Campaign NOLS: Explaining Our Core Values, Part 3
NOLS’ core values are at the heart of our institution. Leadership, community, safety, excellence, wilderness, and education inspire everything we do. We share a commitment to these values; they define and direct who we are, what we do, and how we do it.
We believe that education should be exciting, fun, and challenging. With this in mind, our courses are designed to help people develop and practice the skills they need to live, travel, and play safely in the outdoors. On our expeditions, people learn by accepting and meeting real challenges. Our instructors are educators, not guides. They are committed to inspiring students to explore and develop their understanding of wilderness ethics, leadership, teamwork, natural history, and technical skills.
Rachael Abler on Education
In 2011, after pursuing a Master’s degree in recreation, I started making calls to numerous collegiate outdoor recreation programs. I found myself hearing one thing that would help me make it in the industry from each and every coordinator, director, graduate assistant, intern, etc.: NOLS. At that, my mind was made up. NOLS, here I come!
The Pacific Northwest Outdoor Educator Course allowed me to develop technical skills in mountaineering and rock climbing while growing as an outdoor educator. Like many people, I was at the point of my life where, after obtaining two college degrees, I did not have much disposable income. But, thanks to the NOLS scholarship program, I had the opportunity to spend 30 days in the backcountry learning who I was, what I was capable of, and transforming myself into a better person for the rest of my life.
The outdoor experiences throughout the course of my life have allowed me to become the person who I am today, and I hold the strongest regard for the 30 days spent on my NOLS course. It is easy in our technological age to go through life without placing ourselves in situations that allow us to see our true potential. I believe there is nothing more powerful than immersing oneself in outdoors and that there is nothing like making personal accomplishments in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Without such educational experiences, how can anyone possibly know what they are capable of?
NOLS is responsible for impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. Whether the impact is teaching leadership and teamwork qualities, exposing people to new worlds, or offering career advancement opportunities with wilderness medicine, outdoor educator, and instructor courses. No matter what the case, the result is always the same—NOLS changes lives.
My own ability to attend a NOLS course is attributed to the philanthropic efforts of those who came before me. As a donor, I am honored to join the fraternity of individuals who place value in continued education and outdoor leadership development for all who have the drive to pursue it. It is a privilege to give back to the organization that gave so much to me through support of Campaign NOLS. My hope is that many more future leaders and educators can reap similar benefits.
The view from Mt. Baker.
Rachael Abler is a 2012 Pacific Outdoor Educator graduate, scholarship recipient and a donor.
To learn more about Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values or to donate, visit giving.nols.edu.
City Girl Loves Life in the Wilderness
Accustomed to California sunshine and city living, 16-year-old Ale Sternberg was launched into a world unknown last fall as she spent a week backpacking through the North Cascade Mountains in Washington state.
As juniors at The Archer School for Girls, a private all-girls grades 6-12 school in Los Angeles, Sternberg and her classmates traveled to the Pacific Northwest to participate in the NOLS/Archer Arrow Week Expedition.
The Arrow Week Expedition program, designed with an educational progression for seventh-, ninth-, and eleventh-grade girls, stands as a unique experiential learning opportunity, fostering the development of backcountry skills, leadership, and deeper peer relationships. Over the three-course progression, the girls’ knowledge, experience, and abilities grow, as do their personal and team responsibilities for the technical and interpersonal aspects of the course.
Reflecting on her NOLS experience, Sternberg recalled, “I was anxious before the Archer Arrow Week. I had some idea what to expect, but I was still really nervous to be out in the woods.”
Despite her nerves, Sternberg embraced the course and “loved [the expedition] because I learned so much about myself and my classmates. After the trip I also realized how much I understood about being a leader and team member.”
She also developed a stronger appreciation for the beauty of the outdoors and found it “relaxing not to worry about responding to emails or texts for a week.”
In addition to the technical and leadership skills gained, Sternberg reminisced about the fantastic “bonding experience with my classmates. Every night we would all crowd into one tent and tell stories.”
As she grew closer to her classmates, she also created fond memories of her instructors. “I had two of the best instructors in the world. It blew my mind how much they learned about me in just six days,” she said.
Sternberg, a high school junior, challenges herself to live in the present, despite the constant pull to think about her future. Consequently, she was grateful that the course allowed her to “just be present in any given hike or activity.”
Inspired by her Arrow Week Expedition, Sternberg decided to take another NOLS course and is excited to participate in a 30-day backpacking expedition through the Wind River Mountains this summer. She looks forward to “bonding with complete strangers, seeing a new place, sharing [her] knowledge, and improving skills that can only be achieved through practice.”
Vivacious Young Woman to Conquer Denali
“Once we think it gets real, it gets realer”. “Check yourself before you wreck yourself”. These quotes come from a valiant young lady blessed with an opportunity most of us dream of. With Expedition Denali tiptoeing closer and closer, a reality check summons Rosemary Saal to fully realize what lies ahead of her this June. Measured from base to peak, Mt. McKinley soars 20,320 feet into the frigid Alaskan air, and bows down to nobody.
Expedition Denali is all about promoting diversity in the great outdoors, and that is exactly what Rosemary intends to do. In her past, Rosemary admits to struggling a bit to speak up when the moment called for it. When she took a Waddington Range NOLS course in the summer of 2012, she began with the same dilemma. Good thing NOLS implements four types of leadership roles into the curriculum: Self Leadership, Peer Leadership, Active Followership, and Designated Leadership. With this strategy, it was inevitable Rosemary find her voice. Upon completion of her course, Rosemary left NOLS with a confidence that would carry her over to the next chapter of her life.
Armed to the teeth with her newfound instrument and leadership qualities, Rosemary is ready to take on the feat, which is Denali. The physical aspect being the biggest challenge, Rosemary will rely on her team for support. She appreciates the fact she has the ability to “get out there” and wants to take advantage of it even after the expedition. The most important thing is that she inspires youth of color to do the same thing. “The outdoors are beautiful and natural, and a place few people have access to”.
The entire point of Expedition Denali is to create the exposure necessary to inspire people of all ethnicities to go out and enjoy all mother nature has to offer. Rosemary is most excited for the view from the top, and that “bubbly” feeling you get when time stands still, and for that moment the whole world seems to make sense. For more about Rosemary’s story, click here.
Wilderness Medicine Expedition - Mountaineering Style
The Wilderness Medicine Institute's most recent Wilderness Medicine Expedition (WME) just returned from the Cascade Mountains. The WME is a continuing education course designed for EMTs, Medics, RNs, and MDs that focuses on the curriculum areas of wilderness medicine, leadership, and outdoor skills. This particular course was run in conjunction with NOLS Pacific Northwest and had a mountaineering skills focus.
The five WME students began their course with a day of medical work, gear issue, and food preparation at NOLS Pacific Northwest in Conway, Washington. An early departure on day two saw the group dropped off at the Shannon Ridge road head for their backcountry expedition on Mt. Shuksan. One week later the group emerged having learned and shared many new skills and with sore abdominal muscles from a great deal of laughter!
Expedition members practicing patient assessment at NOLS Pacific Northwest.
On the hike into North Cascades National Park.
An improvised splint for an unusable knee injury.
Enroute to the summit of Mt. Shuksan.
Members of the expedition on the summit of Mt. Shuksan!
Airborne Support for Waddington Range Courses
The Waddington Range is one of the most remote locations traveled to by PNW courses. Located in the heart of the British Columbian wilderness, with limited road access, it’s not easy to support Waddington courses from the ground—that’s why we depend heavily on aviation by our partners at Coral Air and White Saddle Air.
Coral Air, based out of Campbell River, British Columbia, supports our courses via float planes from the South. They help us by shuttling students and instructors in and out of the Waddington range.
White Saddle provides helicopter support from Tatla Lake, British Columbia in the North, and primarily helps with resupplying rations to courses during their time in the field.
In combination with boats, ferries, and NOLS’ 15-passenger vans, getting a Waddington course in and out of the field safely is no small feat! We couldn’t do it without the tried and true partnerships of our friends across the border. Thanks!
CSA’s and Gardens for a Sustainable Summer in the Northwest
The Skagit Valley, home to the Pacific Northwest branch, is one of the most fertile agricultural environments in the Northwest. The sprawling delta of the Skagit River holds ideal farmlands with rich soil. The temperate rainforest climate, with stretches of plentiful rain interrupted by spells of sunshine, makes the area perfect for growing towering pine trees and produce alike.
It’s mid-summer season at the PNW, and berries, veggies, fruits and greens are springing up all around us. This means that we have the opportunity to source a hefty amount of our fresh produce from local farms. The PNW kitchen has started its summer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), in cooperation with Hedlin’s Family Farm located just down the road in LaConner, WA. Hedlin fruits and veggies make it into everything from salads and stratas to scones and crisps. We are excited to be supporting local farmers and sustainable food practices!
But that’s not all! The PNW garden is in full swing this summer as well. Through the dedicated care of branch members like Ellie Keller, Kiren Lee, Lara McCluskey, and Anne Harmann—passionate gardeners with a love of fresh, local food—the garden has been more productive than ever. Kale, radishes, husk cherries, and basil abound, keeping in-town staff happy and healthy!
Hooray for a summer of fresh, sustainable food!!
Well-prepared for Bears in the Northwest
In the wake of last summer’s encounter with an Alaskan Grizzly, NOLS spent the winter reviewing our school-wide bear practices. While our bear practices were and are state-of-the-art, this review drew on input from experienced NOLS faculty and outside experts to alter our teaching methods related to bear safety and changed some bear spray practices.
At NOLS Pacific Northwest, courses travel to bear habitat in the Northern Cascades, the Olympics, and the Waddington Range. The Waddington is the only Grizzly habitat, but Black Bears roam much of the northwest wilderness. That’s why the PNW is taking proactive measures for educating students and managing bear interactions in the wilderness.
One key update is the opportunity for students to observe and/or practice using bear spray canisters before going into the field—don’t worry, the canisters aren’t live! Students use test canisters that mimic how a real canister feels when it’s un-holstered, unlocked, and discharged.
Instructor Mike Riley, demonstrating correct activation and use of a bear spray canister.
Another way the PNW is tackling bear safety is through the use of bear fences for food protection. The branch is piloting use of these fences for courses going into the Northern Cascades’ Pasayten Wilderness. The fences are particularly handy in places with few trees for setting up traditional bear hangs. They’re made of a charged wire, and designed to give a quick but powerful shock to bears and other animals that get too close to a course’s food. The shock is strong enough to startle bears and simply scare them away. Effectively protecting human food prevents creating habituated bears that can later become a threat to wilderness travelers.
Left: Program Supervisor Nick Storm, demonstrating correct set-up of a bear fence. Right: Nick testing the shocking power of the fence—he’s wearing shoes, so it’s all good. But don’t expect to be smiling if you’re barefoot like a Grizzly!
Here’s to a fun and safe season in the Northwest!
GiveBIG to NOLS this Wednesday
Last summer, 17-year-old Seattle resident Georgia Ray attended a NOLS Alaska sea kayaking course through the Student Conservation Association, a NOLS Gateway Partner. The lessons she learned at NOLS extend beyond technical and leadership skills in the wilderness setting, translating back to her life in the frontcountry.
“Interacting with my coursemates, in the very open environment provided by NOLS, let me know how my words are perceived and interpreted,” recalled Georgia, “Today I use this knowledge with my family and friends to be a clearer and better communicator. I use this to give instructions or suggestions, particularly feedback, in a friendly or sensitive way.”
On Wednesday, May 2, NOLS will participate in the Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG campaign. The one-day, online giving event aims to inspire Seattle area residents to donate to their favorite local non-profits to build a stronger community. The NOLS Pacific Northwest branch location allows us to partake in GiveBIG, and we do so with the goal of raising $5,000 for one full scholarship to send a Gateway Partner student from the Seattle area, like Georgia, on a NOLS course.
NOLS Gateway Partners are organizations and institutions that provide educational opportunities to populations underrepresented in the outdoors. By providing these students with full-tuition scholarships to attend NOLS courses, the school is able to narrow the gap between underserved communities and a life in tune with nature. Gateway Partners in the Seattle area are the Student Conservation Association, Seattle Summer Search, and Metrocenter YMCA Leadership Development Expeditions—BOLD and GOLD Mountain Schools.
Each donation made to NOLS through the Seattle Foundation between midnight and midnight (Pacific Time) on May 2, 2012, will receive a pro-rated portion of the matching funds (or "stretch") pool. What does that mean? If NOLS raises 3 percent of all the money raised through GiveBIG, then we will get 3 percent of the stretch pool. The more you give, the more of the stretch pool NOLS will get. Additionally, throughout the day “Golden Tickets” will be randomly drawn and a lucky donor will have their contribution matched with an additional $1,000.
Last year, every $100 in donations resulted in an additional $14 from the stretch pool, so every gift really does make a difference and results in more funding support for NOLS!
GiveBIG to NOLS on Wednesday and help us send a Seattle area student on a life-changing adventure.
Donor Profile: Scott Bass Learns it's in the Details
Last summer, NOLS grad Scott Bass and his 12-year-old son, Tyler, travelled to Wyoming to summit the Grand Teton. The second highest peak in Wyoming at 13,775 feet, the Grand towers sharply above Jackson Hole valley. Even though Scott hadn’t climbed in the high mountains in 22 years, he felt like it’d only been a week since he got off his North Cascades Mountaineering course. Skills he learned at NOLS came back naturally as they kick stepped through 2011’s epic snowpack up Garnett Canyon to the lower saddle of the Grand.
“I think that speaks to the depth of the experience of doing it for a month in the Cascades,” Scott explained. “It’s embedded in me now.”
Now an investment advisor, the 43-year-old Atlanta, Ga. resident feels the lasting impact of his NOLS course beyond the backcountry in the business world and at home. One of the sayings that stuck with him is that “details save lives.”
“That really resonated with me,” he recalled. “Certainly in that environment it is important to set protection in the snow, be roped up properly, and use proper technique when you’re travelling across a glacier, but it also applies to everything in life.”
Scott keeps this in mind when dealing with clients and tells it frequently to his kids. For him, this means to “make sure that you think things through, that you take the right precautions. If you’re going to do something, do it right,” he stressed.
The same goes for Leave No Trace principals in the backcountry. Many people enter the wilderness without the minimal impact mindset.
“People don’t come by [it] naturally. We’re so used to thinking ‘Oh somebody’s going to come behind me and fix this or clean this up.’”
But for Scott, that just doesn’t cut it, which is another reason he appreciates what NOLS teaches. He prefers the untouched wilderness.
“Maybe nobody’s been there for days or weeks, at least that’s how I perceive it,” he said, “The experience that I have is with something that is pristine and new, I should leave it that way so that the next person can have the exact same experience.”
To Scott, this is the most important lesson NOLS can impart on students.
Two years after his course in Washington, Scott donated to NOLS when he began earning regular paychecks. It’s not the only organization he contributes to regularly, and he has a method for selecting them.
“I think first, ‘What are the things that have had the most impact on me in my life, for me as a person?’”
NOLS is in Scott’s top three, and he continues to give back to the school through the annual fund.
“I want to make sure that other people have the opportunity to do what I did, to experience the wilderness. I know that there are people who can’t afford it and programs that need additional funding. I want to help support NOLS.”
To learn more about the NOLS Annual Fund and Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values, visit NOLS Giving, or contact us at (800) 332-4280 or email@example.com.
Congratulations to Jamie, Andrew, Jesse, Deborah, Kurt, Chris
Saturday night, a few truly outstanding members of the NOLS team were recognized for their work. Each recipient of the 2011 staff awards was given a standing ovation by the crowd in attendance at the reception and a plaque.
Our first award recipient is an instructor and program supervisor. She took her Instructor Course in 2002, and since then she has accumulated just over 200 weeks in the field.
Jamie has taught four instructor courses and countless instructor seminars. She is a “go-to” instructor for the staffing office, as she is a backpacking, mountaineering, winter, and climbing course leader. She is known for her excellent work ethic, superb attention to detail, and commitment to training staff.
NOLS Pro has noted her “high-quality work, extensive expertise, and ‘can-do’ attitude.” These qualities were exemplified on the India Air Force Mountaineering Course on Denali. Jamie worked tirelessly to provide a safe and successful expedition that greatly improved NOLS’ relationship with the India Air Force. Once again, she proved invaluable when she agreed to fly to India at a moment’s notice to help support the instructors and students who were involved in the recent and tragic fatality.
Jamie has also worked as a mountaineering program supervisor in Alaska and is presently a winter program supervisor at the Teton Valley. As a program supervisor, she shines under pressure, has great vision and action, works exceptionally well as a member of a team, and is an advocate for staff.
Andrew Knutsen—In town
Andrew started his NOLS career in 2006. He cheerfully helps employees no matter how busy he is or how hard the question might be. He has a high level of expertise and can fix most problems or answer most questions on the spot. If he can't, then he'll do some research and keep digging until he finds the answer. While he primarily works with in-town staff as information systems desktop administrator, he willingly helps any NOLS employee work-related or not.
One question on our annual evaluations is, “what have you done to improve yourself and your position?” Andrew’s response exemplifies a great work life balance. He got certified as an OS X Apple Technical Coordinator and expanded his house sitting from cats and dogs to include horses.
Andrew is a great ambassador for NOLS. He is an avid hiker and proud member of the long-distance hiking community. He often shuttles folks who are on the Continental Divide Trail between road heads and town, which puts NOLS and Lander in a good light and also supports the use and preservation of our classroom.
He is an actor and has participated in a number of theatrical productions in Fremont County such as Man of La Mancha and Guys and Dolls. In November, he will play the role of Robert Starveling in A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
Jesse started her career in 2000 as a student on a Himalaya Backpacking course. She has been a staple at the Rocky Mountain Branch since her Instructor Course in 2005. Thirty-five of her 41 courses have been based out of Rocky Mountain.
From the beginning of her career, she has continually worked to improve and expand her skills. In 2007, she took the initiative to expand her winter skills by taking a NOLS snowboarding course in the Teton Valley.
She brought her extensive horse background to NOLS and quickly became an integral part of Three Peaks Ranch. She played an important role in finalizing the Horse-packing Instructor Notebook.
In 2008, she became a program supervisor at Rocky Mountain and split her time between Lander and the Ranch.
In October of last year, she left her job in-town to focus on full-time course work. She joined the annual faculty program, and, in the past year she worked an unbelievable 35 weeks in the field. Students of her last course noted her passion for teaching, knowledge of the NOLS curriculum, great sense of humor, and her extreme fitness—perhaps the result of 35 weeks in the field in one year.
Not surprisingly, she was not present to accept her award because she was in the field proctoring an Outdoor Educator Semester.
Deborah Nunnink—In town
Deborah is known for working and living the values we all hold dear at NOLS. She has been a key member of the NOLS community and the Lander community since 2002. She has exemplary expedition behavior and always does more than her part. She is committed to education, wilderness, and leadership.
As operations director, Deborah has transformed many ways that we do business, and her commitment to efficiency has made it possible for NOLS to prosper in challenging times while other organizations have been challenged. She helps our individual schools better themselves and has helped develop many key employees at NOLS. She strives to build programs and operating areas that are sustainable, effective, profitable, and fun.
When she was interviewed her for her job, a former boss stated she enjoys having contests and playing games with fellow employees. He also made it clear she almost always wins those games (he actually seemed a bit perturbed about this). What he didn’t say was that when she is on your team everyone wins and so does our mission.
Executive Director John Gans wasn’t able to attend the reception and admitted, “One of the hard parts of being away for this annual meeting is that I am not personally able to award this recipient. She has given so much to our organization and has been a real key to our success.”
Kurt came to the school in 2007 on a river instructor course in Utah. He has been working consistently since then in our programs in Utah, Idaho, India, and Brazil and will work in Patagonia this spring.
Since 2007, he has accumulated over 100 field weeks working river, sea kayaking and hiking courses. In 2011 he spent 28 weeks teaching classes on the water.
He is well known for his laid- back style and his excellent student outcomes. He is a fantastic coach on the river, and students comment that he is fun yet informative, respectful, and has an incredible passion for the outdoors and paddle rafting. His self-awareness, commitment, communication, and creativity are reflected over and over in his performance evaluations and are what make branches so happy to have him back.
A recent evaluation noted he did a great job of not only coaching students, but also his junior staff. He held students to high standards while respecting the knowledge they had gained from their previous semester sections. He sat down with his patrol leader and charted out the next steps in his development to course lead.
He is not able to be here as he is presently canoeing on the Amazon with semester students.
Chris Brauneis—In town
Chris first came to NOLS in 1992 on a Fall Semester in the Rockies. He worked in the Rocky Mountain issue room on and off for several years before taking his instructor course in 1997. Since then, he has worked 146 weeks in the field.
In 2004, he began work in the Rocky Mountain Program office in both the evacuation coordinator and program supervisor roles. He has shown extraordinary patience and professionalism in answering hundreds of parent phone calls.
The staff who nominated Chris for this award said the following:
“I personally am more successful in my job for having him as a friend and co-worker, as are dozens, if not hundreds, of others at NOLS.”
“His presence at the branch makes me want to continue to prioritize field courses in Lander, and I can’t imagine working in town at the RMB under a different supervisor.”
Chris is also known for his random-acts of kindness such as personal emails thanking employees for doing some aspect of their job or offering to help an employee out either personally or professionally.
In 2007, Chris became the Rocky Mountain program director where he currently oversees the supervision of 350 field staff annually. His dedication to the student experience is always forefront in his actions.
Please join us in congratulating each of these remarkable members of our team—this year's employees of the year.
Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Oct 18, 2011 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, India, Instructor News, Leadership, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Yukon