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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  • Sunday, June 17, 2018 8:41 PM | Molly Herber (Administrator)

    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.  
  • Monday, May 02, 2016 11:27 AM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    NIA Annual General Meeting 

    6:00pm, May 2, 2016, Colter Loft, Lander, WY

    Facilitated By: Dave Durant, NIA Board Member

    Notes By: Annemarie Vocca, NIA Board Member

    Notes Edited By: Dave Durant

    Additional Board Members Present: Allie Maloney, Drew Seitz, Andy Clifford 

    Total Attendance: Between 50 and 60, a mix of in-town staff and field instructors, including one EDT Member, and the Field Staffing Director 

    Dave Durant- Intro and Agenda

    Dave gave the three sentence version of the NIA’s history: founded in 1975 to give Instructors a voice with the Executive Director Team and the Board of Trustees.  Opened membership to classroom only instructors in 2014.  Today, NIA Membership is at a record high.  [You can find more NIA history here: http://nolsinstructorassociation.org/archives - Ed.]

    Dave then gave the NIA’s 2016 Year In Review, covering month to month advocacies from the previous Faculty Summit up until this one.  The complete text can be found here: http://nolsinstructorassociation.org/bod/4000730.  Dave passed the energy to Drew.

    Drew Seitz-  As part of the next strategic plan, can we create an Endowed Chair for a Faculty Advocate?

    Drew explained the basic idea.  This person would work as Salaried Faculty, spitting their time between instruction and working with the EDT to provide leadership from the point of view of the faculty. 

    Q: “What’s the difference between this role and the role Sean Williams plays as NIA President?”

    A: The Faculty Advocate would be a paid position.  When not on contract, this person would be able to work 40 hours a week to advance the Faculty perspective.  In contrast to this, the NIA President works on a volunteer basis, and is necessarily part-time.  The Faculty Advocate would be independent from the NIA, and since their pay check would come from an endowment, rather than directly from NOLS, they would be somewhat independent of the NOLS administration, too.

    Q: “Who pays the paycheck and who controls the endowment?”

    A: The money to pay this person would come from an endowment raised from donations from NOLS alumnae.  NOLS would control the endowment.

    Scott Robertson noted that a similar idea had been floated during the previous Strategic Plan (Expedition 2014), but that ultimately the money had not been raised.  At that time the idea was to have a Chief Instructor that would rotate amongst disciplines.  E.g. Chief Sea Kayaking Instructor, Chief Mountaineering Instructor.  This position would have been more focused on curriculum development than on advocacy.  

    Q: “How would this person be Hired?  Would they be elected?”

    A: A majority of those present seemed to agree that the selection process for the Faculty Advocate would have to be very deliberate, and perhaps incorporate elements of democratic decision making.  Drew passed the energy to Andy.

    Andy Clifford -  Mentorship

    A desire for more deliberate and widespread Mentorship has been a theme both in NIA Meetings, debriefs, and casual conversations amongst instructors.  Certainly there are already some avenues for Mentorship at NOLS.  For instance, Is and PLs are mentored by their CLs, at least for the duration of the course.  Since this didn’t seem to be satisfying the need that instructors stated existed, NIA President Sean Williams and Board Member Aaron Devine worked with staffing to create an NIA Mentorship program.  You can find your very own mentor, or volunteer to be a mentor, here: http://nolsinstructorassociation.org/mentors.  We encourage folks to take advantage of this program, and to spread the word.  Andy passed the energy to Annemarie.

    Annemarie Vocca - Semi-Annual Faculty Positions

    This would be a set number of positions (10?) that would come with a 12.5 week mutual commitment, and perhaps some extra funds for training and/or travel, but without Health Insurance or other traditional “Benefits.”  One would be eligible for SAFP without having to CL multiple course types.  [While this is technically true for AFP, Marco noted during the meeting that none of the folks currently on Field or 50/50 AFP CL just one course type. -Ed.] 

    Marco: It seems hard to imagine inaugurating a change like this in a low-enrollment envirnment, and enrollment is off for this coming summer.  There are 14 field AFP positions.  Only twelve are filled.  The other two will be dropped.  This agreement comes with benefits.  The instructor must be willing to work where needed.  Staffing tries not to “yank them around.”  There used to be more than 30 people on field AFP.  There are currently three 50/50 AFP folks. Their commitment is 12.5 weeks classroom, 12.5 weeks field.

    Annemarie: if you like the idea of SAFP, you can put it on your program evals.

    Dave + Jared Spaulding: AFP is a sustainable career.  It feels good to be on AFP.  NOLS will retain the best instructors if they pave a path to a sustainable career.

    Q: “How many NOLS field weeks are there to go around each year?”

    Marco: At a guess, about 5,500.

    Marco: We didn’t “backfill” ICs this year.  We are running them under enrolled, because summer enrollment is down 8%.  For the first time ever, we are recommending one less May hike IC for 2017.

    At this point Annemarie handed the energy back to Dave.

    Dave asked: What do you appreciate about NOLS?

    Here are just a few of the responses:

    • The Teaching Seminar today
    • The Faculty Summit itself
    • Working around the world
    • Being in the backcountry with students and changing lives.  It doesn't get any better than that.
    • Working with the biggest group of overachievers imaginable.

    Dave asked: What issues are on your mind?

    Hands shot up around the room.  Points brought up included:

    •Can we get paid days to develop curriculum prior to a field course? (Amy Christenson)

    •Easier/faster/more generous field travel reimbursement (Evan Horn)

    •International employees are required to purchase health insurance, yet ineligible for Obamacare subsidies (Gabo Puma and Felipe Voullieme)

    •The internet at the Noble is barely functional (unanimous?)

    •Boreal summer work requirement doesn’t make sense for certain Faculty, e.g. Baja Sailors.  (Dave Kallgren)

    •Should NOLS be investing our enormous cash resources (10s of millions) ethically? (Jared Spaulding) 

    •Could NOLS set aside money to buy superb lesson plans for individual instructors and publish them in the WEN, LEN, etc.?

    •What can NOLS do to incentivize instructors to take seminars, especially classroom seminars?  Should they count for “field weeks” at 50%? (Sam Newberry)

    •Should PSuping count for field weeks?

    •Are field weeks still the best way of measuring seniority? (Dave Durant)

    The group voted and chose to talk about:

    1) International Health Reimbursement:

    NOLS’ previous health insurance reimbursement program is no longer legal now that the Affordable Care Act has become law.  For many American instructors, the lost reimbursement was balanced at least in part by the tax credits that the ACA included.  However, international instructors aren;t eligible for these tax credits, but must have health insurance in order to apply for the J1 Visas they need to work in the US.  And NOLS essentially requires them to work in the US during the Boreal Summer if they’d like to continue to work in their home countries during other seasons. 

    The previous reimbursement system was generous and has proved very challenging for international instructors to adjust to this new regime.  While the money NOLS used to pay in Health Insurance Reimbursements was allotted to the Faculty Travel Plan, many instructors have not seen their travel reimbursements rise by the same amount as their health care costs. 

    2) Can we get paid days to develop curriculum prior to a field course?

    This idea lead to a lot of great discussion, but no general agreement.

    Drew Seitz encouraged instructors to take full advantage of their briefing time.  E.g., instead of coming in at 9:00 on day two, come in at 8:00 and use that hour to develop a lesson plan.

    Alison Hudson mentioned to resources that already exist on Rendezvous to help Instructors  share their classes. 

    For those needing work and interested in devoting more than just a few hours, there are often temporary work opportunities developing curriculum through the Curriculum Department. E.g. revising existing Educator Notebooks. 

    3) Field weeks for attending seminars?

    The point being made was that Seminars makes us better instructors, yet are often not fully enrolled.  This is particularly true for classroom Seminars, .e.g. iLEADS, FADS, CCS.  Several ideas were floated for how these might be incentivized.  NOLS could simply pay people to attend.  They do this already: AFP instructors get paid training days, and in-town employees sometimes attend seminars on the clock.  We could also get Field Weeks for the time we spend on Seminars, potentially at some sort of “Exchange rate” a la ROPE.  For instance, one day spent on a classroom seminar could be worth .5 field days.  [Of course, this wouldn’t do anything to incentivize classroom instructors to attend classroom seminars, since they don’t benefit from accruing Field Weeks. -Ed.]

    Q: “How much would it actually cost additionally to incentivize seminars?”

    A: Depends on how NOLS would incentivize them.  Certainly NOLS has the data (numbers of seminar participant days) to crunch the numbers.


    Andy Clifford- How You Can Support the NIA 

    Andy made his pitch for why every NOLS instructor should join the NIA.  He pointed out that it is largely a numbers game: the more people we have, the more seriously we are taken. 

    Joining the NIA is taking on a leadership role within the school.

    Andy then used the 7/4/1 Leadership Model to explain how each instructor can interact with the NIA:

    Self Leadership: Join the conversation by joining the NIA

    Peer Leadership: Get your friends to join.  If we all recruited every member of each iTeam we worked on, we’d reach Total Enrollment in no time.  Be visible.  Wear your NIA t-shirt and belt buckle.  Be informed.  Read the NIA Website, the Faculty Newsletter, and the Board of Trustees Reports.

    Active Followership:

    Vote.  Go to NIA meetings.  Start conversations about the big issues at the school, and about what you can do about them via the NIA.  Give us the data we need to advocate on your behalf by taking our Surveys.  Be active on the NIA Facebook Group.

    Designated Leadership:

    Be a Branch Rep.  Current openings include NOLS, SW, New Zealand, and the PNW.

    Finally, you could even run for a seat on the NIA Board.

  • Thursday, March 24, 2016 10:02 AM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    NIA 2016 Rock Climbing Rendezvous Meeting

    Red Rocks, Nevada 3/24/2016

    Facilitated by: Dave Durant, NIA Board Member

    Notes by: Ben Fox, NIA Lifetime Member 

    Edited by: Tim Dorsey and Sean Williams

    Attendees: Kim Herrick, Scott Robertson, Noel, William Jahncke, Meredith Condon, Asher Hauck, Ashlie Ferguson, Max Fisher, Zach Snavely, Andy Altepeter. Jonathan Brooks, Jared Spaulding 

    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.


    Dave: Thank you all for coming. By a show of hands, who is a current NIA member? (Most hands were raised.)

    Dave: Let me start by saying we did something important when we showed up to hear Scott [Robertson’s] EDT Forum last night. Instructors - working faculty - took the time to learn more and thereby be engaged with how the school is run, and what the future looks like. This process is integral for making NOLS the best it can be. 


    Dave: We’ll start with a brief explanation of what the NIA is, how it runs, and what it does. Then I’ll open the floor for concerns, and appreciations.  Then presentation of Membership gifts for people who haven’t gotten their t-shirt or belt buckle. If you don’t have those gifts get them HERE! So we can show our support for the NIA, which is important for achieving our goals.

    Structure of the NIA 

    Dave: Can anyone describe what the NIA is?

    Kim: Perhaps it is a Board of Directors who represent the voice of the instructor population as a whole and advocates for that population of 800 people, and the things that might be important to them. 

    William: Specifically for the faculty of NOLS, the field instructors. Also now WMI instructors.

    Dave: Founded 1975. Until 2014 only active/former field instructors. In 2014 the NIA held a referendum to open membership to rest of faculty (WMI), or people who work only NOLS Pro courses. If you teach or used to teach, you’re eligible to join as full/associate member.

    William: Important feature, that NIA advocates for instructors but is independent from the NOLS itself.

    Dave:  The NIA is its own nonprofit. Not a union. Not subject to the laws that regulate unions.  We are a tax exempt labor organization.  The NIA also serves as the school’s faculty organization and provides a forum for curriculum discussions, etc.

    The NIA is governed by board of 12 Directors, many of whom are senior field instructors. Quite a few are often in the field at any one time. Sean Williams is president. The Directors and the President serve two year terms. Every year the NIA membership elects six Directors to serve for the next two years. Elections are announced on the NIA Facebook page every November. Please vote this year if you’re a member. 

    Sometimes we vote to amend our constitution simultaneously.

    Scott: How are amendments passed?

    Dave: The NIA constitution is a public document, posted on our website. 95% of the content of the website is available for everyone. 5% is for members only, and requires a password.  Here’s why:

    1. Some things aren’t meant for consumption by the general (non-NOLS) public.
    2. This is a safe place for new instructors to voice concerns. 

    The Constitution is public, and includes a description of how it is amended. 50% + 1 of members who vote are sufficient to pass an amendment.The NIA Board cannot amend the Constitution on it’s own.

    William: Is there a minimum quorum?

    Dave: Not that I know of.

    Asher: That would be an interesting thing to amend. I’m kind of joking.

    Dave: What does the NIA do? A lot. Defies easy encapsulation. Broadly speaking,  it is predicated on the principle that faculty should have a way to give input into how the school is run. One thing we do is represent all of you to the EDT and BoT. Once per year the NIA president attends a BoT meeting. Another example: we hold meetings for employees at NOLS locations throughout world. 

    The notes are published publicly on our website. NOLS Administrators read the notes, feedback is passed up in that way. May not be immediately acted upon. 

    Other things? The Flamingo Fund funds instructor quality of life improvements at branches. Bluetooth speaker in PNW, bike pump in the Noble are two examples of recent purchases. 

    Flamingo Fund is not MAIN thing we do. It’s about 10% of what we do. Buying a bike pump is less important than representing 850+ faculty to the Board of Trustees. 

    Another thing we’re doing is running the Field Faculty Lifestyle Survey. Interesting to take, can see results up to the minute. Encourage you to do it. Only for field faculty. Hopefully future for WMI & intown staff.  We’d like to create a growing pool of data. As of one week ago results are posted on the NIA website. Interesting. They challenge or disprove some assumptions about working for NOLS. 

    Asher: Like what?

    Dave: Well, for instance I‘ve heard an idea that most NOLS instructors are “trustafarians” who rely on at least some outside income or support. I didn’t think that was true. According to the 200+ people that have taken the survey so far, that does actually appear to be true. About 60 % have some sort of outside income.  The results are on the website. Take a look, make your own opinions. 

    I’d like to be frank about another thing. We spend a lot of time recruiting. We would like to be at the point where majority instructors are NIA members. That way when Sean addresses BoT he is speaking with a majority of the faculty voice. To be very transparent, NIA Board Members spend a lot of time working on NIA stuff. Weeks all year round. That work is volunteer. Personally, I would like to spend less time recruiting membership more time representing faculty to the BoT.

    And I can absolutely speak to why there are dues.

    William: What % NIA membership? 

    Dave: There are about 950 current faculty. 650 Expedition instructors and  300 Wilderness Medicine instructors.  The NIA has 368 NIA members. We had a new NIA member join today: Tod Schimelfenig. Has changed his mind over the last two years.

    Of the 370 certainly more than 300 are field faculty. Less than 70 WMI instructors. One reason we have fewer WMI members is that they have only been eligible to joining for the past two years.

    William: 40% of faculty today?

    Dave: Approximately.

    Scott: What percentage of these are current faculty?

    Dave: Really valid question. Hard for us to track. People don’t update their profiles regularly. Anecdotally vast majority is current faculty. How many lifetime members? 40. 4 are here at the Rendezvous. 

    Ashlie: Flat rate or annual membership? 

    Dave: Explained dues structure.  Lifetime membership is 10x annual dues. This is common across nonprofits. We are in line, or lower than, comparable organizations.

    More on the auto renewal. Website will auto-generate an email before your card is charged. Also isn’t actually forever. When you get a new credit card you need to update the auto-renewal. Membership consistency keeps credibility with the board.

    Open Forum

    What would folks like to talk about? Appreciations?  Areas of concern? Travel reimbursements, sustainable work, new course types, feedback acted upon and appreciated?

    Kim: I appreciate staff housing and cooking zones that are student free. 

    Dave: I appreciate the noble. I’ve heard the WIFI can get bogged down. Would really like to get an instructor only WIFI lane. Drew Seitz has spoken to IT about it, said it would be easy, but unsure what exactly has happened with that.

    Jonathan: On a side note, I have used RM after-hours key to go use WIFI instead of at the Noble.

    Zach: I appreciate commons fee, food, fridge setup at the PNW. Really great that everything was set up.

    Jonathan: I’m curios how travel reimbursements are actually calculated. Sometimes the numbers I’ve assumed are different from what’s received.

    Dave: I’ve never actually gotten a field reimbursement. WMI give instructors an annotated list of what they’re being reimbursed for. Field doesn’t?

    Consensus: No.

    Dave: This seems like it could be done for the field. Idea of electronic reimbursements. Or we could submit electronically and receive money electronically. There are plenty of platforms. Snap a photo, email or text it, receive a deposit.  Scott, any Ideas about barriers?

    Scott: School has always required original receipts. Probably to avoid duplicates (inadvertent of course).

    Scott: Future may be more electronic. Maybe we’ll go there. I don’t know.

    Jared: there are programs out there.

    Dave: This stands out as a good idea for NIA advocacy. It’s a Win-Win for the school. Faster for faculty, better for NOLS because people are happier, better efficiency, potentially cost savings.

    William: Hard to make changes. One more thing to make sure people understand, and money upfront to implement the changes.

    Scott: There’s a long list of things in the queue to get done. A new website, etc…

    Dave: You may be right. There are potentially more important pieces.

    Jared: Yeah, you have to improve everything to make the functionality happen.

    Scott: We’re looking at revisions to travel plan and trying to get standard by which time people can expect a travel reimbursement to arrive. 

    Meredith: We’re working for the company, it seems legitimate to point out that we’re not getting reimbursed for things we’re told we’ll be reimbursed for. People are really invested in NOLS, and when you’re working for a company you should expect to be paid/compensated/reimbursed in a timely and professional manner. 

    William: I have a tendency to tolerate things from NOLS because it’s a nonprofit and has a cool mission whereas if it were for-profit there would be less tolerance.

    Andy: Not everyone has an alternate source of income.  Floating the cost of travel until reimbursement is a total deal breaker for some. NOLS loses diversity because of this. 

    Dave: Essentially we’re asking people to lend NOLS money to make the courses happen.

    Kim: I’m interested to know more about travel reimbursements. How it’s decided? Based on where traveling from? Vancouver to PNW/yukon? Maryland to PNW? Similar reimbursements. 

    Dave: There’s a committee that determines these things. They figure out the allotments for different things. Best thing we can do for these things is to COMPLETELY fill out all travel reimbursement forms with the actual cost of travel, not what you expect to be reimbursed.  Travel allowance HAS gone up a lot in the last few years, which is a step in the right direction.

    William: That’s a good point. For good policy you need good data.

    Jonathan: Had talked about some ideas with Asher. What things could happen to make NOLS more open to innovation? We come up with ideas but it takes time for these to percolate through the system.

    Jared: It seems like there’s a lot of things that happen as a school.  A large portion of the school turns over so quickly that ideas get recycled quickly. You have ideas, then you leave. 

    Dave: Are we talking about longevity of in-town staff or field staff, or both? 

    Jared: both really. There are only so many positions for people that they can actually support a certain number of staff.

    Dave: Like only so many Program Supervisors, directors, etc…? How can we keep people around longer?

    Zach: Increase pay. This is the most obvious way to keep staff around. I would rather even see increase in overall pay than increase in travel reimbursements. 

    Dave: For me travel reimbursement vs overall pay is six of one half dozen the other.  But let me ask, is it more important to have more overall work, or higher pay per day worked?

    Jonathan: I know I can get more work if I hang around lander and just trying pickup up contracts. But if I made more maybe I wouldn’t hang around lander so much.

    Ashlie: Yes, as a Canadian one can only hang around Lander for so long before needing to leave.

    Max: Now that I’ve been working longer, don’t want quite as much work. But I can still make some more money because I have more weeks, and higher positions on course.

    Scott: William, you’re not necessarily in the minority in the school even if in this group.

    Kim: How long does it take on average to get to next pay level?

    Dave: Depends a lot. 

    Scott: I’d hesitate to put a number out there. 

    Max: I can speak for myself. I’ve worked since 2009 and I will bump up to 150 weeks this summer.

    Andy: I’m in a similar boat.

    Andy: Another topic of conversation. What time in-town is valuable (student interaction, organizational contact, cultural integration) and recognizable as field-weeks for instructors?

    Dave: Should time spent teaching classroom courses count towards seniority? I wrote an article about this that will hopefully appear in a future newsletter.  People don't apply for in-town jobs because they’ll make less money, miss out on field weeks.  As faculty it behooves us to advocate for Program Supervisors because what’s good for Program Supervisors is good for us.

    Jonathan: Time spent doing seminars/non-field seminars can still be valuable.

    Dave: And there’s an opportunity cost. I haven’t been working somewhere else if I’ve taken a seminar.

    Kim: Is field work awarded more by seniority or by performance?  In other words, are weeks taken into account more than SPEs? 

    Dave: In terms of giving out new work field work field weeks are looked at less than SPEs.

    Kim: There’s value to counting all the weeks. Program Supervising, working in the issue room, etc.  Maybe transferable weeks would encourage instructors to work more in-town in rations/issuing/etc., which would in turn make those systems far better compared to hiring random people.

    Ashlie: Why would you choose in town over in field when you make more in field?

    Kim: Maybe people who aren't offered contracts are offered in-town work?

    Dave: We’ve been talking about these ideas for a long time. Why don't they happen?

    Jared: Pay for one. The work is not nearly as interesting as actual field work. I wouldn’t want to do that! Perhaps I’m old and jaded, maybe younger staff would be more interested?

    William: As a newer instructor I’ve thought about applying for rations/issue room. So if there was some sort of recognition that was applied towards process in the field it would make it more appealing.

    Jared: Maybe the NIA could invest time in working towards making sure NOLS investments/portfolio/funds, are inline with their mission/vision/values.

    Dave: Thanks for bringing that up. To be blunt I think the NIA needs to pick our battles. Is that really a high priority?

    Jared: To be honest, I don’t have problems with many of the other issues that have been brought up, but this one is more relevant to me. That’s the message I want represented.

    Dave: Maybe you could write a newsletter article about divestment? There’s hay to be made in the marketing world with this idea. We need more conversation and momentum around this issue before it becomes an NIA platform plank.

    Addendum (e-mail from a participant subsequent to the meeting): 


    Great to see you down in the desert!  I think that everyone appreciated the NIA meeting held there -  it's always inspiring to hear everyone's ideas and the amount of passion our instructors carry in their work. 

    On the drive back I spent some time processing and wanted to send you a few thoughts:

    At the risk of beating the figurative dead horse, I do still think the most pressing issue for our instructors is daily pay.  I really enjoyed the way that you framed the question "what one thing would help to keep our instructors working in the field for the next five years".  When I hear of instructors moving on to other work, the conversation always revolves around a combination of pay and stability.  "I need to make a wage where I can support a family" and "I don't want to be gone from home for so long".  I think the school is actually doing quite well with exploring shorter course offerings (NOLS Pro and Spring Break courses), which help with providing work to instructors who don't necessarily want to be in the field for 30 days at a time.  While NOLS has made great strides in the not too distant past in terms of instructor wages, we still lag FAR behind other companies offering the same services.  Yes, we don't come to NOLS for the money - but by offering a competitive daily wage we would do much better job at keeping the instructors that we have attracted to begin with.  This is particularly true for instructors who pursue expensive professional trainings outside of NOLS trainings, and then are not compensated for this additional experience and knowledge that they bring to our students.  Could we not offer daily pay bumps to instructors who have pursued addition non-NOLS professional development through AIERE, AMGA, ACA, Rigging for Rescue, etc.  Personally, I know that working with several different CL's who have undertaken some of these trainings has made me a more well-rounded and safer NOLS instructor, and it would be natural for this knowledge to continue to trickle through our instructor pool. 

    Thanks Dave for all of the work that you do - have a great course in the SW, and I'll see you back in Lander soon.


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