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  • Wednesday, November 25, 2009 1:23 PM | Allie Maloney

    NIA Report by Dave Kallgren

    Most recently the NIA was busy representing our members at Branch Director and Board of Trustee meetings. There is a full report posted on the NIA_NOLS website, but key takeaways were:

    The financial management of NOLS during this recession has been truly exceptional, and this has been matched by the talent and dedication of our staff. NOLS is actually doing pretty well in very challenging times.

    It appears that all the constituencies within NOLS --Trustees, management, field and in town staff--are in basic agreement that compensation remains a huge problem for the organization and significant steps need to be taken to address it as soon as our financial situation allows.

    In the meantime, rather than demand money which isn't yet available, we have concentrated on building consensus on the compensation issue, which our poll indicates is the most critical concern of staff. Several members wrote short narratives about the challenges and rewards they find working for NOLS and these were shared with the Trustees.

    The amount of overlap among constituencies at NOLS came up several times during the meetings. Many NOLS field staff, for example, also work as WMI instructional staff and/or in in-town positions. The NIA will be discussing how best we can represent this broader membership profile.

    Other topics of discussion for us include staff travel, the proctor/aide situation, and selection criteria for accepting students. We are working to find a better web presence as well, and elections are going on for NIA Board members and President. Join us and participate.

    The NIA is registered with the IRS and we can accept donations, though they are not tax deductible. Making a donation is as easy as paying dues, using the same mechanisms listed below. We have also created the Flamingo Foundation, an account specifically for making purchases to improve the quality of life for instructors and staff. Donations flagged as "Flamingo" will be used solely for that purpose, and we have received over $200.00 already. We will discuss how best to spend this money on the website, with the Board making the final call.

  • Thursday, May 01, 2008 1:26 PM | Allie Maloney

    FLAMINGO DIGEST - News of the NIA

    Dave Kallgren, NIA President

    Springtime is approaching, and the forecast is that this summer there will again be impressive numbers of Flamingos in Lander and other NOLS locations.  Despite this abundance, early reports indicate another summer of record demand, so once again there may not be enough Flamingos to go around. Check out the “Photos” section of the NIA_NOLS list serve for documentation of recent sightings.

    Meanwhile, back at the undisclosed secure location that serves as the NOLS Instructor Association world headquarters, there has been a flurry of activity. Ben Tettlebaum has taken on the newly consolidated role of Treasurer and Master of the Membership Eligibility Spreadsheet. This last has been a particularly tedious clerical nightmare, which explains why it has at times been difficult for us to send out membership renewal notices. Now, however, Fredrik Norsell has created a database to automate the cross checking. We expect to be able to be more efficient at helping you recall when your membership is about to expire. Of course, if you are eligible for membership but have not joined up, we now know whom you are and can launch a spam campaign to force you to relent. Membership in a distinguished professional society can be right up there with fake Rolex watches and Viagra, so avoid the hassle and join today, details below.

    Many people seem to look on the NIA as some kind of Union, and in fact that’s a role we have filled when needed in the past. The NIA has been instrumental in every significant pay raise for instructors in the school’s history, and this most recent compensation increase is no exception.

    It has also been true in the past that when things are going well at NOLS, interest in the NIA has dropped off. That is something we intend to change (no, not necessarily by stirring up trouble). At it’s best, the NIA really is an independent professional society comprised of some of the world’s leading outdoor educators. Ours is not an easy community to keep track of since most of us are totally out of contact for weeks at a time, but we are lively and distinguished, with no shortage of ideas, concerns, opinions and talents. The NIA provides a forum for open discussion that holds our far-flung community together and allows faculty to have a strong voice in the overall management and direction of the school.

    The technology of how we do that has gone through some changes over time. This NOLS Newsletter was originally edited and published by and for the NIA. True story. This was when it had to be typed, mimeographed, stuffed in envelopes and mailed out to members. When Jim Ratz became the Executive Director of NOLS he asked the NIA if there was anything he could do to help, and we eagerly said yes, publish the Newsletter for us.

    Over time it became clear that, both editorially and legally, the Newsletter had become an official NOLS Publication. It continues to be an effective way for NOLS to communicate with staff, but it was no longer the open forum instructors wanted. Enter Rick Rochelle and the creation of the NIA_NOLS list serve in Yahoo Groups.

    This was controversial and cutting edge at the time, and it is an effective way for instructors to communicate over the Internet. We post regular reports on NOLS happenings such as Budget Meetings, Board of Trustee Meetings, Strategic Planning and the like. In the old days, administrative access referred to the caving route through the heating ducts in the Noble that provided after hours access to the Staffing Office (another true story), but these days the Administration is kind enough to provide us official access to many meetings. Our reports are independent, though, and I believe they are a good way for instructors to stay informed.

    Members also use the list serve to bring up questions and concerns. Sometimes the NIA President or Board will act as ombudsman and bring these concerns to the Administration, and other times ideas get kicked around and resolved right there in the online discussion. It can be lively and stimulating, but it does mean scrolling through the entire list to find the topic you are interested in.

    We are starting to realize that maybe our Yahoo group is no longer cutting edge and we’re looking for a better format. Unfortunately I’m not very tech savvy, so we’re soliciting advice and ideas. In the meantime, all of you current instructors out there should get involved and use the list serve. We’d like to hear from you.

  • Monday, February 19, 2007 9:35 AM | Allie Maloney

    Spring to Mind

    Co-written by the board of the NOLS Instructor Association

    February 2007

    The mission of the NIA is to communicate and advocate instructor views,

    working within the NOLS community to promote the school’s mission and values.

    Congratulations, and welcome, to NOLS’ newest future instructors; those just off the Sailing Instructor Course in Mexico.

    Recent points of focus

    NOLS’ 2007 budget was based on 4% growth.  Though the school missed the fall enrollment target and we’re a bit behind on spring enrollment, most other areas look good.  After reviewing the budget, employee survey, and SRDR recommendations:

    ∑ This year, base and intermediate field staff are eligible for part-time health reimbursement if they work 13 weeks (a change versus 15 weeks in the past), and take and pass at least one training seminar, and commit to working in their prime season.

    ∑ The school absorbed most of the increase in health care premiums.

    ∑ The payroll budget line was increased.

    ∑ The pay range increased for all starting positions at the school.

    These are the signs of a fiscally healthy organization that is putting funds towards compensation and benefits to their employees based on feedback they have solicited.  Though compensation remains an important area for change at the school, the NIA continues to be encouraged by the will, and the concrete steps taken, by the administration to address these issues.  We look forward to continued initiative towards increasing wages throughout the school.

    The Noble Hotel renovation is done.  The third floor, reserved for field staff, is in operation with nice new kitchen facilities.

    The school completed its largest capital campaign ever, one month early, and exceeded the fundraising goal.  Instructors have mentioned the desire for endowed faculty chair positions. Will this be a new fundraising goal for the school?

    Staff Recruitment Development and Retention committee, part 2

    The primary outcome of the first meeting of this second SRDR committee is that Field Instructors are currently being encouraged to fill out a questionnaire (at surveymonkey.com), which explores topics that weren’t addressed in depth in the Morehead surveys.  This new questionnaire attempts to speak more directly to instructor concerns.

    With this survey the SRDR’s field staff subcommittee hopes to gather information, moving towards data-driven recommendations to be announced in March.  Their discussions have focused on recruitment, development and retention of staff in general, and specifically in response to the results of the Morehead survey.  They focused on pay, compensation, program supervisors, gain sharing, recognition and communication.

    More points from the SRDR meeting:

    ∑ Gain Sharing: Discussion of the 42 days that staff need to work to meet gain sharing and a look at recommending a change.

    ∑ Developing a report structure for improved communication regarding compensation.

    ∑ Program Supervisors and the positive impact the position has on field staff.

    ∑ Discussed methods for retention and recruitment.

    ∑ Continued increases in program supervisor pay so field staff have an incentive to take program supervisor positions.

    ∑ Discussed developing a program only for program supervisors that their in-town work would be recognized for field weeks.

    A big thank you to Sam Talucci, former NIA president, and current instructor extraordinaire, who is the NIA representative to the new SRDR committee.

    At the time this is being written, the surveymonkey.com questionnaire is closing, with responses from about 266 Field Instructors.  The number of Field Staff who completed the Morehead study this summer was 257.  NIA membership often hovers around this mark as well, about half the number of instructors who work in a year.  What does this mean?

    2006 NIA Web Communication in Review

    This year saw a substantial volume of e-mail communication on the NIA member’s Yahoo “listserve”/website, a forum open to all NIA members.  It's the primary venue for discussing NIA business, including responses to current and proposed NOLS policies and practices, and sharing information with other instructors.

    Among the message topics posted this year were:

    ∑ International and socio-economic diversity at NOLS

    ∑ Reports and Updates from the NIA Board and President

    ∑ Discussions of the travel plan and compensation for field staff, as well as retention of Program Supervisors

    ∑ Ecological issues across the school, and a call for action

    ∑ Suggestions, responses and reminders surrounding the SRDR, Morehead and Surveymonkey initiatives

    ∑ A poll of all members regarding banning tobacco products on courses

    ∑ Information regarding excess revenue and the financial state of NOLS

    ∑ Accounts of personal experiences working as field instructors at NOLS and making the decision to move on

    By far the topics receiving the highest number of posts were the discussions of:

    ∑ What makes field instructors feel valued as employees

    ∑ NOLS Pro, and the ethics of military partnerships

    We look forward to another year of communication and networking in cyberspace.  We encourage all instructors to become members of the NIA, to sign up to the Yahoo site, and to participate actively in the forum.  We would especially like to hear ideas on where you would like to see the NIA investing energy in 2007, and any new topics of discussion you would like to share with your fellow instructors.  If you haven't already, please consider joining the NIA and sharing your voice.

    Inside the NIA

    The NIA had 226 members at the end of 2006 (42% of active field staff).  Memberships end with the calendar year, so we are in the midst of our January membership drive.  We have over 100 members through 2007, and some as far ahead as 2009.  In recent years we’ve been able to add 130-205 members between January and June; we’re aiming for our all-time (2004) record of 307.

    However, over 100 memberships expired at the end of December, please check http://360.yahoo.com/nia_nols to see if you’re one of them.  If you teach one course at least every two years, please consider a two or three year membership, it’s more efficient for everyone.  To give you an idea:

    ∑ The NIA truly needs to have about 300 members every year to break even.

    ∑ If we fall short of this goal we need to dip into our Canadian Oil Sands stock (kidding!), which means we are a less resilient organization in the future (not kidding).

    ∑ This winter we are also contributing travel expenses for the NIA representative on the SRDR committee.

    NIA Board

    Your elected NIA board members (ask them about it, the next time you see them) through 2007 are:

    ∑ Jaime Musnicki

    ∑ Pat Mettenbrink

    ∑ Jake McArthur

    ∑ Jake Freed

    ∑ Sarah Annarella

    ∑ Frederik Norsell (New Zealand representative)

    ∑ Diego Allolio (South American representative)

    ∑ Mike Clelland (membership driver/Teton Valley representative)

    ∑ Matt Lloyd (treasurer)

    ∑ Les Van Barselaar (Vice-president / Mexico representative)

    ∑ Tomas Amodio (through 2008)

    ∑ Alison Frost (through 2008)

    Toby Harper has come to the end of his two-year term as president of the NIA.  “It has been an excellent experience for me, an honour to have the responsibility of representing my fellow instructors, and of working with NOLS administrators and trustees.”  Are you the next NIA President?  The NIA is actively seeking presidential candidates.  This is an exciting leadership opportunity at the school and a way to interact with NOLS instructors, administrators and trustees in a whole new way.

    Consider running for the presidency or nominating a candidate; the president should be an active instructor, but not necessarily one that works 25 weeks per year.  Please note, the NIA president generally receives a stipend of $5000 per year, and holds a two year position.  If you would like to know more about this position, please contact Toby Harper at toby_harper@nols.edu

    As always, the above report reflects the views of the NIA board which attempts to represent our membership.  Please do not hesitate to contact us with your comments or questions.  Thanks and take care,

    The NIA Board.

  • Sunday, November 26, 2006 4:42 PM | Allie Maloney

    The Fall of our Content?

    Toby Harper, NIA President

    The mission of the NIA is to communicate and advocate instructor views,

    working within the NOLS community to promote the school's mission and values.

    It was great to see some of you at the “state of the school” and board meetings in Lander a few weeks ago.  For those of you who couldn t make it, the committee meetings offered great discussions, and officially the world's largest cookies, good times!

    So as NOLS embarks on its 42nd year, with the current capital campaign wrapping up, a diversity initiative gathering speed, and new employee survey results being released, it's an exciting time to keep our heads up and involved as instructors at the school.

    Looking back

    In various presentations at the recent Lander meetings, the school s directors noted that in 2006 we:

    ∑ educated a record number of students,

    ∑ completed the majority of our renovation of the Noble Hotel,

    ∑ and exceeded our financial goals.

    Additionally, the finance folks reported that in the past year:

    ∑ NOLS grew 5.6%, for a net asset change $1,285,000 (this is actually $677,000 in cash, see my recent post on the NIA members Yahoo site

    ∑ NOLS Pro has grown 45% over the year.

    ∑ Our one-year fuel expenditure increase was 33% (2 year was 72%).

    I think it's important to note that without the Annual Fund and some return on our Endowment Fund, NOLS would be losing money.  This is normal for higher education institutions; most American universities would not get by on tuition alone, we depend on philanthropy.

    Survey results

    So the big news at NOLS, from an employee perspective, is that some of the results from the survey we took this summer have been released.

    In 2006, 477 (out of over 800) staff completed the survey; this is compared to 438 (out of 762) in 2003.  Based on 2005 total staff numbers (which are 6% higher than in 2003):

    ∑ 57.5% of employees filled out the 2003 survey.

    ∑ 58.3% of employees filled out the 2006 survey.

    ∑ 51% of instructors filled it out in 2003.

    ∑ 48% of instructors filled out the survey this year.

    This is participation we can be proud of; now what did we say?  In his presentation, NOLS Board of Trustees chair Fred Kleisner made an important link between staff satisfaction and program quality.  While we are waiting for results broken down by work unit (Field Instructors, HQ staff, location staff ) the overall results are posted on Rendezvous.  At risk of repeating them, and the Human Resources article in this Newsletter:

    ∑ NOLS employee satisfaction with, and commitment to, their work is higher than the national average.

    ∑ NOLS employees are also happy with their well-defined responsibilities, and this time around are happier with their job security.

    ∑ This being said, NOLS is still relatively weak on job security, pay, and benefits (though this did improve slightly relative to 2003).

    ∑ We have actually dropped, since 2003, in employee contentment with their involvement in decisions, and our desire to stay with the school.

    ∑ While we improved on over half of items on the survey, pay is still the big one below the national average.

    ∑ In a comparison with other non-profit we are below the average for “My needs are satisfied by the benefit I receive.” by a statistical difference of -0.94.  Our strongest score was +0.79 for “I am proud to tell people I work for this organization”.

    Some comments I heard from NIA members regarding the survey, and its initial results:

    ∑ Over 20% of instructors “turn over” in a year, which means many of the folks who responded this summer didn t take the last survey.

    ∑ While almost everyone would ideally like their pay to be tied to their performance, this is really challenging to measure in an education context, and instructors vary widely in their contentment with our current Merit Pay program.

    ∑ Some Field Instructors found they had a hard time answering questions related to “the person I report to” because they feel this role is often shared between Course Leaders, Program Supervisors, and Staffing Coordinators.

    A new Staff Recruitment, Development and Retention committee is being formed to follow up on the results of this latest survey.  The NIA will have a dedicated representative on the committee, in addition to two or three other instructor representatives.  The committee will first meet at the end of November.

    The last of the last SRDR committee recommendations are in the budget for this year, they include:

    ∑ a 13 week health insurance reimbursement threshold for 0-5 week instructors if they take a seminar and work in their prime season,

    ∑ and a 4% payroll budget increase.

    Many instructors ask, “How significant is this relative to inflation?”  Though it depends on your seniority level, if you got the average pay raise over the last three years, compounded it amounts to 2.8% above inflation.  This is very significant if we can sustain it.

    NIA insiders

    NIA membership is flat this year, with about 220 current members, about 90 through 2007, and a couple of dozen more through 2008.  Over 100 memberships will expire at the end of this December, please check http://360.yahoo.com/nia_nols to see if you re one of them.  If you work at least every two years please consider a two or three year membership, they re more efficient for everyone.  To give you an idea:

    ∑ The NIA needs to have about 300 members every year to break even.

    ∑ If we fall short of this goal we need to dip into savings, which means we are a less resilient organization in the future.

    ∑ This winter we are also planning to contribute partial travel expenses for the NIA representative who represents members on the SRDR committee.

    The NIA board members you have already elected through 2007 are:

    ∑ Jaime Musnicki

    ∑ Pat Mettenbrink

    ∑ Jake McArthur

    ∑ Jake Freed

    ∑ Sarah Annarella

    Please re-elect the other half of the board by taking the poll on the Yahoo site http://groups.yahoo.com/groups/nia_nols:

    ∑ Frederik Norsell (New Zealand representative)

    ∑ Diego Allolio (South American representative)

    ∑ Mike Clelland (membership driver/Teton Valley representative)

    ∑ Matt Lloyd (treasurer)

    ∑ Les Van Barselaar (Mexico representative)


    ∑ Tomas Amodio (new for 2007-2008)

    ∑ Alison Frost (“”)

    Vote today!

    Hey, we re missing candidates for the NIA presidency (to replace me).  If you re interested in exercising a different mode of leadership at NOLS, writing reports, attending meetings, staying on top of issues at the school and managing the NIA, please contact us.  There has historically been a stipend of $5000 per year for this responsibility.  The term is generally two years, but this is flexible.

    Domestic diversity

    Overall diversity at NOLS has decreased since 2001.  The present goal of the latest diversity initiative means tripling the 2005 number of domestic students of color, and multiplying similar instructor diversity tenfold, over the next five years.  The “why” of this initiative has been clearly answered:

    ∑ Diversity is directly related to supporting the NOLS mission.  By growing and diversifying we educate more, and more varied, students.  Diversifying our student population makes the school more powerful from a public policy perspective, makes us more sustainable from a marketing perspective, and increases the quality of the individual student experience.

    We've made great progress on the Women's Initiative through the leadership of Allison Bergh (winner of one of this year's staff awards, congratulations!).  We've hired the Diversity Manager position dedicated to diversity. Tania Tam will  serve in that role and Linda Lindsey is now Human Resources and Diversity Director.  With new budgets, and new collaborations with the Board of Trustees, we are in a good to position to address the diversity challenge at NOLS.

    Fun facts:

    ∑ There were 535 working Field Instructors in 2006.

    ∑ The average age of a NOLS instructor is 34.

    ∑ 39% of instructors are female.


    What are the most important issues at NOLS for you?  Do you have an opinion on banning chewing tobacco in the field, do you have ideas to share about the flatness of enrollment in our regular summer courses and the relative skyrocketing of our NOLS Pro business, how could NOLS be a greener institution, are you an NIA member, why or why not?  If you are, check out the great discussion happening right now on the Yahoo site about NOLS involvement with the US military.

    As always, the above report reflects the views of the NIA board which attempts to represent our membership.  Please do not hesitate to contact me directly with your comments or questions.  

    Toby Harper

  • Friday, August 18, 2006 12:12 PM | Allie Maloney

    Q&A with John Gans, NOLS Executive Director
    By Julie Hwang

    Q) John, you’ve been involved with NOLS for over 25 years now. Tell me a little bit about your NOLS course, and how you started teaching students in the field.

    A) I was a semester student in Kenya in 1979, my last semester in college, and it changed my views on education and the world. Once I graduated, I was looking for an experiential education institution that focused on young people, with strong ties to the outdoors; I found all of those things at NOLS. In fact, I found it to be the perfect educational environment.

    I came back and did my IC (Instructor Course) in ‘80 and started working for the school in ‘81. I remember coming out of the mountains on my first course; other instructors were ready to be done, thinking about beer and pizza and ice cream, and I just didn’t want to leave.

    Q) How has the NOLS changed since then?

    A) In terms of outcomes and goals, little has changed. What haschanged are aspects of our implementation that only enhance the ways that we achieve our mission. Our equipment has gotten a lot better, for example, and there is alotmore logistical organization. Also, alumni are way more tied into the school now. They are engaged in spreading the word and contribute to the Annual Fund and campaigns to meet needs of future students.

    We have also diversified our education program. By acquiring WMI and starting NOLS Professional Training, we’ve improved and expanded the reach of what we do educationally around the world.

    Q) You’ve been the Executive Director of a large, international non-profit for over a decade. What keeps you going?

    A) I have dedicated my life to education, leadership, youth, wilderness and non-profits, either at NOLS or elsewhere. These are the things that I really value and want to stay close to, and I’ll always want to do it in the organization that does it best. The challenge to keep on improving is enough to keep me going and then some.

    As far as specific examples of the great moments, I’ll give you two: The first is something I call “the bus factor,” when you walk onto a NOLS bus at the end of a course. The energy there is always unbelievable. There’s also the smell… Second, I love meeting with alumni, hearing the difference that NOLS has made in their lives.

    Q) We’re in the final stages of the school’s largest and most ambitious capital campaignundefinedthe International Base Camp Initiativeundefinedhow do bricks and mortar provide a framework for living, learning and teaching at NOLS?

    A) Fifteen years ago, NOLS had great ideas and great staff, but it owned nearly none of its facilities. In order to last, we needed: 1. an endowment to provide predictable support for scholarships and other initiatives, 2. a diversified student base that matched the changing demographics of our country and world, and 3. stability of running more of our facilities. We started by acquiring many of our branch headquarters and then turned to address needs in Lander. The Noble was run down, and we were renting space in various locations in town for our office needs. This Base Camp Initiative brought together our headquarters staff in one building and addressed the Noble renovation. It has been one of the key steps in building the future of the school, so we can continue to do the best job we can without worrying about our home.

    Q) A big piece of your job is working with the Board of Trustees. Most readers don’t really know the NOLS Board. How would you describe that group, their role and their function?

    A) Our Board is phenomenal. They donate their time, energy and support and have great EB as a group. Most are NOLS grads, NOLS parents or former staff, so they’re not afraid to lead and act situationally. In fact, they are all are exemplary leaders outside of NOLS. They know why they’re serving and are able to put issues on the table and move us forward.

    Q) There are growing and complicated political and environmental threats to wild lands; should NOLS become more active in the conservation and advocacy arenas?

    A) Our primary role is as an educational organization. Our goal is for students to understand the conflicts and the various sides of land management issues and develop their own wilderness ethic to become stewards for the land. We are most effective by speaking from our expertise and knowledge of the lands in which we operate; in many cases, lands that we know better than anyone else. Consequently, we have the responsibility to step up and advocate for the school’s classrooms.

    Q) You've seen NOLS go through countless changes as a student, instructor and administrator. What can we expect or project NOLS to look like in another 10 years?

    A) In 10 years, NOLS students will continue to hike in wind pants and eat pasta in wilderness areas around the world. Our reputation will broadenundefinednot only in numbers, but also in geography and with a more diverse group of students and staff.

    I see more programs in place that will ensure the quality and development of our staff. Among them will be endowed faculty chairs that will focus on specific portions of our curriculum. We will also have endowed positions to support instructor proctor positions on semester courses around the school. I also see further growth of our training funds for staff. Significant expansion areas will include academic year-long programs, further growth in WMI and significant growth in NOLS Professional Training.

    NOLS students will be challenged, get dirty, have fun, experience life in a whole new way and head out to be leaders in the world. This group of leaders will make a difference for wilderness and for our world.

  • Wednesday, November 23, 2005 6:43 PM | Allie Maloney

    Flamingos Fly South?

    Toby Harper, NIA President

    The mission of the NIA is to communicate and advocate instructor views,

    working within the NOLS community to promote the school s mission and values.

    The lake at the foot of the garden here in Quebec's eastern townships won't freeze over for a while, yet it didn t seem far off whilst I waded around pulling the floating dock out yesterday.  This ll be my last newsletter article of the year, I hope NOLS'  40th, the NIA's 30th and WMI's 15th were relatively good ones for everybody.  The celebrations in Lander were inspirational, I felt they revealed the institutional memory that holds the school together as it tumbles through time.

    What is below contains a little internal news about the NIA and an amalgam of the update on Performance-based pay I sent to the NIA list-serve in September, of the outcomes of the October NIA board meeting and of my presentation to the NOLS Board of Trustees a few weeks ago (many thanks to those who attended on a sunny Saturday morning).

    I first want to thank this year s NIA board members: Matt Lloyd (Treasurer), Albert Mitugo, Diego Allolio, Fabio Oliveira, Mark Fisher, Fredrik Norrsell, Les van Barselaar (Vice-President), Mike Clelland! (Membership Driver), Nate Furman, Shari Leach, Rick Rochelle (Membership Manager and Past-President) and John Fitzgerald.  They have brought their great energy to the NIA, and the NIA to its successes.  Past-Presidents Sam Talucci and Marco Johnson have been great mentors on the NIA board and I very much appreciate their coaching.

    About half the board will return next year, the ballot for the new folks is open until the first week of December in the Polls section of the Yahoo site.

    The NIA is also seeking a new president; please contact the board if you or someone you know is interested.  Here's Vice-President Les van Barselaar s take on the role:

    The NIA president position provides a unique opportunity to participate at the heart of NOLS.  Where else can you meet and talk to instructors about what's important to them, learn about the administrative point of view at the branch and international level, and get to meet and talk with the NOLS Board of Trustees throughout the year.

    The President's position also provides great learning and practical skill development (leadership, communication skills etc.) if someone were interested in pursuing an administrative or education career with NOLS or elsewhere.  You'd have many opportunities to hear innovative ideas on NOLS leadership, curriculum issues, and Human Resources issues.  The NIA is also changing in exciting new ways to fulfill our mission.  This is a unique opportunity to play point in actualizing the NIA and NOLS missions.

    You don't have to do this on your own either.  The NIA board provides a deep well of experience, they are your immediate team.  The NIA has great support from over half of Field Instructors, from directors and the NOLS Board of Trustees.

    An annual stipend of $5000 is currently paid to the president by the NIA.

    Apply now by sending a bio and vision statement to nia_board@yahoogroups.com


    NIA membership is at a record for this time of year.  We have 303 at the moment (59% of Field Instructors), our past best for this Newsletter was 302 in 2004.  Once again, the NIA would especially appreciate hearing from non-members about why they have chosen to not join.

    Participation seems to be high because instructors are invested in the mission and feel the NIA both represents their views and role models their values.  Thank you to all members for your investment and support, we feel it quite a responsibility to communicate for you.

    For 2006 we already have 156 members and 38 for 2007.  I've sent out an email to those whose memberships expire January 1st 2006, early renewal really helps us out administratively.  I understand the frustration of not knowing whether you're a current member or not, and when your membership will expire.  This seems like our biggest administrative challenge.  We are working on getting the current membership list and expiration dates on an NIA section of Rendezvous.

    We are also considering offering a three-year membership option, and getting an (almost) automated email out to all those who join.  Please bear with us through this time of transition.

    Recent Achievements

    2005 has been a successful year for the NIA mission.  Enrollment at the school remains flat but revenues are up due to program diversification.  While growth is not quite where the Board of Trustees might want to see it Field Instructors should look forward to the planned implementation of Staff Recruitment Development and Retention committee recommendations for 2006.  These include a change to 4%/week health insurance reimbursement and a 4.65% payroll budget increase, if NOLS' 2006 budget is approved in November.

    We should also see reimbursement of visa and Homeland Security fees for international staff beginning Sept 1, 2005.

    The Board of Trustees, NOLS administrators and especially the Human Resources Department have lately been very clear on our progress towards and goals for staff diversity.

    Another great success this year has been increased participation (up to 27%) in Field Instructor giving to the Annual Fund.

    Current Challenges

    The Board of Trustees stated in June that: future pay increases will be directed toward those positions where we are most off comparables, where turnover is the greatest, for meritorious performance and to those positions for which it is most difficult to hire .  The human resources department has echoed that it supports both merit pay and differential pay.

    While I have tried hard to focus on things other than pay during my term it remains the number-one concern for Field Instructors and it has recently come to the fore in new ways that demand instructor participation.  The topic at hand, Performance-based pay , wouldn't necessarily change the figure on your paycheck, yet it would change the way you got to that amount.

    How do you feel about the current Field Instructor pay scale being changed to value factors other than only seniority (weeks) and position (CL/PL/I)?  These other factors might include 'performance' on a course (measured against set expectations/criteria), which course you're working (what type, where and when), whether or not you accepted the course you asked for (a 'turn-down' ratio), and what you 'brought' to the course (certifications, education, etc)...  What do you think the impact of a change to this system would be?

    Do you agree that the challenges with restructuring the pay scale fall into two broad categories, the first functional: a radical change towards a different system would likely require a large amount of administrative energy (money) to get right, how would we make this as clear as possible, as efficient as possible, and as fair as possible across the school?  And a second, perhaps larger challenge, philosophical: How do you feel about NOLS addressing its mission and strategic goals of staff recruitment, development and retention by shifting from an entirely seniority-based pay scale (which values your longevity at NOLS) to a more dynamic system (which values other factors that you as an educator bring to the program, to quality student outcomes, and to the economic sustainability of the school)?  Is this a question of 'institutional memory' versus the 'free market', `excellence' versus `loyalty ?

    It seems reasonable that Field Instructors expect to be involved in any changes to the philosophy and structure of their compensation.  Please respond to the above questions and contribute your ideas so that the NIA can represent your views if asked.  A great place to submit your thoughts is nia_nols@yahoogroups.com.

    Our Travel Plan also continues to be a challenge, Field Instructors often pay out of pocket for long-distance travel expenses to work courses, how does this affect you?

    The Future

    As I end my year as president I want the NIA to remain focused on constructively supporting NOLS mission by communicating instructor views.  A few topics of discussion which I think remain particularly relevant at the school include:

    ∑ Our strategy towards diversity, from how we change the structure of our international pay scale to how we recruit students from a broader range of backgrounds.

    ∑ How we value senior instructors.  Do we feel it is important to have folks with 250+ weeks working in the field because they can work a variety of course types or because they re mentors for junior staff, they are better risk managers or create better student outcomes in general?  How do we measure this, and demonstrate that we value them, with pay increases, with awards and recognition, by creating Chair of Faculty positions?

    ∑ Curriculum, it is the product of which we are so proud, yet NOLS doesn t have an education committee at the board level or a curriculum director as part of the executive team.

    ∑ The August 2006 staff re-survey process, what will we ask about?

    ∑ Rendezvous , the internal website for staff, is an expanding resource for knowledge sharing and a great opportunity to improve the consistency and quality of our program and livelihoods.  As this web based resource becomes more user friendly, how can the instructors more actively participate?

    Many thanks once again to those instructors who have entrusted the NIA with the responsibility of communicating for them and to NOLS directors and trustees who have supported us for so long.

    The challenges ahead will undoubtedly demand application of the modes of leadership we value in the field.  Field Instructors are certainly competent in these and can role model them as yet another contribution to the mission of the school.  Take care and safe travels,

    Toby Harper

  • Sunday, June 11, 2000 1:09 PM | Allie Maloney

    The 1970s were exciting years for NOLS: as the school expanded internationally, enrollment, staff, facilities and reputation increased. With this rapid growth, however, camp problems. In addition to the chronic shortage of operating capital, administrative tensions erupted in the mid-1970s and threatened the very existence of the school.

    Prior to the summer of 1969, in an attempt to increase the school's cash flow, Paul Petzoldt and Rob Hellyer formed, and provided financial backing for, Outdoor Leadership Supply, a private corporation which manufactured and owned all of the capital assets and equipment used in the field. NOLS itself was still a scholarship and teaching entity and continued to be a non-profit.

    As the school continued to expand and attract more students during the early seventies, the business arrangements between OLS and NOLS also attracted the interest of the Internal Revenue Service. As NOLS was a non-profit school, yet gained income from the sale and rental of the equipment manufactured and supplied by OLS, the IRS claimed that the non-profit status of the school was invalid. Then, in 1973, in an attempt to satisfy the legalities of the arrangement, Paul reorganized OLS into a separate company called Paul Petzoldt Wilderness Equipment (PPWE) that would sell equipment and merchandise to NOLS. However, the muddled financial situation between the two entities continued to raise questions of conflict of interest from the IRS.

    Concerns about the complicated financial situation and other problems continued throughout 1974 and on into the summer of 1975, and the absolute reasons for all that transpired will probably always remain a little unclear. However, what is clear is that the NOLS Board of Directors, due to mutual disenchantment between both parties, finally decided to remove Paul Petzoldt as NOLS Executive Director on July 14, 1975. Employees, primarily the field instructors, were forced to choose between alliance with Paul or the Board of Directors. In response to the increasing turmoil and to ensure that their concerns regarding the future of the school were heard, the field instructors formed the NOLS Instructor Association (NIA) in August of 1975.

    The NIA third party served as a buffer between Paul's agenda and the agenda of the Board of Directors. At one point that summer, the Board even considered the sale of NOLS to COBS. Then, prior to the start of Fall Semester courses, Paul encouraged the field staff to initiate a work stoppage (a strike!) against the Board and in support of his position. Friendships and loyalties were put to the test as some Instructors went out on strike, while others decided to work. The decisions to work was made not so much in support of the board, but more in support of the mission of NOLS and the obligation to the students arriving for their courses. For a time during the fall of 1975, NOLS looked very much as if it were coming apart, and the Fall Semester Courses were barely pulled off.

    With Paul Petzoldt's departure, John Hamren stepped in as NOLS Executive Director during the remainder of that summer and into the fall. Tensions still running high, the pressures of reorganization seemed to take their toll. More that a few field instructors and in-town staff, not wanted to be forced into the position of choosing sides, left the school. Without any warning, John, caught in an untenable position between field staff and the Board, left the turmoil at NOLS behind. Few at NOLS heard from John Hamren until 1985 when he returned for the NOLS 20th reunion. He is the least known of NOLS' Directors, and is always worth bonus points on the NOLS Trivia quizzes.

    Without an Executive Director, NOLS Board members, administrative staff, and the NIA spent a tumultuous fall season struggling to keep the political pot from boiling over. Acrimonious meeting found little common ground to unite the different factions and viewpoints concerning the direction of the school. After many long meeting and heated discussions, Peter Simer, a senior Course Leader (and active NIA member), emerged as the consensus candidate and was named the new Executive Director of NOLS on December 4, 1975.

  • Tuesday, February 20, 1990 12:15 PM | Allie Maloney

    NOLS Instructors

    What do a biology professor, professional watercolorist, parachute jump master, former professional hockey player, rede manager of the Alaska Iditarod dogsled race and Assistant Attorney General for the State of Montana have in common? They are all NOLS instructors. Besides leading NOLS courses, NOLS instructors work as classroom teachers, naturalist, professional guides, computer consultants, engineers, ranchers, medical students, carpenters, photographers and parents.

    There are over 700 certified NOLS instructors. Typically, about 225 of them work for the school in a given year, some for a single course, others year-round. Many instructors work full-time for NOLS, either entirely in the field, or combining administrative and instructional responsibilities. We think there there is no substitute for field experience when it comes to decision-making at NOLS, from the person who fits the boots to the Executive Director. Of our managers and branch directors, 75 percent are former instructors; of our full-time staff, more than half are former instructors. Many of these people manage to teach a course now and then too, to keep a first-hand familiarity with changes in the field, but mostly because they love instructing.

    The average age of an instructor is 29; they range in ages from 19 to 55. Thirty-one percent are women. Most are American, though we employ a number of international citizens as well.

    To become instructors, most (75 percent) have first taken NOLS courses as students. NOLS graduates and individuals with outstanding outdoor and/or educational resumes then take our Instructors Course. Of those who pass the IC, most go on to work in outdoor programs; 70% eventually get hired by NOLS. Certification of an instructor comes after he or she has successfully instructed a course with more experienced staff members.

    All instructors have advanced first aid certification or EMT training. The School offers over 25 supplementary training sessions each year for instructional staff to keep skills sharp and add new experiences. These range from caving and ice climbing to interpersonal communications and teaching.

  • Friday, February 24, 1989 4:08 PM | Allie Maloney

    The NOLS Instructors...

    Who are the NOLS Instructors?

    That's a hard question to answer. NOLS instructors bring a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences, along with an extensive range of talents and skills, to every course. They vary in age from 19 to 52, and most have been leading courses for years.

    While there is no single description that fits the over 500 certified NOLS instructors, they do share certain characteristics and skills:

    --They are inquisitive, dedicated and caring.

    --They are leaders who can organize groups and demonstrate excellent judgement and concern for safety.

    --They are very effective communicators, both one-on-one and in large groups. 

    --They have vast experience and are highly skilled in such areas as mountaineering, backcountry travel, kayaking, natural history and climbing.

    --They are committed to conservation education and to teaching others wilderness values.

    It is not easy to become a NOLS instructor. THey are talented, gifted and exceptional people who touch people's lives in very important ways. THey make NOLS courses very special experiences.

  • Tuesday, February 12, 1980 2:42 PM | Allie Maloney

    Dear Peter,

    The NIA would like to take this time to thank you for supporting the Matching Funds Proposal between the NIA and NOLS.

    Lenny Pagliaro was the first instruct to benefit from this program by receiving a $100 scholarship from the NIA which was matched by NOLS. Lenny attended the Mountain Medicine Symposium in Yosemite, California earlier this spring and on May 24 and 25, Lenny presented an excellent seminar on Mountain Medicine for the NOLS Instructors.

    Thank you again for your time and support in this program.


    Linda Black


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