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New Robertson Scholars Leadership Expedition Video

The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program invests in young leaders who strive to make transformational contributions to society. Students attend Duke University or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since 2008, NOLS Professional Training and The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program have run a 10 day canyon backpacking expedition for select scholars. Students are exposed to the theory and practice of leadership in one of the most beautiful classrooms in the world.

In NOLS' most recent video, scholars share their thoughts on the progression, challenges, and resulting leadership lessons learned during their expedition.


Permalink | Posted by Casey Pikla on Jan 17, 2014 in the following categories: Leadership, Professional Training

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

Three Peaks Ranch


Five pounds of cheese

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

Elon University Gap Semester & NOLS

NOLS Rocky Mountain recently produced some of the school's newest gradautes: students from the Elon University Gap Semester.
Rather than beginning their freshman year attending lectures in an auditorium and sleeping in a residence hall, 15 students opted for the Wind River Wilderness as a classroom and Megamid tents as dorm space to start their college career. After a 25-day backpacking course in Wyoming, the students will spend 4 weeks traveling cross country performing community service, followed by a 5-week cultural immersion program in Costa Rica.

Over 3 weeks, the students learned all the necessary backcountry skills - from cooking and navigation to how to give feedback and develop their own signature style of leadership - to travel independently of their 3 instructors, a highlight of the course. This was the second year of the collaboration between the North Carolina liberal arts college and NOLS Professional Training.

Congrats to our newest graduates, and for earning their first diploma of their college career!
Interested in more information on a gap semester or year with NOLS? Click here. 
All photos by instructor Jeff Wagner

Permalink | Posted by Jessica Fuller on Sep 15, 2013 in the following categories: Professional Training, Rocky Mountain

Drumroll, please ...

It has arrived. Thirty thousand copies of the shiny new course catalog have been unloaded and piled up at NOLS Headquarters, and another 30,000 will be shipped to potential students soon.

We thought we’d introduce you.

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 2.09.47 PM

Like last year, the NOLS course catalog has a clean, square shape and inspiring personal accounts to make the NOLS experience relatable.

With this catalog, though, we have dedicated more pages to courses and NOLS locations, specifically for the upcoming season. In fact, it’s dedicated almost entirely to the winter and spring course offerings at NOLS because we are going to publish three seasonal catalogs a year from now on. This will allow us to tailor the information in each catalog to each season to give you more helpful information about our course offerings.

You can look forward to a summer course catalog in January and a fall course catalog in April. All three catalogs will be available iPad apps shortly after their publication.

If you haven’t already requested a catalog, do so here or keep an eye out for the app, to be released soon! 

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Aug 28, 2013 in the following categories: Alaska, Australia, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus

WRMC to Host the Acclaimed Author, Laurence Gonzales

Join us at the Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) as we celebrate our 20th anniversary. The conference seeks to provide practical solutions for challenging issues that face organizations that explore, work, and teach in wild places. This year the conference will be held at Jackson Lake Lodge in the Grand Teton National Park, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. The event is co-sponsored by NOLS, the Student Conservation Association, and Outward Bound—three organizations that understand the complexity of running a quality outdoor educational program and provide workshops that meet the needs of industry professionals.

The WRMC provides a professional setting for outdoor educators to share and learn from one another.  Our quality workshops are led by some of the most seasoned veterans in the outdoor education community. They will teach you all about risk management skills, administrative practices, pertinent research, and up-to-date field techniques.  All the while, through our open forum, you can voice your comments, concerns, and questions to help improve the quality of the conference. Among this year’s array of qualified presenters is award-winning author Laurence Gonzales.


Gonzales was born in St. Louis and grew up in Houston and San Antonio. Drawing from the experiences of his father, a World War II pilot who survived against all odds, Gonzales has pursued a career in understanding who survives, who does not, and why. He has authored several books including Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why and its sequel Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience. Gonzales has won several awards, including two National Magazine Awards and the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

During his keynote address, Gonzales will address intelligent mistakes: why smart people do stupid things, based on his work for his books Deep Survival and Everyday Survival. His talk will explore the natural functioning of the brain and how, even when we are performing basic tasks, it can lead us in to systematic errors. 

Don’t miss out on this year's opportunity to witness the culmination of twenty years of collaboration between some of the most respected names in Wilderness Risk Management! Come and join the conversation!

Permalink | Posted by Max McQuarrie on Jul 26, 2013 in the following categories: Professional Training, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wilderness Risk Management Conference

Taking a STEP in the Right Direction

After years spent working in the field with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Dr. Tracy Baynes made several astute observations about the students who participate in outdoor courses. They gain a tremendous amount from their time in the field. They grow by being pushed outside of their comfort zones. They have life transforming experiences. They are also, as Tracy noted, mostly wealthy and white.

STEP pic1

Curiosity duly peaked by her findings, Tracy began to look at education statistics and noticed a huge achievement gap between low-income and high-income students. She also found that programs geared towards struggling, underprivileged youth existed but there were few— if any— programs designed to provide support to disadvantaged students who excel.


Recognizing a need, Tracy created the Student Expedition Program (STEP) in 2002 to “equip low-income, first-generation college-bound Arizona teens with the internal tools to succeed in college. Our overall goal is to help break the chain of generational poverty in the families with which we work by preparing students for success in higher education.”

In 2005, STEP began partnering with NOLS Professional Training to take students on a 23-day sea kayaking expedition along the coastlines of Alaska’s remote wilderness.  

“The first step to success is belief in oneself. The goal of the NOLS course is to provide students with an experience that helps them to know internally that they have what it takes to achieve whatever they want, especially recognizing that they can be a pioneer to college,” Tracy said. STEP Pic4

Since its founding, STEP has seen all of its 112 graduates successfully complete high school, and 81 percent are in college or have graduated from college. Moreover, STEP graduates are attending some of the most well respected academic institutions in the nation including Georgetown University, Bowdoin College, Smith College, University of Notre Dame, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, University of Southern California (USC), University of Richmond, Lehigh University, and Pitzer College.


When asked about her long-term vision for STEP, Tracy said she hopes to “reach as many high-achieving, low-income students as possible and eventually turn over the leadership of the program to STEP alum.”

Permalink | Posted by Erin Daily on Apr 19, 2013 in the following categories: Alaska, Professional Training

Sierra Nevada College Students Go Deep… Into the Canyons

This May, a group of 20 Sierra Nevada College (SNC) students will leave the comfort of their mountainous California home and take part in a 21-day leadership expedition into the deep canyons of Utah.


Rosie Hackett, director of outdoor adventure leadership at Sierra Nevada College, was instrumental in establishing the partnership between NOLS and SNC. She is confident that “NOLS is the leader in outdoor education. They go the farthest and the deepest. They employ the best of the best in regard to outdoor professionals. I believe in the potency of the [NOLS] leadership curriculum.”

Equipped with a well-prepared list of objectives, Hackett approached NOLS Professional Training three years ago to discuss the creation of a custom course designed to meet her program’s needs. Specifically, she wanted students to increase their technical competence in new and challenging terrain.


“The greater the challenge, the greater the potential for growth for my leadership students,” Hackett reflected. She also ensured that course participants had the opportunity to lead, facilitate, and teach as much as possible. Finally, LNT Master Educator certification and academic requirements involving reading and writing are key components of the expedition.

Hackett explained that her Outdoor Adventure Leadership (ODAL) students have many opportunities to partake in short field expeditions. However, she noted, “Anyone can hack three days. The true learning occurs after 10 days— groups start being real with each other. They get uncomfortable with themselves and they storm. Then they get comfortable with their new ‘uncomfortable state’ and they norm. And, with a whole lot of competence, collaboration, resourcefulness, and perseverance, they perform at any task put in front of them.”


Expedition participant, Camilla Rinman, commented, “The [NOLS] course was one of the most significant experiences I have had in the outdoors.” Rinman said, "I regularly apply the mindset I gained from the course to everyday life— that I can be successful at what I want and it is possible for me to create a career doing what I love.” 

Another course graduate, Savannah Hoover, shared two truths that are etched into her mind after her time in Utah: “One, love this earth and treat it well. Always consider where your resources come from and minimize your waste as much as possible. Leave every place a little better than you found it, and inspire others to do the same. Two, never forget your sense for adventure. A passion for the unknown, for the wild, can often be squelched in a world where everything is ‘already discovered.’ There's too much on this earth to explore and enjoy and protect—we must go out there and find it ourselves to witness the intrinsic value of what the wild has to offer.”


Reflecting on the benefits gained from the extended expedition, Hackett commented, “The takeaways are endless— self awareness, sustainability, endurance, and compassion just to name a few.” She went on to explain, “The greatest lessons from the field that are transferred to the frontcountry are intrinsic motivation and purpose. With motivation and purpose anything is possible!” 

Permalink | Posted by Erin Daily on Apr 15, 2013 in the following categories: Professional Training

Expedition Denali Launches Kickstarter Campaign for Feature Film

This June, nine mountaineers will attempt to become the first all-African-American expedition to climb Denali (a.k.a. Mount McKinley) in Alaska. This team’s goals go far beyond summiting North America’s highest peak and making history. Their ultimate objective is to inspire people of all colors, young and old, to get more engaged in the great outdoors.

Expedition Denali: Inspiring Diversity in the Outdoors will happen. How many people know about it—how far the team’s inspiration and awareness reaches—is another matter.

Through a Kickstarter campaign launched yesterday, Expedition Denali will raise funds to create a powerful, far-reaching documentary on the team’s journey to the top of North America’s loftiest, most iconic summit. From putting a camera team on the mountain with the expedition to producing, promoting, and distributing the resulting feature-length film, this project will increase awareness of the importance of exploring natural environments and make clear that it’s high time to invite all races, all ethnicities—all people—to inspirational outdoor playgrounds.

Given the powerful, reverberating echo of media—how it can trigger conversation and spark awareness to the furthest corners of our planet—this Kickstarter project and the resulting documentary is for anyone who has tapped into the inspirational, transformative, healing power of our natural environment. More specifically, it will create aspirational role models for African American youth and shine light on our great outdoors and the future they deserve.

Funding through the Kickstarter campaign will run for one month, ending May 10. People interested in making tax-deductible contributions to the production of the film can do so here.

Pledging to the Kickstarter campaign is incentivized by prizes that directly relate to the expedition and the film. Prizes include 30-day, fully transferable Wind River NOLS courses; downloads of the film; climbing equipment used by the athletes on the mountain; summit flags and Skype sessions with the team.

Brad Christensen photo

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Apr 11, 2013 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, In The News, On The Net, Professional Training

National Park Service Sets Its Sights On A Big GOAL

Since its establishment in 1916, the National Park System has grown to include more than 84 million acres tended to by 22,000 permanent, temporary, and seasonal National Park Service (NPS) employees each year. 

Recognizing a need to improve management practices within the NPS, the Generating Organizational Advancement and Leadership (GOAL) Academy was first implemented in 2008 for Grand Canyon National Park employees. As of 2013, the mid-level leadership development program covers all regions in the contiguous 48 states and has enrolled three 20-person cohorts. 

Grand canyon2
Photo Credit: Luke Avery

 The GOAL Academy hopes to cultivate a comprehensive leadership management strategy to prepare the next generation of NPS leaders. The Academy also seeks to enhance NPS leadership in an effort to become one of the top places to work in the federal government.

Designed as a 10-month program, the GOAL Academy comprises five four-day training sessions, leadership coaching, and an extensive actionable group project. Each session focuses on different competencies including self-awareness, resilience, building effective teams, conflict management, leading change, executive leadership, and leveraging resources. The group project then challenges participants to put their newly gained leadership skills into practice.


To capitalize on external expertise, the GOAL Academy partners with various service providers including NOLS. Academy participants partake in a NOLS Leadership Navigation Challenge (LNC) on the final day of the first session. The LNC is a great opportunity for individuals with time constraints to take advantage of the NOLS leadership curriculum.

During the LNC, each 20-member cohort is divided into teams of five to seven and presented with a challenge designed to test the team’s ability to navigate the tension between the desire for the small group to succeed and additionally assisting in the large group’s success.


Prior to the NOLS’ element of the training, Academy goers complete the Myers-Briggs Inventory and focus on understanding the significance of group decision-making, leadership, and communication. Then, the LNC solidifies learning from the previous days and sets the foundation for building relationships as teams begin work on their group projects.

To date, the program has been very successful—it has expanded each year and 20 of the 58 current graduates have earned promotions. At the end of the ongoing cohorts, 98 National Park Service employees will be GOAL Academy graduates. 

Permalink | Posted by Erin Daily on Apr 11, 2013 in the following categories: Professional Training

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