Life on the Borders
“Semester on the Borders students experience two very distinct and complimentary bioregions on this course: the desert Southwest and the Pacific Northwest marine environment. I can't think of another course that integrates such extremely different environments into one expedition,” said NOLS Instructor and Pacific Northwest Operations Manager John Harnetiaux.
Over the course of 86 days, two NOLS locations team up to offer an adventure like no other. The Semester on the Borders expedition offers five sections throughout the course. First, students experience some of the best rock climbing in the world in the Cochise Stronghold in Arizona or Joshua National Park and Taquitz in California. During this section, students develop an extensive amount of confidence that guides them into lead climbing when ready.
“The highlight is experiencing the daily contrasts of the desert environment. It might be 80 degrees during the day, and then drop down to below freezing later that night. Gaining 1000 ft. of elevation in the Gila, Galiuros, or Santa Teresas can change the ecosystem dramatically, with the flora and fauna being remarkably different within this relatively short gain in vertical distance,” said Harnetiaux.
After this section is complete, the course gets to experience a whole new environment in the Pacific Northwest.
“NOLS Semester on the Borders was the perfect practicing ground, and this trip seemed to cover interesting topics, and a wide range of climates while maintaining an outdoors educator travel life feel,” said recent Borders graduate Zachary Piña.
Being able to make the transition to a marine life expedition is a tremendous goal for everyone on the journey. During the two sections in the Northwest, students learn two more technical skills. Sea kayaking and keelboat sailing provide further lessons in becoming an extraordinary leader.
“The SWNW section is 3 weeks long. Each student gets more time navigating, more time trimming sail, more days as "First Mate" than any other keelboat sailing course we offer," said NOLS Instructor and Curriculum Publications Manager Ben Lester. "For a skill as complex as keelboat sailing, that extra week is super valuable for cementing learning.
While traveling through the waters of British Columbia’s coast and reaching the Strait of Georgia, students each have the opportunity to be the first mate of the boat. The first mate is given complete control over the crew and in this position is able to truly follow his or her vision and action.
The Semester on the Borders includes a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course before stepping foot in the outdoors. This section is taught by NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute instructors, and upon completion students receive WFA and CPR certifications.
Piña reflected on finding his way to-and in-the Borders.
“Deciding on one place was difficult and choosing both, seemed to be the best choice, as it provided a glimpse at the life of a traveling outdoor educator, which ultimately is the direction that I am still heading towards,” he said.
WMI Soap Note App Launches
In November 2011 Dan Rogers was hooked.
Earlier that year, he had been working in Baltimore as a developer for Eye Byte Solutions. After taking a WMI Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course in January, Rogers decided it was time to leave his job, head west, and spend more time outdoors.
“That opened the gates for me of really wanting to get out on bigger adventures, which just weren’t possible for me in Baltimore” Rogers reflected.
He left the East Coast to be a trail crew leader before taking his second course, a Wilderness EMT in Jackson, Wyoming, using funds from the Veterans Association (Rogers served 8.5 years with the Army and National Guard). Within a month of his course ending, he was working for the WMI office in Lander, Wyoming.
While he loved the West, Rogers couldn’t deny his passion for the tech industry or the renewed persistence of Eye Byte. A perfect solution was in the making.
Rogers left WMI and started a satellite office of Eye Byte in Jackson. He now lives and works in Teton Valley as Eye Byte’s UX and Web Development Director. When he isn’t working, he is in the mountains.
“It’s one of the best balances I’ve ever had, really. I’m able to still do what I’m passionate about, while being based here in the Tetons,” Rogers noted.
Rogers climbs the Grand Teton.
Rogers and WMI never lost contact. He had made a good name for himself at NOLS, and when WMI was looking to build an app for students, Eye Byte got the contract and Rogers was the developer.
“Really being able to understand where users and WMI staff were coming from, how the process works and how SOAP notes work, having filled out a million of them myself,” the WFR and WEMT grad noted, made the project a success.
The app, now available for iPhones and Android phones, is a great tool to help students and first responders alike document thorough patient assessments. Using the SOAP (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan) approach to recording information, the app allows users to save findings, attach photos, and share the report via email when connected. The app can operate offline, offers helpful information windows and tools, allows users to record multiple sets of vital signs, and more.
Download the app today and make sure you have it when you need it.
NOLS, REI proud to sponsor Latino Outdoors WFA
His connection to nature began when he was a kid growing up in México growing crops on a farm. Later on, in the United States, González had a different experience when he saw Sequoias for the first time—much different than the one he had as a kid running around the hills by his backyard.
“This place was a protected space and it seemed so magical to me,” he reflected.
While in college, González saw himself in the migrant students he was teaching about the outdoors. He found himself wondering why he didn’t see more Latinos in national parks and outdoors.
So he created Latino Outdoors, a place to give a home to his love of the outdoors and his strong commitment to share this love and training with Latino communities. The organization is a community and network of outdoor professionals. It is a starting and continuing point for Latino outdoor and conservation professionals who engage and learn with Latino communities and a starting and continuing point for Latinos to engage and learn about the outdoors and conservation organizations.
“We use Spanish as a cultural asset, English as a professional tool, and being bilingual as an affirmative identity,” González said. “We seek to provide opportunities to network and build professional connections, to be a training ground for current and future professionals, and we are cooperative and collaborative by nature.”
In early November, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute and REI collaborated in support of this important organization. NOLS and REI were pleased to be able to provide the two-day course to Latino Outdoors leaders on scholarship.
“This kind of technical assistance is crucial in the community-building work we do and in amplifying the work that gets more of our communities into a diverse range of outdoors experiences,” Latino Outdoors Facebook stated shortly after the course.
Additional WFA opportunities can be found here.
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.
WMI Hosts Annual Staff Meeting
This week, NOLS Wilderness Medicine professionals flocked to Lander from near and far for the annual Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) staff meeting.
Along with a large group of Lander residents, there were attendees from Colorado, Utah, Washington, and Eastern states. Those who traveled far were staying at the cabins at the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus, which is one of six LEED Platinum certified buildings in Wyoming.
This diverse group came together for continuing education opportunities in wilderness medicine. The schedule for the meeting includes medical professionals discussing how to best treat patients in the backcountry. Earlier this week, a three-day EMT refresher course was held for those looking to recertify their skills. On Thursday night, participants could take part in a CPR recertification class.
Yesterday morning, WMI Director Melissa Gray officially kicked off this three-day meeting with updates on the state of the school. She ran through some important facts about the past year at WMI.
Courses run this year were up 3.5 percent. Students took WMI courses as stand alone courses and as part of field courses. Many classes were taught through Landmark Learning and at REI stores. Two hundred and fifty instructors taught classes with the help of 22 support staff members in the office.
Today, topics will include: wilderness toxicology, dislocations, and neurological injuries. Forums are scheduled with the NOLS Executive Director team and the annual WMI curriculum forum.
The meeting will conclude on Saturday with a hypothermia session and outdoor activities. Participants will choose between ALS skills, technical rescue skills and hiking.
WMI is looking forward to the start of another great year!
Teton Valley Ranch Camp and the WRMC
The latest installment of the WRMC blog series profiles Teton Valley Ranch Camp (TVRC), a Western style youth camp that has been operating in Wyoming for 75 years, and stands as Wyoming's most historic residential summer camp. In this interview we caught up with TVRC Executive Director Carly Platt.
The mission of Teton Valley Ranch Camp is to provide educational excellence in camp programming in an enriching western environment.
WRMC: What do your participants gain from the wilderness setting?
TVRC: An appreciation and love for the wild places of Wyoming and the planet. An understanding of the principles and practices of Leave No Trace. Knowledge about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: wildlife, plant life, geology, ecology, and our role as stewards of the environment. Recognition that spending time in the outdoors can be FUN! The basic hard skills needed to plan and execute a backcountry expedition and an ability to identify hazards and manage risk proactively.
WRMC: Why does your organization send employees to the WRMC?
TVRC: Risk management is an important practice in all aspects of our organization's programming. The WRMC has been particularly helpful for us as we make policy and decisions to manage the risk of bringing young children on backpacking and horse packing trips in remote Wyoming wilderness areas. Especially helpful to us in recent years have been ideas for staff training, advice on legal considerations, and conversations about "hot topics" and other current industry trends. Another hugely beneficial aspect of the conference is networking and sharing ideas with other backcountry program directors. It is helpful to speak with others in the backcountry industry, even if their programs look very different from our summer camp setting.
WRMC: How has attending the WRMC helped you provide a better experience for your participants?
TVRC: By regularly attending the WRMC, we are able to stay informed about current industry standards and best practices to ensure an objectively high quality, educational, and fun experience for our campers. At the conference, we are challenged annually to revisit our programmatic decisions and to incorporate exciting new ideas in the months leading up to our summer season. Through lessons and frameworks we have learned over the years, we have also been able to incorporate risk management into our curriculum as an important takeaway for our staff and campers alike!
WRMC: How has attending the WRMC changed the way you manage your program?
TVRC: Attending the WRMC has provided our year-round staff with principles, resources, and connections to make risk management an institutional priority. More than anything, the opportunity to have conversations and share ideas with other leaders in the backcountry industry has made our program stronger and stronger with each year we attend.
We feel lucky to have outstanding WRMC attendees like the staff from Teton Valley Ranch Camp joining the discussion each year. For the chance to network with knowledgeable and experienced folks from TVRC and other similar organizations please join us at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1-3, 2014.
Click on the image below to learn more about the WRMC or to register online.
Permalink | Posted by Rahel Manna on Aug 28, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Leadership, Professional Training, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wilderness Risk Management Conference
City Kids Wilderness Project and the WRMC
The Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) unites hundreds of the nation’s leading outdoor organizations, schools, and businesses annually in an effort to “offer an outstanding educational experience to help mitigate the risks inherent in exploring, working, teaching, and recreating in wild places.” WRMC attendees absorb and learn a lot from one another through workshops, exercises, structured networking sessions, and much more.
We want to highlight some of the organizations that continually come the WRMC and find out why they attend and how the WRMC has influenced their risk management practices. Recently, we interviewed Colleen McHugh, the program director of City Kids Wilderness Project (CKWP), an outstanding nonprofit youth organization that has been returning annually to the WRMC.
WRMC: What do your participants gain from wilderness or remote settings?
McHugh: Each youth experiences something different from their wilderness experiences at City Kids. The program is a multi-year commitment for each youth. They begin their experience at the end of six
th grade, and our goal is to continue working with each individual through high school graduation and beyond. In returning each summer to the Jackson Hole area as well as participating in outdoor activities throughout the school year, youth develop a long-term relationship with the wilderness. For some, it provides a sense of peace and reflection, and for others it provides challenge and an opportunity to push themselves. A few find a life-long love of the outdoors and continue to pursue it as a field of study or career choice. Most of our campers talk about their experience as empowering and significant in expanding their worldview and their understanding of their own personal strengths and capabilities. City Kids becomes a second home for participants, a break from stressors of their life in D.C., and a space for them to explore their potential.
WRMC: Why does your organization send employees to the WRMC?
McHugh: As a small organization, the WRMC is a great opportunity for City Kids as an organization and individual staff members to connect with resources and other organizations. The WRMC allows us to learn from the experiences of larger programs and draw on resources from programs and experts who have developed great tools for their own programs. It has been extremely helpful in helping staff members calibrate our own practices with others in the industry and talk and compare with programs of a similar size. Sending multiple staff members has allowed us to spread out during the conference and make the most of the networking and workshops offered; additionally, the diversity in workshops allow both program staff and management staff to attend programs most relevant to their roles. It also provides a critical space and time in a busy program schedule for staff to step back and focus on risk management in the implementation of our programs.
WRMC: How has attending the WRMC helped you provide a better experience for your participants?
McHugh: On an organizational level, all staff and participants are more actively engaged in risk management. Clarity in our risk management practices have provided a more consistent experience for participants and translated to more clear program goals in the education of participants. This has been empowering for participants taking a more active role in managing risk within the group or as an individual. Youth in the program now play an active role in all trip activity briefings. Overall, the practices learned from the WRMC have helped us provide more structure and thoughtful programs for participants, which translates to a better experience on a daily level.
WRMC: How has attending the WRMC changed the way you manage your program?
McHugh: Over the last few years, attending the WRMC has significantly impacted how City Kids manages risk and operates as a program. The WRMC and NOLS Risk Management Training have provided a language, common framework, and structure for our management team in addressing risk. Broadly, the WRMC has stimulated conversation about organizational risk and program goals and again provided a common framework for staff members to discuss risk management. More specifically, attending the WRMC prompted some significant review of our risk management practices. Some of these projects include reviewing and updating our participant agreement, reviewing and updating our medical review system, writing a risk management plan, and thinking critically of our design of staff training. Risk management is now a part of the living culture of City Kids and ingrained in the ways we talk and implement our programs.
We would like to extend a big thank you to City Kids Wilderness Project for their contributions to the WRMC every year. We look forward to having them share their knowledge and experiences again this year. Come take advantage of the opportunity to network with the great folks at City Kids Wilderness Project and other similar organizations. Join us at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1-3, 2014.
Click on the image below to learn more about the WRMC or to register online.
Montana Conservation Corps & the WRMC
In this installment of the Wilderness Risk Management Conference blog series, we are focusing our attention on the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC). This nonprofit development program for young adults has been following in the footsteps of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, using conservation projects to foster citizenship and personal growth in its members. WRMC staff caught up with Montana Conservation Corps Program Director Lee Gault, who represented MCC at the WRMC 10 years ago, and asked him about the dynamic relationship that has been evolving between MCC and the WRMC for over a decade.
In the span of one year, the MCC, as a single branch, is able to train 300-400 participants of varying age groups and backgrounds. The different programs offered at MCC also vary greatly. One program in particular, the Veterans Green Corps, serves American military veterans who are “transitioning from military to civilian life” and “range in age from 24-35” said Gault. Using the training and exposure that the MCC program provides, many American veterans who are MCC alumni are able to transition into civilian positions and go on to work with the national parks service and the national forest service.
The MCC curriculum is designed to help members foster a deep-seated passion for the great outdoors through leadership development, technical outdoor skills, and environmental stewardship. MCC field programs hire “about 250 young adults, 18-30 years old from all over the country and all education levels,” Gault said. “All of them are AmeriCorps national service participants, and they serve varying length terms of service from a three-month summer term to a full nine months. We also serve around 150 Montana high-school-age teens in our summer Youth Service Expeditions program. They do a month-long mini-MCC experience completing most of the same work as our field crews.”
After such a longstanding commitment to attending the WRMC, we asked Gault to explain why MCC decides to send staff to the WRMC year after year. “We have found the WRMC to be the best professional development opportunity for risk management related to our field. There are topics relevant to every staff person at every level. It keeps us abreast of the state of the art in risk management, and it exposes our staff to the top thinkers and practitioners in the field,” Gault explained. “Every year we make changes and adaptations to our current practices, procedures and policies based on things we learned from the WRMC.”
Gault emphasized that the WRMC has provided a better experience for MCC participants: “[The WRMC] has helped in almost every area: screening and intake, hiring, training, leadership, field communication, in-field medical care, fostering positive crew dynamics, technical practices, emergency response, even office practices.”
As a community-empowering conservation organization, MCC stands as a great asset to the outdoor community and we are proud to have them as a contributing member of the WRMC family once again this year. If you are a community-based conservation organization, come take advantage of the opportunity to network with the knowledgeable staff from MCC and other similar organizations. Please join us at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1-3, 2014.
To learn more about the WRMC or to register online, click on the following image:
Written and Edited by Rahel Manna
In-Town Staff Value Out-of-Office Play
It's no secret that NOLS is a great place to work. Listed in Outside Magazine's "100 Best Places to Work" for the last six years, NOLS has been recognized nationally for its commitment to outdoor education and encouraging a good work-life balance. [Read more on this recognition here.]
NOLS employees are allowed to work flexible schedules so they can get outside and play. Many staff members at NOLS take advantage of this perk. With support from supervisors, employees can take time out of the workday to participate in community-wide lunchtime bike rides, climb at the local crag or complete individual training regimens.
The organization also takes that support a step further by encouraging staff to participate in races and multi-day events, even when these events take place on weekdays. NOLS employees are participating in outdoor ventures all over the world but are also playing roles in Wyoming’s growing adventure race scene.
For example, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute employees Kira Gilman, Jill Moeller, and Anna Horn entered and competed in the inaugural REV3 Casper Strong Full Day Adventure Race at their supervisor's urging.
The team members cheered each other through a series of unique and entertaining events in Casper, Wyoming. The Casper Strong race was a team effort and these three ladies bonded while tackling challenges along the course.
Gilman began the race for WMI’s team with a 12-mile trail run and then completed an archery section on top of Casper Mountain. Moeller then competed in the next leg of the race, mountain-biking and carrying a 50-pound salt block uphill. Finally, Horn tubed a whitewater section of the North Platte River to the finish line.
This winning team returned to the office with Casper Strong belt buckles and many stories to share.
"It was fun to have my supervisor encourage me to try something new and challenge myself. The push I receive from co-workers to pursue personal goals and well-being outside of the office is a huge part of what has made working in-town for NOLS sustainable for me," Horn reflected.
NOLS is committed to continuing its support and encouragement of employee wellness—a key ingredient in what makes the school an awesome place to work!
That's Not the NOLS Bus!
The Monday morning walk to work was a little different for NOLS Headquarters employees this week, as they were greeted by a 1970 Crown bus at the building entrance.
Three men campaigning for Wyoming Democrat Charlie Hardy for U.S. Senate made their way to 284 Lincoln St. in Lander this morning. Hardy is a Wind River Wilderness ‘75 graduate, and Bruce Wilkinson, owner of this campaign bus, is a Wilderness First Responder.
Nick, Felix, and Bruce greeted NOLS staff as they arrived at work this morning. Jeanne O'Brien photo
Wilkinson spoke of Hardy’s connection to nature and desire to create a better future drawing him to NOLS. Wilkinson, bus driver Nick Brasheer, and fellow campaigner Felix Agulto share Hardy’s outdoor interests as well as his political views and made plans to hike around Sinks Canyon this afternoon before hitting the road for Wright, Wyoming.