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 Campus Meeting Notes

A successful meeting at NOLS Northeast, July 2016. 

Email the NIA Board at NIAboard@googlegroups.com with comments, questions or additions to the meeting minutes.

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  • Tuesday, July 30, 2019 8:02 AM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    NOLS NE Campus Meeting, Donnely’s Ice Cream Stand, July 29th, 2019 

    Meeting Facilitated by: Dave Durant, NIA president

    Notes by: Anna Bastidas, NIA member

    Attendees: Morgan, operations assitant; Caio, psup, instructor; Suzy, instructor; Mila, instructor; Mariana, instructor; Drea, fellow; Taylor, NOLS Northeast Program Manager; George, issue room manager; Sarah, instructor; Amber, operations director; Alex, instructor

    These notes are a summary of topics discussed at a specific NIA meeting. They are meant to capture the “flavor” of the meeting. They do not represent the opinions of NOLS, individual faculty/staff members, or the NIA.

    Introduction: what the NIA is and what it isn’t.

    What the NIA does:

    1. Faculty representation at NOLS Board of Trustees Meetings 
    2. Professional community, e.g. networking, mentorship program 
    3. Administer the Flamingo Fund which makes physical improvements at NOLS campuses e.g. soda stream, bikes, storage lockers, kayak, etc. 

    What we try not to do:

    Duplicate the efforts of folks at NOLS locations already being paid to do something. Because the NIA is run by volunteers who have other jobs, it needs to be selective of where it puts its energy.  The NIA isn’t a labor union.  We can’t compel people to join, nor do we automatically take dues from Instructors’ paychecks, and we have no plans to pursue the processes that would allow us to to do so.  Supporting the NIA (by joining) is voluntary, and the support of every instructor counts.

    Open Forum

    Q: Is the presence of the NIA at Board of Trustees meetings consistent, and what is the involvement with the search for a new NOLS President?

    A: Until 2014 there was an NIA rep at all board meetings.  In 2014, that number was unilaterally reduced to one time per year. The NIA believes that Faculty have the right to be represented - by someone they choose - at all three board meetings per year. The relationship between NOLS admin and NIA in the past it has been “tense and confrontational and that is not what we desire. We desire a relationship that is cooperative.  My deep hope is that when we have a new president we can cultivate that relationship. Interestingly, we have a great relationship with the trustees. I hope that you sign the petition, and will have an opportunity to do so later if you wish….  Our biggest current project is to get NOLS to commit to the idea of getting employees to have a living wage.” 

    Q: Would the NIA help fund representation at board of trustees meetings? 

    A: Yes that’s on the table. Having the board at the Northeast was a huge opportunity for folks to ask questions, and hear what is happening at the school. The trustees want to hear from the NIA, instructors, and employees. By showing up to meetings we show that we do care about school wide decision making.

    Q: Where does all the money that is available for compensation get spent? 

    A: This information can be found in the finance report in the Board notebook. NOLS is in zero risk of ceasing to exist at this time. NOLS has money which they manage quite conservatively. The sweet spot could be in a less conservative place. We’re trying to work the numbers for what it would cost to have all employees making a living and I’m not ready to share that yet, mostly because I've been in the field for the past five weeks. 

    Q: Would NOLS consider divestment from companies that profit from the carbon economy, e.g. oil and gas companies? 

    A: It’s come up in contexts like this and not forcefully presented to the Trustees because I think that would be a really tough hill to climb with NOLS.  You can see exactly which mutual funds NOLS invests in in the Board Report, and you can see the companies that make up these funds at Vanguard's website. 

    Q: Should NIA membership be open to all NOLS employees, not just instructors? 

    A: Yes, I think that’s the way forward.  That said, there isn’t consensus about this on the NIA Board.  Here are some of the objections that are typically raised:

    • We wouldn’t be an “instructor association” anymore, and we’d have to change the name. I don’t think that’s true.  IBM didn’t change their name when they stopped making “business machines” and started making computers.
    • In-town employees can start their own labor organization. There is a huge amount of work involved in this and it doesn’t make sense to duplicate our efforts.  Also, in town employees have had 54 years to form their own organization and they haven’t done it yet.  There’s no reason to think they’re going to do it now.
    • 1000 NOLS instructors, NIA has ~350 members. When NIA gives critical feedback the push back from the executive team is that the NIA is not representative of all instructors. Opening it up to in-town employees would further reduce this percentage.  We would certainly have to recruit in-town employees to be on the NIA Board of Directors. We saw this already when we opened it up to Wilderness Medicine Instructors.

    Q: Why are people not signing up for the NIA? 

    A: Anecdotally, some people say:

    • They don’t have $20 for dues - what does THAT tell you?
    • "I'm satisfied with my deal and when I’m not I’ll go work elsewhere"
    • The NIA takes too aggressive a stance
    • The NIA isn’t aggressive enough
    • They don’t know what the NIA is
    • "I’m not a joiner"
    • They think that joining could lead to some sort of retaliation from NOLS admin - I just don’t think this is true

    Q: What is the difference between instructors who are full time or work one or two courses a year in terms of membership to NIA? 

    A: I would encourage folks to go read the NIA platform.  I do think you make a statement when you join the NIA, but you also make a statement when you don’t join the NIA. We’ve gone to online record keeping - and you can do auto renewal. We are in the works with new software so we can better retain members.

    Q: Why does the executive team not want representation from the NIA at the board and in the room for higher level discussions? What is threatening about this? 

    A: I think they feel threatened by the idea of instructors having a unified voice. There’s a thousand of us and five of them.  But we often see eye-to-eye.  For instance, the Compensation Task Force they went through a big project about international compensation and after a year they basically adopted what the had NIA suggested from the beginning. 

    Q: How often does the NIA send things out? 

    A: Quarterly newsletter because we really don’t want to spam people. Mid summer is kind of a dead time because the people on the board are in the field. 

    Q: Do you advocate for location specific needs? For example, the instructor tent city at the northeast branch? 

    A: That’s something we would interact with through the Flamingo Fund. 

    Q: Do you get to talk a bout the nia after an instructor course with new instructors? 

    A: We make an effort for that to happen but it is logistically challenging.

  • Sunday, May 05, 2019 2:13 PM | Molly Herber (Administrator)

    2019 Annual General Meeting Notes

    Sunday, May 5, 2019

    Facilitated by: Molly Herber & Summers Eatmon

    Notes taken by: Summers Eatmon

    Edited by: Molly Herber, Dave Durant

    Attendees: Molly, Summers, Scott, Danielle, Michelle, Coco, Kelly, Patrick M (HQ & I), Kate H, Ashley F., Kyle D., Janek, Jessie Allen, JoJo, Elena, Gabe, Pancho (17).

    These notes are a summary of topics discussed at a specific NIA meeting. They are meant to capture the “flavor” of the meeting. They do not necessarily represent official positions of NOLS or the NIA.

    Location: Lander, WY

    Meeting Summary


    • Events: Trivia 7:30pm at Coalter Loft 
    • Intro and description of founding of the NIA and the NIA board. 
    • More numbers  from the Treasurer’s report.
    • Trips Board
    • Listening Sessions for Presidential Search

    354 members: nearly half of NOLS instructors are members [editor’s note: Closer to ⅓, with nearly 1,000 total NOLS instructors]

    Kelly R.: “super useful to be able to apply back dues to lifetime membership, thanks”

    Scott R.- NOLS pays for the NIA representative to go to the Feb BOT meeting. (In regard to the NIA not having a seat at the table at other BOT meetings) The board’s intent that was articulated was to include more broad viewpoints at the school. The in-town staff spotlight has replaced that time the NIA used to have. 

    Flamingo Fund: Project ideas 

    • Discussed how that process works.

    Small-group discussion

    General needs that were identified: 

    • professional development, financial planning, connection and mentorship

    Diversity themes in small-group discussion:

    • NOLS doesn’t have structural systems in place to support diversity; this person identified the instructor course’s cost in time and money as a barrier
    • Non-U.S. instructors expressed feeling like they’re being told what to do and say about diversity, which is difficult to hear (and also support the changes NOLS is making in this area). He cited a survey given initially only to American instructors working in Patagonia as a symptom of this.

    Jojo: pain point on returning from the field to hear “thanks for working hard out there:” “I would like to feel like that was grounded more in actual knowledge and a high level of supervision”

    Kyle: HQ and NOLS is not set up for baseline maternity/paternity needs, very apparent that there is not even a space for breastfeeding or pumping (positive - maternity leave is 12 weeks TO/PTO) 

    What about transitions to a career or other careers…referenced a Teach for America model; not rely on our reputation as NOLS instructors alone.

    From a non-U.S. instructor: expressed feelings that his background was a barrier because he didn’t know how to connect with NOLS to get more work.

    Cultivating sustainable career paths for existing instructors in addition to adding new instructors every year…how much money does the IC/PIC make NOLS??? a lot, a little? [Editor’s note: NOLS’ stance is that they lose money on instructor courses]

    Theme of the Night: people care about NOLS and the work that's exciting, and are pumped to be here. 

  • Sunday, June 17, 2018 8:41 PM | Anonymous

    Annual General Meeting Notes 5/13/2018

    Facilitated by: Mike Froehly, Molly Herber, Fabio Oliveira, and Julia Pieper

    Notes taken by: Patrick McHeyser

    Edited by: Molly Herber, Fabio Oliveira, Julia “Pieps” Pieper

    Attendees: 36-46 NOLS faculty employees

    These notes are a summary of topics discussed at a specific NIA meeting. They are meant to capture the “flavor” of the meeting. They do not necessarily represent official positions of NOLS or the NIA.


    Total on sign in sheet: 36

    Photo of the sign in sheet


    Lander, Wyoming



    7:50- NIA Board Member Introductions

    7:53- General Public Introductions

    Discussion of Benefits of NIA Membership

    7:55- Mike Froehly opened the floor for members to talk about NIA and the benefits of NIA membership.

    7:58- Fabio spoke about how NIA successfully advocated for increased travel reimbursements and fairer pay for international instructors. Folks from the audience also added their perspectives on this process.

    Discussion of Communication & New Flamingo Newsletter

    8:04- Molly Herber talked about the new edition of the Flamingo Newsletter and checked in about how many folks actually received that newsletter (rather than it going to spam).

    Review of 2017 Budget

    8:06- Pieps talks about the budget via powerpoint:

    • Pie chart with the NIA budget breakdown
    • 2017 Financial Summary
    • How to find this information using the website or Facebook
    • [MH note: See 2017 Budget Report here]

    Small Group Discussions

    8:15- Molly Herber transitioned folks to small groups to discuss:

    • What has the NIA done for you?
    • What do you want the NIA to do for you?
    • Any other feedback for the NIA?

    Meeting ended around 9pm.

    Summary of small group discussions based on post-meeting notes

    Small Group 1 (Molly facilitating)

    What has the NIA done for you?

    • PNW sauna
    • Patagonia kayak fleet
    • Increased travel reimbursements
    • Past sponsorship of the Red Rocks Rendezvous [MH note: commenter did not elaborate or was not recorded]
    • Past memberships in conservation-focused nonprofit organizations (ex. Being part of organizations like the Sierra Club)
    • Branch meetings so we can speak our struggles & gain insight and advice
    • Board reports
    • Proctor pay [Molly note: Advocating pay for instructors aiding one section during a proctorship]
    • Appreciation for the NIA’s work overall
    • The NIA has stayed alive over time & desire that should continue
    • Attract more members, helpful things have been posters sharing where money collected as dues goes to

    What do you want the NIA to do for you?

    • Be present at every Board meeting
    • Idea development from instructors to the Board; instructors are looking for consistent communication and have expressed feeling “lost”
    • Suggestions for consistent communication included making a Google group of instructors for discussion and/or learning about NIA activities, or assigning an NIA board member as a mentor to new instructors
    • We are open with fatalities as a way to learn, instructor suggested advocating for having more transparency on sexual misconduct incidents, following a similar model as our fatality/injury/illness reporting as a way to learn
    • Support for instructors of color
    • NIA should grow with the school (i.e., size, professionalism)
    • Looking for mentorship

    Small Group 2 (Pieps facilitating)

    What has the NIA done for you?

    • Tax homes [MH note: commenter did not elaborate or was not recorded]
    • Travel reimbursements
    • Representation on the board - accountability [MH note: being able to communicate directly with the Board helps with accountability and transparency]
    What do you want the NIA to do?
    • Notification or check in when a member does not renew.
    • Increase membership to increase strength of voice. Or push back on the idea that the NIA is not representative of all instructors based on membership percentage.
    • Is there a correlation between field weeks and membership? Is this information useful at all? Jesi offered to help us pull that data after she’s done with the Fall plan.
    • Surveys: Jesi was on the board sailing trip and they commented on our survey methods and that the compensation survey wasn’t as objective/qualitative as it could be.
    • NIA IC scholarship [MH note: commenter did not elaborate or was not recorded]
    • Politics and public land advocacy. Some people expressed that they were unimpressed with NOLS "not really taking a stand." Then someone from HQ mentioned that NOLS has very clear outlines of what they can/cannot take a vocal stand on.
    • Voice in direction of the school, specifically diversity and inclusion issues.

    Small group 3 (Fabio facilitating)

    What the NIA’s done for you:

    • Host NIA meetings and EDT members seen at NIA meetings
    • Flamingo Fund stuff, e.g., Patagonia fleet of river kayaks
    • Mentorship idea/program
    • Ease of access to training and courses by running some NOLS seminars closer to easier to get to places
    • Thankful for the NIA voice "up-there" [MH Note: at the Board and Executive Team level]

    Requests/What would you like to see from the NIA?

    • What happens to info gathered at NIA meetings?
    • Want to know more about what the NIA is doing
    • Mentorship, how to actually reach out between prospective mentors and mentees 
    • Suggestion: organize NIA mentorship meetings, online groups, but actually promote the connection so people can show up
    • A service NOLS could be doing for staff - whenever possible try to combine NOLS certifications/qualifications with other organizations', e.g., Avalanche training, ACA, AMGA
    • Benefits for US citizens are way more significant than non-US citizens [MH note: commenter did not elaborate or was not recorded]
    • Inflexibility of the travel plan rules, really hard to get money back (even under the cap) if your travels are out of the box
    • We want more transparency in the travel plan details - what is dictated by law and what is dictated by NOLS?
    • [MH note: commenter did not elaborate or was not recorded]
    • Can HR / Staffing post a complete list of benefits in one place in IkoWapi for field staff?
    • The NIA's compensation survey could have been a lot better - there are people in the NOLS community really experienced with surveys, so reach out for help next time

  • Sunday, April 22, 2018 7:58 AM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    Location: NOLS Rocky Mountain

    Season: Spring, 2018

    Date: 4.17.18

    Facilitated by: Molly Herber, NIA Board Member

    Notes taken by: Dave Durant, NIA Board Member

    Edited by: Hannah Darrin, NIA Campus Rep Coordinator, Mike Froehly, NIA Board Member 

    Attendees: Jared Spaulding, Kate Sirianni, Ashley Schmid, Liz Townsend, Caitlin Rex, Riley Rice, Karen Debonis, Teresa Boverer, Suza Bedient, McKenzie Kelsey, Dave Durant, Molly Herber, Mike Froehly


    These notes are a summary of topics discussed at a specific NIA meeting. They are meant to capture the “flavor” of the meeting. They do not represent official positions of NOLS or the NIA.


    Molly recapped some of the NIA’s foci from the previous year, as well as plans for the upcoming year.  

    NIA Surveys

    At the January 2018 NOLS Board of Trustees Meeting, Sean Williams, NIA President, presented the results of the NIA Compensation Comparables Survey, which we feel considers more data than the Compensation Comparables Survey run by NOLS HR.  Advocacy backed up by surveys seems to be very well received by the Board of Trustees.  The results of our survey are available on the NIA website.

    NIA Participation on NOLS Committees

    Many NIA members are serving on current Survey Committees being run by NOLS Administration.  E.g. Molly is on the In-town committee, Mike Froehly and Summers Eatmon Williams are on the Field Faculty committee, which has been discussing topics ranging from transparency in school-wide decision making to the need for more consistent work for field instructors.

    [In an email dated 4/20/18 recounting the most recent Executive Team Forum, it was announced that there would be no compensation increases at the school for FY2019. - Ed.] 

    Open Forum

    [Several attendees requested that their names not be attached to specific comments they made.]

    Dave: The NIA encourages everyone who works for NOLS to fill out all the surveys that are being circulated, either by the NIA or NOLS.  It’s a great way to deliver feedback. 

    Jared: NOLS RM is now sending out post-course surveys. 

    Question: Is there something we should be writing at the end of our program evals?  Dave:  Faculty Representation, in particular participation in hiring committees at the Executive Team Level.  One attendee, suggested that we ask the BoT what their timeframe will be for selecting the next Executive Director.

    A long time NOLS Instructor expressed that she sees a lot of “vitality” at the level right below the ET, and she’s excited to see these people move up.

    Dave: Does it seem like a good use of energy for the NIA to be advocating for a seat on hiring committees for A & B level employees?  Those present agreed that this seemed reasonable, and like a good use of energy and capital.  No one dissented.  One attendee wondered how or if Outward Bound involves faculty input in top level hiring decisions.

    Dave gave an explanation of NOLS Admin HIerarchy (BoT > President > Executive Team > Branch Directors).  Even long time NOLS instructors seem to only have a vague idea of how this works.  There was a discussion of NOLS pay scale, including compensation figures for the 5 highest paid employees, which are publically available on NOLS’ 990 tax form.

    Dave: Should the NIA allow intown employees to join?  One member: historically the NIA has mostly advocated for quality of life for Instructors.  Intown staff and instructors have different lifestyles. 

    What percentage of Instructors are current NIA members? About 30%.  What‘s the NIA’s strategy for growth?  Campus Reps (formerly known as “Branch Reps”), individual instructors attempting to recruit their co-workers on each iTeam, addressing IC grads.  

    Why don’t people join the NIA?  Some don’t understand why they have to pay dues.  Others say that they can’t afford $20 per year.

    How should the NIA communicate with instructors?  We are no longer permitted to submit  Weekly Managers’ Notes.  The Staff Newsletter is morphing.  How should we communicate with members and potential members?  E-mail?  Podcast?  Physical paper mail?  The consensus seems to be for quarterly email updates, with the info in the body of the email.  Should the NIA take the newsletter back over?  A few members expressed that they would be more likely to read something that arrived in paper format.  Perhaps printed copies could be circulated to branches. 

    New Member

    Please welcome Suza Bedient, NOLS Instructor of 28 years, who joined the NIA for the first time after this meeting.

  • Monday, May 15, 2017 5:44 PM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    Annual General Meeting Notes 5/15/2017

    Facilitated by: Molly Herber, Dave Durant, Allie Maloney, and Hannah Darrin

    Notes taken by: Katherine Boehrer

    Edited by: Dave Durant, Allie Maloney

    Attendees: About 50 NOLS employees, ranging from new in-town staff to 4 AFP instructors and an EDT Member.


    These notes are a summary of topics discussed at a specific NIA meeting. They are meant to capture the “flavor” of the meeting. They do not represent the opinions of NOLS, participating faculty/staff or the NIA.


    NIA History -  Molly 

    • Founded in 1975
    • The NIA is governed by 12 Board members and a President

    NIA “Year in Review” - Allie

    • 10 meetings in the last year
    • Online is 2016 treasurer's report - see where money is going!
    • Worked on lifestyle survey all year
    • Sean Williams, NIA President, attended Board meeting in February
    • Held elections, 6 new board members, 4 newsletter articles 
    • Recruited 87 new members 

    Top 3 priorities for 2017 - Molly

    • These were voted on in the fall elections
    • Instructor engagement - making sure instructors have a seat at the table at important events like the NOLS Board of Trustees meetings, foster clear and consistent communication between Faculty and HQ
    • Field faculty travel - working toward 100% reimbursement, greater clarity in process
    • Mentorship and careers - expanding the NIA Mentorship Program, working with staffing to improve engagement/feedback 

    Mentorship Program - Hannah

    • “Endorsed” mentors - take a look!
    • Someone who has a story similar to you
    • Go to NIA website under membership to find the list - reach out to someone
    • If you want to be a mentor can also go to the website and email Mita 

    Field Faculty Lifestyle Survey Results - Dave

    • Survey was open for the entire 2016 calendar year, 291 respondents, 41% of field faculty
    • Data is representative of a broad spectrum of folks - new to NOLS and not
    • Observations
    • Instructors are dedicated to NOLS
    • 86% work more than one job, but many say NOLS is their top priority
    • It takes a long time to build a sustainable career 
    • The more weeks in the field you have, the more work you will get
    • 30 weeks is a magic number 
    • AFP is 25 weeks a year, it usually takes about 5 years to get to 15 weeks a year
    • Only a quarter of folks under 30 weeks are satisfied with their current amount of work 
    • 1 in 3 identify as having good long-term prospects for their NOLS career
    • Volume of field work and satisfaction are correlated 
    • The more work you get, the happier you are with it
    • Most instructors have supplemental (non-job) income
    • More than half of people are getting money from some other non-job source
    • 65% of instructors make less than $30,000 a year (this is total income from all sources/jobs, not just from NOLS - Ed.)
    • Instructors are dedicated 
    • The vast majority hope to work for NOLS for an additional 5 years, One in three say they want to work in the field for the rest of their life. 
    • Questions
      • Q: Did people answer all questions? [A: mostly yes]
      • Q: When are we doing it again? [A: likely 2018]
      • Q: Any plans to tie in with the Moorehead survey? [A: interesting idea]

    Open Forum - Dave

    • Appreciations about NOLS
      • Inexpensive housing at branches
      • Diversity of seminars offered
      • Heavy subsidy of seminars
      • People you work with 
      • Desire to be a leader in diversity/inclusion
    • In-town employees being included in NIA
      • All 8 intown employees present said they would join the NIA if that were an option.
    • Tiered System for Faculty
      • Suggestion of 3 faculty groups: 
      • Summer Faculty (guaranteed work in July)
      • S-AFP (12.5 weeks per year, no benefits)
      • AFP (25 weeks per year, full benefits)
      • There are  lot of people who would like to work more, and there are a subset of folks who are happy with working 1-2 courses per year
      • What would it take to put faculty into a pool to self-identify what they want: 1 course, half-time, full-time
      • Better life planning, less uncertainty -- maybe you start with just summer and that’s expected for 1-2 years
      • Are we creating an excess of instructors by offering too many IC spots?
    • How To Get Change @ NOLS
      • Consistently writing stuff on Program evaluations - that gets filtered up through p-sups all the way up
      • Data (e.g. Lifestyle Survey) goes a long way - anecdotes only take us part way 
      • Mentorship and paying it forward - bring them into the field, talk about them on your program evals - instill that culture into others (be a mentor)
      • Longevity of intown folks affects field instructors and vice versa  
      • Diversify your skill sets (become a climber, boater, winter instructor)
      • Work for NOLS Wilderness Medicine 
      • Field staff are supported by in-town staff - turnover intown is high - at the lower level, part of the issue is compensation. NIA advocates for increases in wages for lower level in-town staff - to have more continuity of systems
      • Make connections


    Join the NIA! - Hannah

    • Summer Membership Drive is starting
    • Help support instructor voice in the school 
    • Help enroll 3 more people each in the NIA 
    • NIA Branch representatives - you can be one!


  • Thursday, February 02, 2017 1:43 PM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    Location: NOLS Mexico branch

    Date: February 2nd, 2017

    Meeting facilitated by: Hannah Darrin

    Notes by: Hannah Darrin

    Notes edited by: Allie Maloney, Dave Durant

    New members: 2


    Present: Ken Olivier, Curtis Tronolone, Tom Oxnard, Joan Travers, David Swope, Hayden Emerson, Dalio Zippin, Jim Chisholm  


    The meeting began with a short introduction of the NIA, and a quick review showed that all participants were familiar with the NIA, had attended meetings, or were lifetime members. Hannah introduced the recently produced results of the Field Faculty Lifestyle Survey. 


    Hannah began the meeting by asking: What are people's favorite aspects of working for NOLS? (Much laughter ensued.)


    *The initiatives for diversity and inclusion, and the seminars to continue the education of the faculty at NOLS

    *Community of hardworking, interesting, intelligent, creative, and kind people. One specific example was from the help of a senior NOLS instructor offering emotional, professional and mental support through a traumatic, non-NOLS related incident for another instructor - continue opportunities for instructors to bond, relate and spend time together outside of courses

    *Love for seminars (biased population? We just ran a terrific Sail Seminar Clinic!)

    *The ability to create curriculum that follows the mission of NOLS, and yet there is ownership for each instructor’s own development and tailoring of their own course and curriculum. We enjoy the guidelines that are in place, as well as the freedom to expand.


    Some changes that instructors recommended that would benefit the whole instructor pool:


    *Including the content of FAD's and D&I seminars in the ICs, so that they are mandatory curriculum.  (It seems as though this is happening after the recent Field Faculty Training Review -Ed.)

    *Ability for instructors to have more resources for marketing via word of mouth. Perhaps seminars to call in the instructors to advocate for others to enroll in the experience. Perhaps hard materials to give presentations in their own communities (clubs, schools, communities etc.).

    *With the recent closing of the Australia branch and the Brazil branch, several instructors voiced a few ideas. A desire to have more ownership and voice in the closing of branches. This would help to facilitate us not being caught off guard, and also in a timeframe that may allow for instructors to help revive a branch. Assets could also be purchased in the liquidation processes. 

    - "the closing of the two branches is reminiscent of Outward Bound in 2008 with the hasty closing of several of their branches" - one instructor cautioned their impression of the swift and possibly surprising closing of the Australia and Brazil branches. They questioned which branch will be next?

    *NIA representatives present at the end of IC's to talk to and enroll participants as NIA members, and possibly in the mentorship program.

    This seminar group with a wide variety of weeks in the field, 3 to 60 to 200 to 700+ ended the with a feel good conversation about staying in touch and working with each other as informal mentors - perhaps this could be the next link for mentorship, through Seminars and connections made in the more intimate setting in the field, rather than online.


    Flamingo Fund ideas:

    clothespins for the drying lines at the branch.

    Better internet access for visiting instructors at the NOLS Mexico branch.



  • Monday, October 17, 2016 3:45 PM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    Patagonia Austral Spring Meeting 


    In Attendance: Isi Llarena, Corey Bunce, Drew Seitz, Felipe Pimentel, Tonto Clauzet, Alex Olivares, Jorge Peña, Raul Castro, Michel Raab

    Facilitating: Sean Williams

    Notes Taken By: Ira Slomski-Pritz

    Notes Edited By: Drew Seitz, 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. They do not represent the opinions of NOLS, participating faculty/staff or the NIA.

    Minutes as follows:

    Sean introduces how the NIA works, and upcoming projects:

    • Aaron helped set up a mentorship program
    • NIA runs 10-15 branch meetings each year.  Outside of meetings, there is a lot of informal dialogue between NIA Board Members and HQ staff. Recently HQ has been increasingly reaching out to the NIA for input on projects--this is a big change! For example, the Education department is reexamining instructor training processes as part of the Strategic Plan, and they reached out to the NIA for input.  This relationship feels more cooperative than in the past.
    • A big NIA goal is faculty engagement--engaging instructors in how the school is run. The vision is that NOLS could run with less top-down decision making: more collaborative, more input from instructors in driving the vision of the school.  This is a two-way street. Not only do we need HQ to increasingly listen to faculty, but we need faculty to be well-informed about how NOLS works.  To that end, the NIA is trying to educate faculty about how the school works, then collect faculty opinions and present them to HQ.
    • Another important NIA function is faculty representation at Board of Trustees meetings.  The NIA president now attends 1 of 3 board meetings (it used to be all three), the only person in the room actively working in the field. 

    Recent successes:

    • Changes to international pay
    • Proctor Pay

    What’s the NIA working on now? On the NIA website there is a platform. Some goals at this point are practical in the near-term, some are aspirational. 

    • Making travel reimbursement more efficient and timely.  RIght now it often takes a long time for Expedition instructors to receive their reimbursements. 
    • A plank will be added by the end of the year about travel reimbursement process.  We are considering advocating for a “travel advance” for instructors that don’t have the cash on hand to pay for big travel expenses.  In the current system NOLS essentially relies upon instructors to loan the school the money it takes to pay for faculty travel to each course.
    • In all HQ decisions making, trying to push for the value of job-security and career progression. 
    • Running a lifestyle survey to figure out how instructors make the NOLS lifestyle work for them financially.  We are hoping to come up with some data from that and present it to the Board in January.  The goal is to promote a longer term goal of increasing pay and job security. 
    • We are seeking candidates for the NIA Board! Interest instructors should do it. The election will begin on November 20th.  Talk to a local NIA board member if you have questions. 

    Discussions and Additional Comments

    International Pay Scale

    In the past, international instructors were paid in whatever currency they wanted, at the current US payscale.  This wasn’t practical because NOLS couldn’t accurately say in advance how much they were going to pay instructors, therefore instructors couldn’t budget, etc.  About 10 years ago, NOLS they made a pay scale for each county in which we operate, but it wasn’t clear when it would be updated.  (It seemed to not be updated regularly when the pay scale was low).  Now, the international pay scales are updated more regularly.  Every January 1st, the pay scale gets updated based on the average exchange rate from the past year.  Making this happen took a lot of effort!


    The website is looking so much better now than a couple of years ago. Being able to pay on the website is great! The summary of the board report is also appreciated!

    Website payment improves membership stability.  The NIA has suffered from volatile enrollment, when instructors would enroll when they were angry about something, and then not renew.  Right now membership is 238. Previous peak was at 300. Membership numbers count--the Board will not consider the NIA representative when membership is low.



    Can the NIA be involved with marketing?  What role should instructors play in promoting NOLS and bringing up enrollment?  Maybe there could be more structure and guidance. Tagging NOLS on social media, promoting courses that are not enrolling well.  Drew offers to reach out to marketing about concrete steps faculty can take. Also want to think about concrete steps marketing can take to facilitate the process for faculty.  Read the manager notes to get a sense of what the marketing department is up to.  They will surely respond that everyone should start by getting on board with the branding initiative.   

    Branding Initiative

    Some concerns expressed about the transparency of the process.   While all agree that coming to a consensus on everything would not be practical, some felt that the process represented a disconnect between the faculty and HQ decision-making process. 

  • Sunday, July 24, 2016 11:22 AM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    NOLS Northeast Summer Meeting 


    In attendance: Leigh Eubank, Courtney Kuhl, Edmilson Fonseca, Julia Pieper, Hannah Darrin, Austin Sandoval, Hannah Wilson, Murilo Bellese (Expedition Instructors) and Stephen Novak (In-Town Staff)

    Facilitating: Hannah Darrin & Edmilson Fonseca

    Notes Taken By: Hannah Darrin

    Notes Edited By: Sean Williams, Dave Durant

    New Members: 2

    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:

    Hannah began by introducing what the NIA is and what has come from the NIA: pro deals, the faculty newsletter, seminars, increased international pay and travel reimbursement, the NIA mentorship program, and the Flamingo Fund. Ed talked about the EDT and filled in additional information. Hannah then asked what are the things that make people happiest about being a NOLS instructor, and what would make their experience a 7 out of 7.

    First some questions arose: Interest was voiced by some to submit to the newsletter and uncertainty about the content. Hannah suggested submitting to Marco, and if that platform is not deemed appropriate the material might be worth having in the NIA Blog.  [The Faculty Newsletter comes out quadrennially in February, May, August, and November.  The submission deadlines are on the last day of the proceeding month.  Makes submissions to marco_johnson@nols.edu. -Ed.]  

    A suggestion for the Flamingo Fund: NOLS Northeast could submit for a bicycle for in town staff to get to the store.

    Hannah mentioned the ongoing conversation with the director of education, Liz Tuohy, and the potential changes in multiple levels of staff training. Also having two recent IC grads in the meeting brought up some thoughts:

    *There was concern about a lack of appropriate gear, and a desire to have what NOLS instructors would normally have access to rather than using their own old/ineffective gear. Could IC students have free rentals, and 25% off in the gear room to help offset their costs?

    *In regards to PLs becoming CLs, there was some thought along the lines of the mentorship program, and having a CL seminar, with some mock CL-ing, and try hard to coordinate new CL's to work with their mentor CL's acting as a PL. 

    *Could the mentor/mentee pairing come with a bonus, or could the pay for a mentoring CL, be equivalent to CL pay rather than PL pay?  

    *One recent IC grad stated "my transitions between working in HQ, the fellowship, the IIT and now my first course have all been beautiful. Seven out of seven for me.”

    *Could there be an extra briefing day, or half day for new Instructors and CLs to get on the same page, and create space for developing mentorship?

    The conversation turned to training current staff, and seminars:

    *Folks love seminars: great way to stay involved with NOLS year round, excellent way to learn leadership from peers, without the confines of being on a course, good to see new branches, and fun!

    *The winter progression is very clear: AVT1, WIS, etc. The whitewater progressions are less clear with the expectations and tier system. Could Rendezvous have more clear expectations written out? Some the vocabulary (seminar, clinic, rendezvous, training trip) is not clear, particularly which seminars provide the opportunity for a skills assessment rather than just development.

    *Should hiking have a tier system so that folks could get area specific check-offs, and not find themselves in over their heads? 

    *To build experience most people voiced a desire for aiding to be more acceptable in various skill areas, as well as more advertised ability to work in-town jobs, even for just a few days to build comfort and experience in an area.


    One instructor was curious about the SAFP and AFP positions and whether they still exist and how many there are. Ed explained what this looked like and all instructors voiced positive feelings about SAFP and AFP positions.

    *"to make my experience as a NOLS Instructor a 7 out of 7 would be: having semi-annual guaranteed work, 15-20 weeks would help me to plan for rent and health insurance and I would apply to the position."

    *Maybe the S/AFP could be highly selective, and considered a reward for hard work and good student outcomes. [“SAFP,” a 12.5 week per year mutual commitment, does not yet currently exist.  The NIA is advocating for this as a stepping stone towards a more sustainable career for instructors who don’t CL multiple course types, and are therefore unlikely to secure one of the increasingly scarce AFP spots. -Ed.]

    One instructor voiced some desire for retirement assistance and plans

    *Could there be some online seminars/guidance for instructors planning for the future?

    *Can NOLS match for a certain percentage for a 401k?

    *My 7 out of 7 would be some certainty of the future, and down the road a retirement plan.  [You can find more info about NOLS’ retirement plan here.  Anyone who works for NOLS can take advantage of a Tax Sheltered Annuity.  NOLS will provide a contribution once you have passed 200 weeks. -Ed.]

    Overall all 9 instructors were very pleased with the work they had been receiving, the community they work in, the 360 degree feedback in place, and being heard by the NIA. Then we ate pie! 

  • Tuesday, June 28, 2016 10:09 AM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    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.  

  • Saturday, May 07, 2016 1:16 PM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    Pacific Northwest Branch Meeting Notes

    7 May, 2016

    Meeting facilitated by Sean Williams, NIA President

    Notes edited by Dave Durant & Drew Seitz, NIA Board Members

    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.

    Nine instructors, including one former branch director, attended this meeting of one and a half hours.  Main topics of discussion included:

    • Job security and underemployment at NOLS.  Faculty noted similarities between field instructors and WMI instructors in this regard; both live with underemployment and work insecurity as an accepted norm.  Meeting attendees did not believe that improvement in this area is a high priority at NOLS.  Sean pointed out that NOLS’s seasonal enrollment makes offering year-round work very challenging, so that improving job security requires strategic change at many levels of NOLS (not just staffing).
    • Communication and relationships between the NIA, the EDT, and the Board of Trustees.  Sean briefly explained how this has worked over the past few years, and reported that the EDT and Trustees seemed eager to hear from the NIA and from faculty.  Several attendees were insistent about the need for more consistent NIA representation at all BoT meetings.  
    • One attendee asked what “staff retention” means at NOLS currently.  The general sense in the discussion was that NOLS does not have an overall strategy to prioritize or improve staff retention, and appears to be satisfied with the current dynamic.  Sean pointed out that NOLS’ staff retention might be better than many other outdoor education organizations, and that this might lead administrators to de-prioritize improvement in this area.  Attendees pointed out that if we intend to be the leader in our field, we ought to have the highest retention, and should not be satisfied if it is only “better than others”.  Sean also briefly summarized the discussion of staff retention which took place at the February Board of Trustees meeting (see “Notes from the February 2016 Board of Trustees meeting”).  
    • There was a long discussion of the NOLS branding initiative and the recent report from Wolf & Wilhelmine at the Faculty Summit.  One member, who was present at the Summit, offered a summary of the presentation, including some of the name changes that have been proposed.  There was much speculation on the “points of tension” which W & W has offered to NOLS.  Attendees were only aware of the one point regarding the disjunct between NOLS’ provocation and creativity in the field, and comfort and predictability at HQ.  Attendees expressed lots of excitement and enthusiasm about the prospect of this feedback being taken seriously, and some skepticism that it could be the basis for meaningful changes.  
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