectious."
"Headwaters of the Rangitata River above the gorge. This is a salmon fishery and generally a beautiful, serene spot."
6) Eastern side of Knight Island (Prince William Sound, Alaska)
"Knight Island might be my favorite spot in Prince William Sound. This area is special, simply because its fairly remote and partially protected from the ocean. This area is great for humpback whale and orca watching!"
7) Harriman Fjord (Prince William Sound, Alaska)
"In 2011, I was working a STEP course in Prince William Sound. Harriman Fjord is located at the southern end of the Chugach Range, and the surrounding terrain feels immense. Between the rain, fog, and tide-water glaciers, it seems as though you're stepping...or paddling...back in time. This location brings back many memories and is my current desktop background!"
8) Lofoten Islands (Norway)
"In the summer of 2001, I went to Norway on a personal trip to paddle with one of my students, a Semester in Patagonia grad and native Norwegian. I was attracted to explore this area after hearing about it from my friend Lena Conlan, a NOLS/WMI Instructor and co-owner of a guiding company, Crossing Latitudes, which operates in this area."
9) Coastline from Bella Bella to Port Hardy (British Columbia, Canada)
"Part of the Inside Passage, this coastline provides 'world class' paddling. Between the Pacific swell, the lush, old growth forests, and spectacular islands along the coast, this place is surrounded by beauty."
"Sunsets here are pretty special as well!"
What's next on Lynn's list?