Patagonia Austral Spring Meeting

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. 

Think creatively.

Act collectively.

Join the NIA.

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

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