PRESIDENT, NOLS INSTRUCTOR ASSOCIATION
The NIA’s mission is to communicate and advocate instructor views and to work within the NOLS community to promote the school’s mission and values.
The most important work for us at the NIA during the spring is preparation for the Faculty Summit, which will have already taken place by the time you read this report. We hold our Annual General Meeting, our largest meeting of the year, in Lander, on an evening during the Summit. In recent years this has been a good time to share with faculty members and others in Lander what the NIA has been working on over the past year, what goals we have for the coming year, and most importantly, to solicit input and feedback, both for ourselves, and to pass on to Headquarters as needed. Instructors now seem to expect a major NIA meeting to go along with the Summit, and we coordinate with the Summit organizers to find a time that will not conflict with Summit-related events. This year the meeting will be at the Lander Bake Shop, a convenient and fun location for those staying at the Noble or living in Lander.
The NIA has had significant turnover on our Board of Directors this year, with only a few Board members remaining who have been on the Board for four years or more. The current Board is highly engaged, organized, and motivated, and has particularly good representation among younger, newer instructors, and among instructors based outside of Lander. I view this as a positive change from years past, when there was a conception that membership on the NIA Board was only appropriate for very senior faculty members. We will have an almost completely new team in Lander for the Summit and running our General Meeting, with only one Board member present who was also present last year. This is an exciting time at the NIA, with changes in faces, personalities, and ideas. I am proud of the work our Board has done over the past four years, and simultaneously happy that we will now be showing new faces and providing new perspectives to our membership. We try to recruit potential Board members to create a Board with a balance of priorities and skills: age, seniority at NOLS, nationality and presence at various NOLS locations and pillars, organizing and management skills, continuity and experience on the Board, organizational knowledge of NOLS, and reliable motivation. The energy and confidence with which our new Board members have jumped into their roles speaks to a bright future for the NIA over the next few years.
After a several-year hiatus, we have re-launched the Flamingo Newsletter a one-page email newsletter we will be sending out to our members several times a year, with updates on NIA activities and information about what we have been doing to represent and support NOLS faculty and staff. The Flamingo Fund, our donation- and dues-based fund for projects to improve life for faculty and staff at NOLS campuses, has been busy recently, supporting the purchase of a small fleet of whitewater kayaks for staff to use at the Patagonia campus. (In the past, the Flamingo Fund was 100% donation funded. The flow of donations was quite low, so last year we decided to provide the Fund with regular cash-flow by directing 10% of NIA member dues towards it every year, making more projects possible). This was a nice story of a single instructor and NIA member, Mike Dooley, finding the support and funding to add an often-desired perk to life on the Patagonia campus, one that will also support instructor technical skill development in the whitewater and sea kayak programs. What began as a simple request for a few hundred dollars from the NIA to buy an old used boat grew in scope and ambition, and ended up combining NIA Flamingo Funds, individual donations, and Patagonia campus funding to purchase three high quality boats that will be available for faculty and staff to use on the excellent whitewater near Coyhaique, and all around Aysen (the Chilean province where our Patagonia campus is located). In addition to being fun, this will help Patagonia sea kayak instructors develop their skills in challenging conditions without having to organize a major sea kayaking expedition to the remote Patagonian coast, and should also help encourage NOLS river instructors to keep contributing their skills to the sea kayak program, by giving them an easy way to pursue their passion on world famous whitewater without having to transport a boat to Patagonia.
Good luck with the budget, and other topics at the June meeting! We look forward to seeing you all in Lander in October. Thanks, as always, for everything that you do for NOLS, to make all the magic that happens in the field and the classroom possible. The faculty have the deepest appreciation for your support.