Rocky Mountain Branch Summer Meeting
The Forge Bar & Grill, Lander
6.28.2016: 6:00 - 7:00 PM
In attendance: Drew Seitz, Dave Durant, Nate Meltzer, Will Janke, Karen DuBonis, Mary Podzemny, Molly Herber, Kelly Carlin
Facilitating: Dave Durant
Notes Taken By: Nate Meltzer
Notes Edited By: Sean Williams, Dave Durant
These notes are a summary of topics discussed at a specific NIA meeting. They are meant to capture the “flavor” of the meeting. Unless specifically noted, they do not represent the opinions of individual faculty or the NIA as a whole.
Minutes as follows:
-Intros (names and what we do at NOLS).
-Dave's intro of the NIA, and some of the ways the organization represents instructors (including the following: completing the recent systems optimization survey on behalf of instructors, providing mentorship to instructors, and systems optimizations such as the Noble bike pump, food bins on the third floor of the Noble, staff computers and vehicles at various branches, the first NOLS pro-deals, the initial staff newsletters, etc.). Our influence is directly correlated to the number of members we have.
-A brief discussion and intro to the Flamingo Fund, including the budget and process for submitting ideas then ensued. Remember to submit ideas, and join the NIA to help increase this budget!
-Q: How does the NIA run?
A: NOLS run by the Board of Trustees (BOT). NIA is run by a elected President and Board of Directors. We currently get to attend one of the three BoT meetings each year. Supporting the idea of an instructor driven school means joining the NIA, and attending meetings if you have the time and opportunity. Sean Williams gives reports to the BoT three times each year on behalf of the NIA, and y extension, the instructor pool.
-Q: How many NIA members are there?
A: Today, 396. Once any upcoming member expirations are processed (in the next few weeks), we will be closer to 250 members. As we continue to transition to an auto-renew process, the organization will have to spend less time recruiting and will therefore have more bandwidth to focus on representing Faculty.
-Dave then opened up the meeting to any concerns that folks present have.
Mary: "I would like to see if there's a way to have in-town employees join this organization or a parallel organization because I've had enough people express interest." Mary then expressed a concern for increased communication among different departments.
Dave: Provided a brief summary of the branding initiative, and concurrent consulting effort that led to this rebranding. One thought is that this effort may eventually lead to improvements in the realm Mary has highlighted. "There's at least smoke. We'll see if where there's smoke, there's fire."
Mary: Expressed a desire for a more streamlined process of getting information and ideas from the bottom up, to those in the leadership/decision-making roles.
Dave: Sean, and the NIA, provide this opportunity.
Drew: Supervisor meetings can provide a venue.
Mary: Sometimes that communication is filtered out.
Drew: While we hear that, maybe that is sometimes OK, too. Think of the school as a large ocean-going ship, in which a change of direction is sometimes slow and takes a lot of time.
Dave: I am also very interested in your other point regarding in-town members joining the NIA. To do so, what will be required is a referendum (like the recent “Brexit").
Discussion ensued fleshing out the nature of many in-town employee jobs, and how that may or may not jive with the goals, needs, and desires of the NIA. One point is that many in-town positions are seasonal, and thus frequently temporary. Another point is that frequently, in-town roles and instructor roles are at odds, or may have a conflict of interest. Another perspective is that membership to all NOLS staff, in-town and otherwise, is the "way of the future." If, in fact, a sister in-town organization made more sense, providing advocacy for in-town folks, then the NIA would likely support, assist, and be happy to collaborate with said sister in-town group.
-Dave: Are there other topics that folks would be interested in discussing?
-Karen: Let's talk about the idea of a semi-annual AFP.
Dave: 1-2% of I's are considered AFP, from a pool of 850+ instructors. Number of AFP positions is steadily decreasing. Many benefits are listed, along with some downsides. The stated reason of decline is well-intentioned: a desire to spread contracts among more I's.
Discussion ensued fleshing out this issue. Here were some of the point highlighted: Another big challenge is the path to full-time work. AND, the number of IC grads each year is an underlying, ongoing root cause of this challenge for folks looking for more work. Administrators at the school don't want a repeat of the summer of 2007, when there was a huge lack of instructors and level C admin were going in to CL courses. Discussion further ensued fleshing out the path of instructor development, and what that all means as you take into account economic trends, enrollment, instructor development, predictability for enrollment and staffing, etc.
Another big factor is based on the inherent nature of what NOLS does for instructors: it provides opportunities for those pursuing a non-traditional career. But, that can bring its own number of structural challenges, especially when folks decide to revert to a traditional career for reasons X, Y, or Z.
Q: Where do new courses come from?
A: (Drew): It's a branch-level initiative. Folks brainstorm, balance enrollment needs and mixes, talk ensues, and it's all fleshed out. Maybe there will be more experimentation in new course types, we will see.
(Molly): New course types involve a lot of time, money, and planning, without much direct input on actual interest. One thing that does happen is the creation of fictional courses to gauge market interest.
One idea (from Karen): What if we had a "Summer IC," for folks primarily interested in summer work, and who only had that window and opportunity?
A (from Drew): The mid-summer IC is sort of like that.
Idea culled from discussion: Why isn't it explicitly stated as-such? Why isn’t NOLS more more honest with that language with IC students? Is it unfair to not have it stated as such? Is it manipulative to IC students expecting something different? To what degree is that the case increasingly moving forward, if these are the realistic expectations of an IC, and if these are the realistic factors determining your performance (like: rapport, I-team dynamic, skills, and ability to develop instructing systems-type skills), to what degree is it manipulative not to state these things?
Q: Are we a union? (A: No). Why are we not a union?
A (Dave): We are a 503c5 Tax Exempt Labor Organization. a) The label Union implies a more direct conflict with admin than some I's are currently comfortable with. b) There are incredibly complex laws regulating unions, which we're not in compliance with. Wyoming is also a hard state for unions as a "right to work" state. Furthermore, that discussion is welcomed moving forward, if folks do want to be a union, as such. AND, we'll continue to have more influence when we have more members.
Lastly: Focus on rapport with students, good I-team interactions, creating a fun and positive course culture, being humble and finding areas of future growth, and developing technical skills, and you will ensure excellent courses and continued paths towards advancement and improvement as an instructor.
One final thought: We should talk more on Diversity and Inclusion (D & I), and invite Sydney Clark, the new D&I coordinator, to the next RM Branch Meeting.