Flamingo Digest---May 2008 Staff Newsletter

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


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.

Think creatively.

Act collectively.

Join the NIA.

The mission of the NIA is to communicate and advocate instructor views and to work within the NOLS community to promote the school's mission and values

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