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.

  • Friday, April 24, 2015 7:50 AM | Annemarie Vocca

    April 14, 2015

    NOLS India Base NIA Meeting Minutes,  

    Hosted by Annemarie Vocca and Prasad Gadgil

    Notes by Ellie Chikkaraju and Annemarie Vocca

    These notes are a compilation of a specific meeting held April 14th. This is not a representation of the views of the NIA or NOLS India.

    People in Attendance:

    Annemarie Vocca, NOLS India Program Supervisor and NIA Board Member

    Prasad Gadgil, HCE Instructor and NOLS India NIA Base Representative

    Nic Letourneau, SSI Raft Instructor and new NIA member

    Gaurav Gangola, HCE Instructor and NIA member

    Manohar D’Silva, NOLS India Program Supervisor and NIA Member

    Mani Aryal, SSI Raft Instructor and NIA member

    Anvesh Thapa, SSI Raft Instructor and new NIA member

    Mandeep Nandal, SSI proctor and NIA member

    Kamakshi Sahai, SSI Hike Instructor and new NIA member

    Anna Horn, SSI Hike Instructor

    Evan Horn, SSI Hike Instructor and NIA member

    Ellie Chikkaraju, HCE Instructor (renewing membership when she returns to PNW for summer)

    Ravi Kumar, NOLS India Program Manager and NIA member

    Sanjeev Kumar, Current Raft IIT

    Sunitha RaviKumar, NOLS India Rations and Finance Manager

    Vinay Chandra, NOLS India Programs Assistant

    AMV: Welcome! NIA: What, why, who, and how to join or be more involved. Referenced Sean’s write up in the recent Newsletter and focused on the idea of being a clearinghouse of solution-oriented ideas that serves the NOLS faculty body. Individuals were encouraged to brainstorm ways NOLS India could utilize Flamingo Funds, if they were allocated.

    Public Service Announcement:

    NIA is helping Marco Johnson get more instructors involved in the analyzing of Moorehead Survey results as well as brainstorming potential solutions.  This meeting will take place in Lander on May 20th from 9am-1pm. If interested, please let Annemarie know as she will be joining via Skpye 8:30pm- 1:30am IST.

    Review/introduction of NIA Platforms and Hot Topics:

    Three groups were created, each with a print-out of a different topic to introduce.

    1) Faculty Engagement

    2) Updated Travel Plan

    3) Idea of fostering an intentional mentorship program

    Faculty Engagement:

    Nic summarized this platform:  Aiming at increasing communication both upwards and downwards within the school.  Promote a culture where instructors take initiative to stay informed on issues at the school. Importance of effective collaboration throughout various working groups.


    EH:  Talked about NIA website and how there are discussion topics but for some reason there is minimal engagement.  Why aren’t instructors engaging?

    AMV:  Are there other ways to reach out to the majority of the faculty body? Are we putting too much emphasis on the interweb? For example only 37 instructors participated in the Survey on International Pay.


    NL:  There is value in mixing between departments and engaging on a personal level.  i.e Staffing department working in the field, debriefing students, etc. in order to foster relationships with field staff.  In some areas it just doesn’t make sense (IT, marketing, etc).

    NL:  Really likes the idea of branch reps and having an NIA meeting once/season/branch. Prioritizing face to face meetings seems effective. He mentioned that this is the first NIA meeting he has had the opportunity to be a part of.  He also brought up the point that if NIA is going to use technology, we should make sure to use it as effectively as possible.

    Travel Plan Update:

    EC summarized the travel plan update.  NOLS can no longer reimburse part-time NOLS instructors for health insurance due to a change in the Affordable Care Act. The aim is for staff to be reimbursed up to 70% of their travel costs.


    EC:  Talked about how she values being able to travel and work internationally and likes being able to make that choice on a personal level.  If NOLS covered 100%, staffing decisions would be way more financially driven.

    NL:  Feels that the travel plan is 100% better than what it used to be. As a Canadian, he appreciates the improvements since becoming an instructor.


    MA:  As the only Nepalese Instructor, he feels that he is excluded from the travel plan. Is his allotted $950 based on his travel costs or Indian Instructors’ travel costs? He is consistently spending $1800 per year.  $950 is less than 50% of his costs. He finds it challenging to book plane tickets early because of acquiring a visa.  J1 visa requires instructors to purchase health insurance, which cannot be reimbursed.  Lastly, having a 3-week break in between contracts is also very costly.  He spent $400 just to sleep & eat last summer.

    AMV:  How can the Travel Plan be inclusive of more faculty? What would that process look like? She encouraged those that feel they are not included, to present actual numbers and receipts to the Travel Plan Committee to help advocate for themselves. It could be more effective to present data that illustrates spending more than 70%, versus just vocalizing their concerns.


    AT:  Can we increase tuition in order to cover 100% airfare?  

    EH: What would it look like to give a flat $1000 to each instructor?

    MD:  Can some of the $425 India in-country travel reimbursement be shifted towards the India international reimbursement?

    The question of whether gain share money could be allocated for travel reimbursement came up. Evan explained that it is impossible to plan ahead for gain share, as we don’t get it every year. Evan brought great perspective to this topic from his work in the staffing office. This was very beneficial for helping others gain awareness.

    Intentional Instructor Mentorship:

    Mentorship seems to be a hot topic these days. Out of the three topics discussed, this one seemed to gain the most interest. We brainstormed ideas that can help increase mentorship for newer instructors. Everyone recognized that mentorship is very important for the success of most staff. 


    Those in this meeting acknowledged that some level of mentorship was a key component in their personal successes at the school. 


    • All believe that mentorship would be most effective when combined with a high level of personal connection. Can this be done effectively via email?
    • How can there be more continuity with program supervisors instead of being briefed/debriefed by different P-Sups?
    • Does retention of program supervisors play a part in this?
    • Are we pushing instructors into the Course Leader position too quickly?


    RK:  As a WMI instructor, he believes that WMI has an excellent model for mentorship.  Course Leader’s wage takes into account intentional mentoring of junior staff.  Is it possible to consider aspects of this?


    NL:  Can we have head instructors for each skill type?  Your job is to make sure there is quality relationship building and mentorship going on.  The money that is already budgeted for and allocated for AFP could be used for these “head instructor” positions.

    EH:  Chief/head instructors could be travelling around the world to update curriculum as well as mentoring folks.  Provides consistency in the message – worldwide.  Work 4 days before and/or after contract.

    AMV: As program supervisors, it is our job to mentor and advocate for staff. We can be more deliberate about creating continuity and fostering the same level of rapport with instructors as we expect instructors to have with students. Whether there is only one p-sup at a base or ten, our level of support for instructors should be consistent.  As individuals, we can be more cognizant of this. Although, it may seem that the Staffing office is always busy- mentoring instructors is typically why they chose to be in that role.  Call them- email them- create a personal relationship with those who are directly connected to instructor advocation.

    International Pay Scale:

    The meeting ended by making sure everyone understood the outcome of the Discrepancy Issue at hand. Indian Instructors present for the meeting appreciate that 1) a solution has been decided upon and 2) that it will take effect September 1, 2015 and revised every January, based off data from the IRS website.

    NOLS India looks forward to receiving the next Compensation Task Force update with regards to in-town pay discrepancies.

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015 9:47 PM | Allie Maloney

    Southwest Branch Meeting Minutes

    Hosted by Daren Opeka

    March 18, 2015

    Notes by Daren Opeka

    These notes are a compilation of a specific meeting held March 18th, along with ideas and comments from NOLS employees throughout the Spring.

    Biggest concern is staffing.  

    Instructors are stressed out by the staffing calendar.  

    Specifically: the uncertainty of not knowing what work you are being offered for Summer 2015 until sometime in February.  Instructors stated that it is hard to plan your life when you are waiting by the phone or email for NOLS to contact you.

    Can we plan out an entire calendar year at a time to help reduce this waiting game?

    15 week per year AFP?

    One senior staff member stated they continue to hold onto a salaried faculty position in-town because they are not confident they will get the contracts needed to make NOLS pay if they leave their position.

    They suggested creating a tier of AFP for instructors interested in working 15 weeks a year.  Staffing for this program could ideally be done a year in advance, which would help instructors’ ability to better dove-tail NOLS work with life and other career developments.

    Desire for NOLS staffing to better blend with life changes and career growth.

    Instructors are feeling the stresses of required Boreal Summer work.  Many senior staff are willing and able to work in the Boreal Summer during peak season, however, they are not 24 years old anymore and they just can’t commit to working two straight months for the school.   New directions in life, desire for a personal trip to the mountains, and other interesting work opportunities were stated as reasons for limited availability.  Staffing has clearly stated their guidelines for offering off-season contracts based on volume of peak season work, and this stresses many senior staff.

    Folks were generally happy with the trends of compensation at the school.  Gain share along with compensation increase this season has folks feeling the love.  Many were pleased with the investment of time in the Compensation Task Force and are excited to see our international NOLS family members being fairly compensated.

    Cross-over WMI/NOLS field staff commented on curriculum.  

    WMI does a wonderful job of sending out monthly curriculum updates and staying in touch with faculty throughout the year.  It is a nice way that WMI stays in touch, ensures faculty are teaching the most updated material and it helps WMI be less Lander-centric.  NOLS might think about sending out monthly emails on curriculum topics.

    Flamingo Fund ideas for SW branch:

    A passive solar heater to help warm the branch pool up to tolerable temperatures.  Inexpensive units can be attached to the pump and constantly warm the water being recirculated.  This would help support instructor pool parties!

    Overall instructors are very happy working at NOLS and appreciate all the work put in by in-town staff and field staff alike.

  • Monday, February 16, 2015 2:12 PM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    New Zealand Branch Meeting Facilitated by Andy Clifford
    16 February 2015, 5:30-7:00pm
    Notes by Andy Clifford, NIA Board Member and NZ Branch Rep

    Edits for factual corrections in purple. NIA Board Members try to correct factual errors in Meeting Minutes when they are pointed out by knowledgeable sources, while honoring the responsibility to maintain an accurate record of whatever ideas and topics were discussed.

    These minutes are a paraphrased summary. They cannot be taken to represent the opinion of the facilitator, the secretary, or a participant, unless a point is attributed to a specific individual. One of the vital functions the NIA serves is to provide a safe space where employees can voice honest feedback.

    Location: NOLS NZ Kitchen – refreshments provided – courtesy NIA and BOT trip leftovers – thanks BOT/EDT!

    Meeting outline:

    • Q&A with Mark Jordan, NZ Branch Director
    • Review of the “New NIA” by Andy Clifford
    • Soliciting Input from Australasian Instructors for “top 3 items for NIA advocacy”
    • How to be Involved/make your Voice Heard - AC

    Q&A with Mark Jordan, Director
    The two main topics discussed in the Q&A were the reallocation of health care funds to travel reimbursement, and the closure of the NOLS Amazon branch.

    a. Reallocation of previous health care funds to travel reimbursement: 

    Mark stated that he was pleased about the decision to use these funds towards travel reimbursement, with significant increase to the NZ and Australian amounts. However, many instructors agreed that the flip from health to travel reimbursement was a negative change, leaving individuals worse off. This is especially so for internationals working in US where the cost of insurance is markedly higher than the increase in travel reimbursement. A full-time US-based instructor gave the perspective that for a ~$300 gain in domestic travel benefit he has taken a ~$3000 hit for insurance, and so US instructors have been negatively impacted too. Jordy noted that the withdrawal of health benefits was driven by US law and that there was no easy way round that.

    b. Closure of NOLS Amazon branch:

    • Why? Instructors asked questions about the decision to close the branch and how the closure affects the Australia branch. Mark shared that Brazil, Australia, and Tanzania are the three branches that have not been doing well lately, and that the Amazon branch was chosen for staffing and economical reasons as well as a lack of strong proponents. He assured instructors that the Amazon closure does not affect the Australia branch one way or another: “There’s actually no pressure to turn profit. If it’s not profitable for several years in row, it might be a consideration, but money isn’t the issue – the issue is what the branch offers to students. Questions I ask: Do we know why folks aren’t signing up? Can we broaden our understanding of what’s happening and why, so we can do something about it?”.
    • Who? Instructors also asked if the closure was an EDT or BOT decision. Jordy wasn’t sure of specifics but did know that the decision was made at the BOT meeting. At this point, Andy reminded instructors that BOT meeting notes are available to everyone and that the NIA was making a point of drawing instructors’ attention to these.
    Review of the “new NIA” 

    Andy reviewed the function/structure of NIA and summarized recent changes – handed out list of board member profiles, drew attention to Sean’s BOT report and meeting notes, and read out NIA “themes of 2014”. Encouraged members to look at the website and to give feedback on the SSO audit response drawn up by the NIA board (printouts provided).

    Soliciting Input from Australasian Instructors

    Andy explained that the NIA had recently sought to summarise “3 key current issues” for the NIA to advocate for, alongside a longer-term vision campaigning for a “living wage for NOLS instructors”. He then posed the following question to instructors and asked them to discuss it in pairs for five minutes: What do YOU think that the priority items are for the NIA to advocate for?

    Pairs shared their main priority item with the group. Below is a summary of their responses:

    • Pair 1: A sustainable living wage!
    • Pair 2: Progressive wage distribution – i.e. NOLS currently role models a “rich/poor divide” with a small proportion of employees receiving the majority of the wages – there should be more “leadership by example” - reflected in EDT salaries especially.
    • Pair 3: Living wage & showing the BOT what a NOLS trip/instructor’s life is really about – noted that BOT trips do not demonstrate what an actual NOLS course is like.
    • Pair 4: Full compensation for the loss of health reimbursement – the travel reimbursement increases do not cover the losses for many instructors
    • Pair 5 (on behalf of instructors in field): Questioning asset/budget allocation (e.g. why are we replacing good serviceable trucks with brand new models, but living with rudimentary and insufficient instructor housing?)
    • Pair 6: Need for formalized mentorship – at present mentorship is informal, ad hoc and benefits a few at the expense of others.
      • (This strand about formalized mentorship opened a lively discussion about the possibilities of a mentorship role within NOLS, with instructors offering information about the WMI preceptor role and suggesting this format as a solution)
    • Pair 7: Longevity/staff retention. One instructor with HQ experience passed on that EDT values turnover (especially for instructors and low-end in-town staff) and projects 4-year staff retention. [According to the Director of Staffing, this is not the case.  The average faculty member has 6.5 years at NOLS, and the mean is 5.  NOLS realizes the some turnover is inevitable and plans accordingly, but does not prefer or try to create conditions for higher turnover].  He surmised that the EDT perspective might be that high turnover creates more CL spots, but suggested another perspective is that building confidence and high quality courses provides better CL opportunities. Instructors discussed that it would be good for the NIA to show EDT the number of staff who want to stick around and get a sense of those who think of NOLS as a career. Points were made with regard to progression within the instructor pool and also the potential (and incentive or lack of) to transition to in-town opportunities.

    Voting: Next, the group organized their responses into six categories and voted on the top three highest priorities. The winners were:
    1. Investment in staff retention
    2. Addressing the rich/poor divide
    3. Health benefit cut vs. travel comp
    The full results, including number of votes, are below (11 voters had up to 3 votes each):

    • More info on NOLS process and structure (0 votes)
    • Addressing the rich/poor divide (7 votes)
    • Budget allocation (3)
    • Health benefit cut vs. travel comp increase (5)
    • Mentorship / career development (4)
    • Investment in staff retention (13)

    How to be Involved/Have your Voice Heard: Finally, Andy shared ideas for how to be/stay involved with the NIA:

    • Join and stay current as a member – outlined new $20 auto renewal incentive
    • Participate in online discussions and surveys (Facebook, web forum)
    • Read posted board reports and NIA submissions – including SSO audit response
    • Make Flamingo Fund suggestions for things that improve instructor life at NOLS NZ
    • Branch rep for FY2016 – NOLS NZ will need a new one – consider standing for this

    New members: 

    • Dulkara Martig (1yr – 1st time)
    • Brooke Cunningham (1yr – 1st time)
    • Trevor Carlson (Lifetime)

  • Thursday, February 12, 2015 2:26 PM | Allie Maloney

    Mexico Branch Meeting
    February, 2015

    Facilitated by Dave Kallgren, Notes by Dave Kallgren

    These minutes are a paraphrased summary. They cannot be taken to represent the opinion of the facilitator, the secretary, or a participant, unless a point is attributed to a specific individual. One of the vital functions the NIA serves is to provide a safe space where employees can voice honest feedback.

    This is actually a composite meeting, since no one date worked for everyone. A dozen instructors are represented, ranging from very senior to relatively new, with a mix of nationalities.

    The biggest concern for this group was staffing, and specifically the Boreal Summer in US work requirement. In fact, as soon as I arrived at the branch I was asked to hold an NIA meeting so folks could express their concerns. It is understood that there is a need for instructors in the US in the summer, but the practice of denying contracts for other seasons unless one has worked in the US summer program makes instructors feel manipulated and undervalued as individuals. Non US citizens feel obligated to make a costly and poorly reimbursed trip to the US annually just in order to be able to work in their home program, some felt coerced into working course types they don't enjoy or unable to take personal trips that would increase their skill level.

    Ideas for other solutions: Focus ICs on school teachers, others who have regular jobs but are available in the boreal summer. Look at the reasons not enough instructors are signing up voluntarily and address those. Pay may be a factor. More AFP's, similar programs. Scrap the WRAP, take a longer, holistic approach to mentoring individual instructors on their careers, including helping them find jobs outside of NOLS.

    There were calls for more transparency about the staffing process. Marco's newsletter article was seen as laying out a fairly rigid system, but not really addressing transparency. One suggested it would be easy to create an algorythm or program to do the first sort of contracts based on objective criteria. NIA should review the article point by point, ask for clarification. The staffing forum at the Summit was mentioned as being an example of good communication.

    The comment about long term views of individual careers led to a discussion of supervision. Folks like Program Supervisors and feel it is an important position, but there is too much turnover (often pay related) for them to be able to provide long term mentoring. In some case the branch does try to work on long term development only to be shut down by things like the Boreal Summer nightmare. P Sups need a stronger voice in staffing. Folks in staffing were seen as overworked and under pressure, too busy putting out fires to take a long view. It would be productive to take a fresh look at the whole staffing process from the ground up, find new approaches. Some were concerned that if one disagrees with or questions staffing they will get tagged as a troublemaker and further de-prioritized for hire. Role of NIA as unified voice.

    Director of Education position was discussed, with mixed feelings. If done well it could be awesome, but could as easily be another step towards more canned curriculum dictated from above. There were concerns about NOLS becoming more Academic, when our strength is really that we are a totally different approach to education. The person selected will make a big difference, who selects them and how? Do instructors have any input? NAFP system of collecting and sharing info from field was generally supported. Importance of Faculty Engagement, take back the curriculum.

    There was lots of support for the importance of in-town positions and it was seen as appropriate that the NIA focus on in-town compensation, especially at the P Sup level. In general folks were less concerned with an immediate raise than a change in the whole philosophy of compensation. A middle class income should be achievable for full time employees, we need to define what we mean by a living wage.

    Travel reimbursement was also a concern, but it's important to note that the issue is not so much the dollar amount as the fact that almost all employees other than catalog course field instructors get a much better deal, making us feel like second class citizens. As with compensation, the desire is to change the philosophy and set long term goals with an understanding that getting there will be challenging.

    Marketing was a bit of a conundrum. It is clear that money is being put into it and marketing staff get nice perks like free NOLS courses, but it is not clear what results we are getting from it. There appears to be more interest in trying new course types than in supporting our bread and butter catalog courses. It was suggested that instructors could help by getting more involved when there are alumni gatherings in their area and doing doing more marketing on our own. Someone from marketing had commented that they were targeting students who had dropped out of school, and there was concern that too many unmotivated students on a course creates a nightmare that ends up involving the administration and hurting the experience for other students.

    As often happens at NIA meetings folks wanted to talk about their concerns and things which they perceived as needing to be addressed and changed. It is important to note that there was general agreement that NOLS really is a great place to work and we are committed to the mission and our community. There is an understanding that ultimately we are all on Team NOLS. Being good should not prevent us from seeking to improve, and constructive feedback from field staff is an important part of that process.

    There were also several useful suggestions for the NIA. We could use the Program Supervisor group in internal NOLS mail to be sure all P Sups have access to the NIA travel survey at briefings. Create clear links between the NIA website and NOLS talking. NOLS departments often get coaching and advice from consultants, perhaps the NIA could get coaching pro bono. Could we get a respected group to look at NOLS' organizational structure? Sponsor a workshop at the Summit on body work/massage/caring for injuries?

    Summary respectfully submitted,

    Dave Kallgren

  • Saturday, January 24, 2015 7:40 PM | Allie Maloney

    TVB NIA Meeting Minutes 1/24/15
    Facilitated by Summers Eatmon and Dave Durant
    Minutes taken by Allie Maloney

    factual edits (clarifications reported to the NIA after the meeting) in purple

    These minutes are a paraphrased summary. They cannot be taken to represent the opinion of the facilitator, the secretary, or a participant, unless a point is attributed to a specific individual. One of the vital functions the NIA serves is to provide a safe space where employees can voice honest feedback. 

    This meeting was held at the Teton Valley NOLS location. The date was chosen carefully to coincide with several NOLS seminars, with the intent of making the session accessible for as many instructors as possible.

    We started the session with a round of introductions, which included senior staff, AFP instructors, WMI/NOLS crossover instructors, recent proctors, past NOLS interns, and an upcoming summer IC student, as well as several “regular” instructors.

    Summers began by sharing some of the focal points that came out of the recent NIA Board conference call. She asked for feedback on those three points, and then opened the floor for other topics. 


    Meeting Outline:

    1. How does the NIA work?
    2. Possible NIA focal points for 2015:

    a. Faculty Engagement

    b. Travel Reimbursements: Simpler and More Timely

    c. Commitment to a Living Wage

    3. NIA membership and growth
    4. Staffing politics/ Moving past chronic underemployment
    5. Mentorship
    6. Ride-sharing

    How does the NIA work?
    The question that was first asked was “what is the difference between branch reps and the board?” Dave Durant defined a Branch Representative as any NIA Member who volunteers to update a corkboard, sign up new members, and host at least one meeting per season at a NOLS location. He then went on to explain the difference between the NIA Board of Directors and the NOLS Board of Trustees, as well as briefly outlining the role of the EDT. This definition was helpful to clarify the meeting that followed when “the Board” the “BoT” and the “EDT” were at times mentioned in rapid succession.

    2. Possible NIA Focal Points for 2015
    During the most recent NIA Board conference call we identified three talking points that we want to introduce to members in order to gauge support and get feedback. These three points could be a large part of our focus as an organization in the coming year.

    a. Faculty Engagement
    The NIA wants to encourage instructors to have a strong voice and a vested interest in the direction of NOLS. Having instructor representatives in the Strategic Planning committees would be one concrete example of Faculty Engagement. These instructor representatives should ideally be non-HQ employees, and gathered from a diverse background of locations and disciplines. There was strong support from those at the meeting that this was perhaps the most important of the three foci proposed: that by following through with Faculty Engagement, many other positive changes would follow.

    One very senior instructor voiced his concern over a percieved Branch/HQ disconnect: as an instructor he felt valued at several locations, but doesn’t feel the same appreciation at HQ.

    Also spoken of was the need to hear from staff members who are younger, newer to NOLS, and actively working in the field.

    b. Making Travel Reimbursements Simpler and More Timely
    The NIA recognizes the efforts NOLS has put into increasing travel reimbursement for field instructors. Summers pointed out, however, that the system instructors use to get their reimbursement can be confusing and take longer than necessary. Would it be possible to simplify the system for both the school and the instructors?

    Instructors also discussed the different systems of travel pay within NOLS— catalogue courses, WMI, and NOLS Pro. One person shared his experience that his friends in other professions express disbelief when they learn that his travel is not covered when working a catalogue course. Another had heard that administrators were worried that instructors would lie and try to take advantage of a more generous system, which led to some talk of setting clear payment caps on travel expenses a la WMI.

    Dave pointed out that full reimbursement could have the unintended consequence of more work being given to instructors that were willing to commit more to a home branch, thus decreasing opportunities to work at multiple locations.

    c. Living Wage for All Employees
    We floated the idea of advocating for NOLS to commit to a Living Wage for all employees in the next Strategic Plan. 

    Living Wage is a Diversity and Inclusion issue. How many of us can only afford to be NOLS instructors because we have parents who can help, or another way of defraying the costs? We can’t grow our Diversity when you can’t make a living as a NOLS Instructor.

    The first question we need to ask is “what is a Living Wage?” During the meeting, many different conversations came from this kernal of an idea, and it is a subject that the NIA has just begun to explore.

    Some things take time, like proctor pay. We are setting this as a long term goal, asking NOLS to commit to adding Living Wage to the next Strategic Plan after Vision 20/20.

    How do we decide what is a living wage? Is the real problem chronic underemployment? Is there an "Industry Standard" for a Living Wage in Outdoor Education or Guiding? How do we compare to other industries? Is this really an issue of daily compensation or of people who want more work getting more work?

    Why is 25 weeks considered full time? Insurance says that is 3/4 time, and we will cover that individual. Full time is 33 weeks for in-town workers?

    NOLS pays more than minimum wage— but only if we think that we only work 8 hours a day in the field. We work way more than 8 hours during a normal field day, and are on-call for 24 hours a day.

    How can we encourage high quality Program Supervisors? Better pay for in-town staff, some other perk for losing field weeks.

    3. NIA Membership and Growth
    849 Instructors (including WMI instructors) taught NOLS courses in FY2014.  Today the NIA has 252 dues paying members.  While this is clearly not a majority, these numbers may not tell the whole story.  What percentage of non-NIA instructors work just one course a year?  In other words, what portion of "weeks worked" does the NIA represent?  What percentage of senior staff does the NIA represent?  WE don't have numbers on this yet, this will be a future project.

    The NOLS Board of Trustees has downgraded Instructor representation by removing the NIA seat at certain Board meetings. The participants at this meeting see this as a huge step in the wrong direction.  It was pointed out that Instructor representation with the Trustees via the NIA President is a right we've enjoyed for 40 years. 

    Members of the BoT/EDT have challenged the idea that the NIA represents the interests of most instructors based on our membership levels.  The participants in this meeting did not accept this logic.  A small thought experiment was run: imagine working a field course with 12 students, and 4 come to you and say, this aspect of the course just isn’t working for us. Would you say to them, "well you don’t represent the majority so we aren’t going to hear your issues"?

    One attendee asked if the NIA could increase it's membership if it were to abolish dues.   Dave pointed out that this idea is problematic for two reasons.

    1. Dues are how an instructor shows their support.  Without dues to differentiate members and non-members, the NIA could simply claim all Instructors are members. 

    2. The NIA provides services to Instructors, and these cost money.  Our website is an easy-to-use clearinghouse for information.  It costs $1,200 per year.  (This is in fees, the labor involved is donated by NIA Board Members and Branch Reps.)  Other examples include Branch Meetings: bottom up workplace democracy in action, cork board style displays at branches, and visibility projects like the new tee shirts.


    What is the real barrier to signing up? Most Instructors just need a face to face interaction with someone who is passionate about the NIA, and invites them to join the conversation. Vanishingly few instructors actually express "anti-NIA" sentiment. 

    Healthy membership numbers mean recruiting new IC grads to be associate members. We can sell the idea of NOLS through the NIA: look at this way that you can be instantly involved in the awesome NOLS community, welcome, we want your big ideas, we hope you stick around for many years.

    4. Staffing Politics/Getting Enough Work
    This topic came up towards the end of the meeting, and sparked so much conversation that we talked 45 minutes longer than planned. The conversation was divided into a few different subjects: how to get more work, looking at the culture of how we get more work, and ways to change the system.

    How to get more work: Go to Lander, have face to face conversations. You are the CEO of yourself at NOLS. You have to work hard for yourself. “I’m awesome, here is why” and take it straight to Staffing.

    At times, creating a relationship with Staffing can feel like trying to enter the ‘good ol boys club’ this feels weird, political, non-inclusuive. Many present felt that they don’t know how to use these relationships in a way that furthers their careers. It seems hard for staffing to get to know individuals - there are 849 of us, after all.

    Then the question was asked: Is that the culture we want to have? Should we reward instructors who prioritize building relationships with Staffing and selling their awesomeness? Does this system support the high student outcomes we want? Does this system discourage those that are not relationship masters? Instructors want to ask staffing: What is your vision for what is going on? How do you connect to Instructors? How can the NIA help to facilitate this process of getting people the amount of work and the type of work they want?

    In-Town staff: payment is embarrassing (this came from a current in-town employee). Can we create more of a connection between in-town staff and field staff? More knowledge from HQ— who is working where, when. Better communication between in-town staff and HQ. Newer instructors: go to a branch and work—get to know the staff at the branch. Make a system that staffs short term in-town jobs, with instructors who have gaps in their field work.

    IC grads vs. qualified multi year instructors. What is the balance? 111 [roughly 80 IC spots planned for 2015 according to Scott Robertson - (the 80 IC spots proved to also be erroneous and was corrected through information from staffing in May, 2015 to be 108 IC participants)] new field instructors each year. Is this too many? The system seems to create a chronic shortage of work. However, IC Courses consistantly fill— and they provide valuable opportunities for senior staff. And even for IC Grads who don’t end up working for the school, The “NOLS stamp” sells— grads get jobs based on their NOLS background. How can we retain the pool of folks who would pay for an IC but don’t nescesarily see themselves working for NOLS long-term? Can NOLS start a new course type with a certificate offered at the end, “Professional Outdoor Educator” and offer fewer ICs?

    The conversation then turned into creating more deliniation between instructors who only work certain amounts. Think longer term: if off the IC I know that I will only work in the summer, I can sign a three year contract saying: yes, I will only ask for summer work, at the end of three years I can apply for year-round work. Search out people who want what NOLS wants (summer-only?) and be more selective about choosing IC candidates who want to be instant year-rounders. Incentivize those who only seek summer work. Phone interview all IC applicants frankly. Reimburse a percentage of IC money as the years pass and they keep working for the school.

    Have more status breakup: offer concrete steps to move from one category to the other. PL to CL. And also Summer only to 1/2 time AFP (Four or Five courses a year) to full AFP. It could be that instructors check a box on a WRAP that says “I’m applying for 1/2 time AFP” How can we broaden the circle of those who are content with the amount of work they get? How do I go to the next level? Offer clarity. Can mentorship help this process: someone to vouch for you, to give another perspective beyond SPEs.

    Folks at the meeting asked for guidance on how to move their NOLS career forward, clear levels with concrete steps towards advancement.

    How does staffing pay attention to seminars? Could seminars count towards 50% of a field week? Why don’t WMI weeks count towards seniority at NOLS?

    5. Mentorship
    One person raised the issue of re-working the way NOLS uses mentorship. This instantly resonated with other NIA members. People thought that there was a direct correlation between staff retention and mentorship. We can improve upon the hit-or-miss mentorship given on course. Having some senior instructor have a multi-year relationship with a junior staff, after a year, have mentor/mentee work a contract together. How to teach mentorship: through a new seminar? Incentivize mentors! Pay them like preceptors at WMI are paid. Only about 2.8% of instructors (those on AFP) have a direct supervisor—can we grow that number?

    6. Ride Share
    Perhaps the NIA could help to organize a more effective ride-share system—NOLS talking isn’t very efficient. Could be specifically centered around Denver and Salt Lake. NOLS could market these efforts under the banner of sustainability. Staffing could email a link to a spreadsheet along with contact, letting instructors share travel details directly with other instructors. We need to create a system that doesn’t make Staffing or IT’s job harder or more time-consuming.

  • Wednesday, January 21, 2015 4:37 PM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    NIA Board of Directors

    Conference Call

    January 21, 2015



    Sean Williams (President), Daren Opeka (Treasurer), Allie Maloney (Visibility), Fabio Oliviera (Field Membership), Tim Dorsey (WMI Membership), Dave Durant (Branch Reps), Aaron Divine (Special Projects), Drew Seitz (Flamingo Fund), Jon Kempsey (Brazil Rep), Summers Eatmon (RM Rep), Abbie Wehner


    Andy Clifford (NZ Rep), due to technical difficulties at NOLS NZ.

    (One seat on the Board was vacant at the time of the call.)

    Board Vacancy

    Sean pointed out that at present we have 11 Board members and a President, and that by his interpretation of the Constitution we should have 12+1.  No one dissented.  The decision was made to solicit self-nominations for someone to serve out the remainder of the term ending in December 2015.  Tim volunteered to do this via the Facebook Group.  We spoke about the desirability of a firm timeline for this project, although none was set.  It was also noted that the most effective way to recruit new Board Members is with one-on-one conversations.

    Conference Call Schedule

    In 2014 there were two Board conference calls.  Sean suggested more would be better.  Again, no one disagreed.  We decided to try a quarterly system with calls in January (to orient new Board Members and form a Faculty Summit working group), April (to consolidate plans for the Summit), August (to prepare for the WMI Staff Meeting and State of the School weekend), and October (to debrief the State of the School and organize the annual NIA election).  Later in the call, after most folks had already had to leave, the idea was floated about calls for specific working groups e.g. International Pay Scales (Fabio, Jon, Annemarie, Prasad) or WMI Recruitment (Tim, Drew, Daren, Dave).

    Branch Rep Update

    Since no vote was needed, Dave promised a full written report to the Google Group (stay tuned) in order to free up more call time for other topics.  Daren said he would set a date for a spring meeting at the Southwest Branch.  Abbie said she would try a “Denver Area” meeting.

    Budget for Visibility Projects & Board Member Compensation

    Given the success of visibility projects over the past year, the Board approved Allie to purchase ~400 cozies at ~$2 each, ~400 stickers at ~$1 each, and ~50 belt buckles at ~$8 each, with the understanding that she would have some latitude to make decisions to see this project through.  There were no objections to the idea of renting a locker in the Noble basement to store these items, as well as our banners, table cloths, plastic flamingos, light, etc.  Allie’s vision is that the stickers will be free, first time members will receive a cozie, renewing members will receive a cozie and a shirt (these were already purchased in the fall of 2014), and that lifetime members, board members, and branch reps will receive a cozie, shirt, and belt buckle.

    Many people (among them Sean, Daren, Jon, Fabio and Dave) spoke in favor of extending the system of compensation for Board Members (currently up to $5,000 annually for the President, and $1,000 for the Treasurer) to allow more people to benefit from it.  Specific mention was made of Allie in the visibility role, and Dave with his website work.  No vote was taken; no final decision was made.  Sean expressed skepticism about $5,000, stating that perhaps this was too high.  Daren urged him to wait six months before deciding to cut his own salary.  Dave floated the idea of compensation based on an hourly rate (federal minimum wage?) with annual caps for each position.  Sean asked folks to start to track their own hours spent on NIA work to inform a decision about this in the future.     

    Vice President

    The NIA has had a VP in the past.  According to the Constitution, this is a role determined by vote of the Board, not the Membership.  Dave has suggested reviving this role, so that there is designated executive leadership in place when the President is in the field.  This idea was tabled for further discussion at a later meeting after Fabio suggested that we hadn’t yet identified a clear need for it.  Drew pointed out that during the summer, both the President and VP were likely to be in the field anyway.

    Flamingo Newsletter

    While this has been valuable in the past, and the new website gives us e-mailing tools that would make it easy to re-create, the general consensus was that an NIA Newsletter is redundant with the three mechanisms of communication we currently use: the Facebook Group, regular NIA articles in the Faculty Newsletter, and most of all nolsinstructorassociation.org.  The decision was made to do a few things well, rather than spread ourselves too thin.

    Faculty Newsletter

    Dave suggested that Sean adapt his “Themes from 2014” article, currently on the website, for the next faculty newsletter (submission deadline Jan 30).  Sean agreed.

    New Roles for Board Members

    Tim agreed to be the “WMI Instructor Membership Coordinator.”  Dave also floated the idea of having a Board Member responsible for driving curriculum based discussions, and another working on how to define a living wage for NOLS employees.  There was some enthusiasm about both of these ideas, but no one stepped up, yet.  

    International Pay Scales

    The three pay scales that the NIA are currently involved with are the Brazilian, Indian, and Chilean.   Fabio and Jon, who have been working tirelessly on this issue, both gave reports.  Fabio’s general impression is that the message has gotten through to Admin, and that the situation may be coming to a head.  He thinks we’ll see some sort of action within a matter of months.  Fabio also expressed a desire for a Chilean to step up and take the lead on dealing with the Chilean Pay Scale.  Annemarie Vocca (India Branch Rep; India PSup) has volunteered to help with the Indian payscale.  This is much appreciated, and we have no doubt that she will be very helpful.  Someone also expressed a desire to have a person who is actually paid in Indian currency on-board as well.  Prasad has volunteered to be the point person for representing the viewpoints of Indian Instructors with the NIA.  (He is a current NIA member.  Fabio pointed out that many of the Chileans he hears from are not.)

    Systems and Services Optimization Self Audit

    This is part of the Vision 20/20 Strategic Planning Process.  Jon brought it up, pointing out that if acted upon, it will have far reaching implications, and that Instructors who don’t also work in-town are not being consulted on this.  Andy Clifford had mentioned similar concerns via the Google Group within the past month or so.  It was decided that Jon and/or Sean would contact Marco and/or Jeff Buchanan to see if an Instructor/NIA response to this document would be welcomed.

    Mentorship Program

    Aaron identified this as something NOLS is lacking, and that he’d be interested in pursuing.  Sean echoed these sentiments.  They’re going to communicate with each other about this in the next week or so.  Sean is also seeking advice from Aaron about representing us all at the upcoming BoT meeting.  (Aaron took this on at this time last year.)

    Faculty Summit Preparations

    Sean, Summers, Abbie, and Allie are the only Board Members who will definitely be at the Summit.  (Daren, Drew, and Dave will all be in the field.) As such, they’re the de facto Summit Working Group.  Tim will try to attend as a means of preparing to help orchestrate a heavy NIA presence at the 2015 WMI Staff Meeting.  If he can’t get some of his travel expense offset by NOLS, the NIA will consider contributing gas money.

    Allie is going to be the point person for our Welcome Table (organize materials, set up a schedule to make sure it is manned, involve rank and file members as well as Board members).  She will also liaise with Lauren Crenshaw about plans for a General Meeting the night before the Summit, and a Social Hour during the Summit.  

    Sean will write the Workshop proposal, which Summers, Allie, and Abbie will all help edit.  All four of them will facilitate the workshop itself.  

    Main Points for 2014

    At the very end of the call, when only 4-5 folks were still left, there was a discussion of what our main talking points should be for 2015.  It was noted that we need to continue to focus on building membership.  This is the spring from which all of our credibility flows.  We also need to remember to keep the conversation consistently positive, even when tackling difficult subjects.  Given these two things as prerequisites, we came up with:

    1. Representation (aka “The Instructor Driven School”) e.g. with the BoT, on Strategic Planning Committees, in decision making processes such as regarding International pay Scales, etc.

    2. Travel, specifically the speed and ease of reimbursement rather than increasing amounts (these were just increased, and according to Sean NOLS has committed to long term goals in this area as well)

    3. Living Wage we floated the idea of campaigning to get a commitment to a Living Wage, with specific goals, written into the next strategic plan, which will be composed in 2020.  Dave suggested a “write-in campaign” on Program Evals similar to that which was so effective in ultimately getting Proctor Pay addressed.   

  • Thursday, December 18, 2014 11:02 AM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    12/12/14 Patagonia Meeting Minutes, Casa Común 18:00 - 19:30
    Facilitated by Jon Kempsey, NIA Board Member and NOLS Amazonia Program Manager

    These minutes are a paraphrased summary. They cannot be taken to represent the opinion of the facilitator, the secretary, or a participant, unless a point is attributed to a specific individual. One of the vital functions the NIA serves is to provide a safe space where employees can voice honest feedback.

    In Attendance:
    Yuri Parkinson, Anne Peick, Paul Dryer, Dale Shaw, Dálio Zippin, Rodrigo Chabalgoity,
    Cristina Prieto, Raúl Castro, Viviana Callahan, Meagan Binkley, Galen Dossin, Jesse Quillan, Jon Kempsey

    Before discussions began some expressed that it was difficult to pay NIA dues - some do not want to join Paypal. Also people do not know when their subscription is due. Can we develop a reminder system?  (NIA Response: we sympathize with folks who don't want to create a Paypal account for this one transaction.  We are working on direct credit card payments via the website.  It is also possible to pay using cash or check to any Board Member or Branch Rep.  There is a reminder system in place.  Once you've registered on the website, you'll receive a reminder e-mail when your current dues expire.  Many thanks to the 248 folks who have registered since May 1.   -Dave Durant)


    for overall for life and work at NOLS. The financial stability at NOLS is appreciated and contrasted to other similar organisations.
    NOLS Patagonia is also much appreciated. Good facilities and a warm welcome, good community life.

    Program Supervisors are under-valued at the school. They are the vital link between the field and in town and are responsible for guaranteeing that the NOLS Mission is fulfilled on courses. More should be done to attract senior instructors to take Program Sup. positions - higher pay or at least some field weeks added.

    Strategic Plan - How to get instructor’s input to the committees - noted that there are no full time instructors on the committees. What were the results of the last strategic plan? Was it a success?

    Health Insurance Reimbursement for Part Time Employees - What is going to happen? How will the compensation be paid in different forms?

    Travel compensation - Should be easier to get the reimbursement - “takes 10 to 20 emails sometimes” - long delays. Brazil to Alaska is paid as Brazil to the Lwr 48 - at the most it covers only 70% of the full cost and often less. Why doesn’t NOLS employ a travel coordinator - could make big savings that way with bulk buying. The cost of getting a J1 visa is very high at times - need to spend multiple days in cities with the consulates and the cost of travel to there.

    Gain share - We like it, but is it the best way to distribute the money? There are big disparities in the amounts paid - those who already earn more get more - make it an flat rate payment based on time worked in a given year so everyone shares the benefit equally. Could be used to improve pay scales for support staff.

    Growth at the school - We should reconsider the paradigm of growth. We are adding more students but not necessarily the structure to support the growth. The priority on growth leads to boom/bust situations. How can we even out the ups and downs of enrolment.

    NOLS Patagonia group size still at 17 - this can mean up to 22 in a group if there is an IIT. All agreed that the group size is too big. Student surveys do not reflect the impact of group size - physical impact, impact on teaching, limiting camp options especially on kayak sections.

    Experienced instructors make for better courses - this cannot be reflected in the student surveys.

    NOLS Patagonia wish list
    - bathrooms for El Nido (instructor bedrooms)
    - cabins for program supervisors
    - reduce group size

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014 4:16 PM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    9/23/14 NZ Meeting Minutes

    Facilitated by Andy Clifford, New Zealand Branch Rep 

    These minutes are a paraphrased summary.  They cannot be taken to represent the opinion of the facilitator, the secretary, or a participant, unless a point is attributed to a specific individual.  One of the vital functions the NIA serves is to provide a safe space where employees can voice honest feedback.

    Meeting outline:

    What is the NIA?

    Instructor concerns – what is the NZ instructor’s voice asking?

    Australasian instructor recruitment drive

    (refreshments supplied)

    Meeting summary:

    Andy Clifford  opened the NZ branch meeting with a brief history of the NIA, a discussion of what the NIA does and an outline of the current ‘hot topics’. Christian Martin provided useful additions gleaned from last year’s branch meeting hosted by Sean Williams. 

    The floor was opened to instructors to voice current instructor issues with a focus on the NZ branch perspective. A “what would you like to chat about with John Gans” starting point was offered. 

    Mark Jordan was invited in at the start of the meeting to give a Branch Director’s perspective on what he saw as the main instructor-based themes currently being considered by the school’s management. Summary:

    • There is consensus from management that the Expedition 2013 Strategic Plan goals for field instructors have been met, with a plan to maintain (but not augment) outcomes for Vision 2020 (e.g. compensation, health etc).
    • In terms of compensation the current strategic focus is standardizing in-town pay structures (to account for worldwide currency variations) with no immediate instructor compensation alterations on the horizon.
    • Directors invited to vote this year between increasing travel reimbursement allocation or facilitating proctor pay; vote went towards proctor pay.
    • Aus/NZ international travel reimbursement concerns have been voiced to Lander but recent focus has been prioritizing domestic U.S. travel (benefits more instructors).

    Instructor comments and concerns:

    Thanks for running NOLS John Gans!

    Proctor Pay

    • Noted that NZ does not have proctor system and therefore is not represented by proctor pay system. P-Sups here take responsibility for overseeing semester progression through briefings/debriefs but not formally acknowledged.


    • NOLS’ reactionary response to compensation/travel was questioned and suggested an incremental yearly increase; MJ suggested that NOLS response is not reactionary - budget lines typically have up to 30% buffer to allow for increases, however unforeseen new costs (e.g health scheme) have absorbed any recent surplus.
    • At the lower end of the experience ladder it takes a long time for a new instructor to get to the “30 week pay bump” – disincentive for new recruits to stay in the game.
    • At the upper end of the experience ladder there could be more incentive to retain staff by supporting transition to in-town work without taking the pay cut.

    Career Progression

    • Mentioned that provision of mentors for new instructors at NOLS is inconsistent and career development path is less accessible for NZ/Aus instructors (PL minimum standard) than RM where IC grads are able to get work straight off IC. CLs can provide mentorship for new instructors but need more interaction with staffing at HQ for new NZ/Aus faces to be known.
    • Clear indication of work potential should be given on NZ IC, both pre and during course. 
    • NOLS not a sustainable career for NZ/Aus instructors unless they can get N. American work – late notice on limited short-term contracts dissuades local staff from staying with NOLS as other more stable work streams require early notice.
    • Working in N.America requires significant financial outlay for travel/expenses so having a reimbursement level that matches this is best way to ensure longevity of service for NZ/Aus instructors.
    • Opportunities to gain exposure to ICs/NOLS Pro work is limited for NZ/Aus staff.

    NZ Branch profile

    • NOLS not well-known in NZ/Aus as an organization – hard to attract and retain good local instructors.
    • Perhaps a need to see value of running a NZ IC without graduates necessarily working for NOLS – could course have more of a local ‘Outdoor Educator’ role?
    • NOLS focused on expense of running courses in NZ and budgeting on N. American comparison basis – ideally would accept higher cost of living here, accept fluctuating exchange rates and take hits some years and run surplus in others.

    Recruitment drive:

    • AC outlined goal for NIA to represent staff majority – visible through signed up members. 6 new recruits from the meeting! 
    • Thanks to Ari for bringing NIA hats from USA.

  • Tuesday, September 30, 2014 6:30 PM | Fabio Oliveira (Administrator)

    NIA meeting, NOLS Patagonia - 30 September, 2014

    host: Fabio Oliveira
    attendance: Max Fischer, Galen Dossin, Oscar Manguy, Cristina Prieto, Paz Faast, Karen Silberg, Elli, Maija
    mix: 9 field staff, 2 P Sup’s, 1 IIT

    Intro - NIA stuff:

    What is the NIA? To act as a voice for instructors to stay attuned with what is going on at the school and to be a funnel for voices. Represent instructors at Board of Trustees meetings. Approximately 200 paid members.

    What NIA does?
    NIA offers lines of communication that are not organized by NOLS administration. It is valuable to be able to have a large contingency of folks representing the school worldwide.

    1. Faculty engagement
    2. International Compensation 3. Field Instructor compensation

    comment: “First time I hear about NIA in 3 years” – by staff working in small branch. Good food for thought for NIA.

    comment: on why I like being associated with the NIA: “NIA representation is a way instructors who work on a contract basis to connect and participate at NOLS year round, not only when on contract.”

    Folks are seeing NIA efforts in outreach and the sense of positivity. Some folks feel motivated to become members again. The frequency of these meetings and the dialogues that are happening are good.

    comment: “it is easier for some me to engage when the NIA is not consulting to create a vision, but has a vision that is being driven.“

    On International stuff:

    Pay scales in Brazil and India: Fabio discussed the issue with Marco J, looking at options that would work out for field staff and within the existing administrative constraints and desires.

    Since the creation of the Compensation Task Force (CTF) the information that the NIA received is the same as all staff - the Nols email informing on the CTF of July 1st, so we have no further news.

    comment: Compensation Task Force: great thing that is happening. It is great that Rachael Price and Chris Agnew (who deal, or dealt, directly with international pay in Chile, Brazil and India) are involved.

    comment: “Why are there no instructors involved on the task force?” Good question!!

    The NIA compiled a lot of objective information from field staff directly impacted by international pay scales on this issue – Fabio will volunteer the information and be available for input to this task force.

    - people who do not live in US spend more (in US$) in travel, tickets and gear than US based staff;
    - pro-deal are realistically harder to pull off as all stuff needs to be sent to US branches

    Still on International stuff - Administrative systems to receive reimbursements: It was noted Staffing or Finance’s adm systems to transfer some type of funds is to mail a check. This does not work for international staff who do not go to the US often or to for US staff who’s out of the country for months at a time. Staffing and HR have been helpful in discussing options and making alternative ways work, however it can be lengthy and add to their to do list.

    Idea: develop a ‘system’ so staff that do not have a practical way of processing a mailed check can receive the $ in alternative ways.

    On Travel

    It was notes that a lot of improvement happened; still a process that staff feels requires improvement.

    There were observation was how unfair it feels being in a different tier than other employees – “How to make a more even STATUS / perks (not pay) between field, WMI and Pro?”

    Field staff were asked to complete the travel surveys and also to submit ALL receipts when they ask for reimbursements, as the data (of how much is not being covered) can be helpful for future budgeting of travel money by staffing.

    On staffing and staff life

    Comments and Kudos - on small gestures that go a LONG way in Branches, like the car pick up in AK, or having a bed made designated (and made!) for you when you arrive.

    The following was suggested (small gestures that have little $ impact and high staff happiness factor) for Branches: do not charge for lunch (when it’s prepared) while staff is on contract, waive house fees for 1 hr work daily.

    Discussion about In-town / field seniority ‘cross pollination’ – comments on how it would make sense if there was some sort of ‘rope weeks’ system for field staff to accrued seniority when working as P-Sups and vice versa.

    Program Vs Business (budget) values - comments on how field staff feels there is a fair bit of pressure (likely more than necessary) projecting the ‘budget stress’ to field staff and field work.
    “It would be great to see some decisions be made with PROGRAM as a priority, as opposed to BUDGET. It seems that adm people only focus on budget”

    Consideration of longer-term contracts: more stable/predictable budget and more job security. A bit of a chat how if NOLS explores different ways of hiring (for example a 3 or 4 year long contract, even if with fewer annual weeks than current AFP), how there could be more stability in staffing needs and in staff security. 

  • Thursday, September 25, 2014 9:49 PM | Allie Maloney

    9/23/14 RM Meeting Minutes
    Facilitated by Summers Eatmon, NIA RM Branch Rep 
    Notes taken by Allie Maloney, NIA Board Member

    These minutes are a paraphrased summary.  They cannot be taken to represent the opinion of the facilitator, the secretary, or a participant, unless a point is attributed to a specific individual.  One of the vital functions the NIA serves is to provide a safe space where employees can voice honest feedback.  

    This informal session took place at The Forge bar and grill in Lander.  The group of 15 included senior staff, NIA Board Members, new instructors, in-town crossover staff, WMI crossover staff, and international instructors. The tone was informative, attentive, and solution-oriented.

    After some hot wings and beverages were offered, with informal introductions and chit-chat, we moved into the meat of the meeting. Topics are presented here in the order they came up, in an attempt to reproduce the flow of the conversation.

    1. International Pay Scales
    2. Board of Trustee Representative for Staff
    3. ROPE Weeks
    4. Marketing
    5. Program Supervisors
    6. Evaluations and Curriculum
    7. NIA Membership
    International Pay Scales
    Summers began by talking about a conversation she had with Chris Agnew at the PNW branch director forum. He explained that pay scales are partly created due to different laws within the country--in places like Australia the laws dictate the rate instructors are paid, but in India and Brazil, no requirements are set. One instructor at the NIA meeting commented that it was an unpredictable way to make a living because of the wildly fluctuating exchange rates.

    Summers reported that in the branch director forum Chris Agnew was asked "does equal pay for equal work exist?” and answered that he does not believe that it does. Several instructors at the NIA meeting agreed that the upset stems mostly from the lack of voice staff at the India and Brazil locations feel that they have had. Staff at these branches desire to feel included in the decision making process. The group briefly talked about the Compensation Task Force that is focusing specifically on this issue.

    Board of Trustee Representative for Staff
    The meeting then moved on to discussing the Board of Trustees meetings. Dave Kallgren explained that there is a new policy being enacted where the NIA representative will only sit at the table with the Board for one out of three yearly meetings. Our ability to adequately represent all staff has been questioned, and they may create a space to have a different staff representative present at NOLS Board of Trustee meetings. The group asked--who are they looking for to represent all staff? Does this person need to represent WMI, NOLS Field, NOLS Pro, and in-town staff? Who would this person be? One instructor suggested that perhaps within the pool of program supervisors there could be a good candidate.

    ROPE Weeks
    One instructor expressed frustration at the current ROPE week system, explaining that ‘I was told those are the weeks that got you on to the IC, but there were a lot of people on my IC that didn’t have very many weeks of experience. My weeks of outside experience are appreciated by my co-intructors in the field, but not by the school.’

    The current view of instructors seems to be that NOLS values NOLS experience over outside experience, which isn’t helping to bring senior staff from outside companies in. Is the thought process to funnel people away from regular IC and onto the PIC? Should we run two PICs, and drop one IC?

    We diverged a bit here to talk about how the perfect candidate on paper can turn out not to be a good NOLS instructor, while some candidates are wonderful surprises. And even if you are a “yahoo” at first (Drew Seitz raised his hand here) yahoos can turn it around pretty impressively. One instructor praised that “we can be patient and people can grow here.”

    Who determines what is a valuable ROPE week in the first place? This seems to change depending on the personality in the training manager position. The group was in consensus that a simple thing that staffing could do to lessen the angst is to make the system more clear to potential candidates, perhaps even providing a link to the ROPE pdf before they even apply for an IC or PIC so that they can best decide what to apply for.

    A newer instructor commented that new instructors often have a lot of lag time, and filling the gaps can be challenging. NOLS could create small jobs through the marketing department. This would allow far flung instructors to put up posters or give informational talks to help spread the word all over the world. New instructors are eager to feel included and a part of the NOLS community, and letting their enthusiasm loose could be a powerful tool. One tool marketing could offer these staff members could be a Summit based training or workshop on how to market effectively and professionally for the school.

    This instructor also wanted to know who to talk to when they have a great idea. How do they find the right person? Is there some sort of list on rendezvous? In reply, Drew said that briefings and program supervisors can be excellent places to start. Allie also offered that the NIA could be a useful tool here, and we would certainly be helpful in pointing you to the correct person to talk with when you have a brilliant idea that needs sharing.

    There was some hope that referral cards could be switched to referral codes to dovetail with the new online application, saving paper and making it easier for future students to use instructor referrals. There is also a desire to have a NOLS business card template available for instructors to order if we would like. It would be ideal if this was something NOLS offered, so as to stay in line with the branding of the school.

    It was noted that in HQ communication across areas can breakdown. Finding a better way to communicate between branch, admissions, and marketing could help shuttle students into a course that just needs one or two more students to run. Can we be more nimble here?

    Program Supervisors
    ‘I really value when a p-sup has a lot of experience.’ This statement was heartily agreed with around the table. Is there a way to give more recognition for working in town to make them want to stay in the position longer? Seems like a raise for program supervisors each year would go a long way to ensure that instructors are mentored well, curriculum is nurtured effectively, and students have the highest outcomes.

    Evaluations for students are challenging and biased. Instructors would like to have a say on how evaluations are written and handled for each course.

    What is interesting right now is curriculum, new course types, and the direction of the school.

    There is not enough standard IC curriculum, no “this is what an IC is.” Instructors would like to see this shift.

    NIA members hope that curriculum changes can be like NAFPs-- coming from the bottom up not just top down. Changing each year as reports come in from the field. Kudos to Drew Leemon for being open to change.

    Can we have more real time classes taught from program supervisors during briefings? We would like to have a useable thing to take away-- perhaps an ES class? Could we also have these new classes/best classes filmed in little video and accessible to instructors? Do a series on how to teach? This would be valuable to OE students as well!

    The group talked a bit about how the WMI approach to curriculum is so different--“this is style, and this is curriculum” What do they do best, that field staff could use? It is ok for the school to say this is what you teach, here is room for you to add your own passions as well. It is so valuable to be able to say “NOLS teaches this…” without letting go of instructor individuality.

    Summers just took the FADS seminar, “FADS was awesome to help improve your life in general!”

    NIA Membership
    We would get so far if we just talk about it within I-teams in the field. How can we better use program staff to help with the NIA? They are more stable, and talk to so many instructors.

    Anyone can host a meeting! You do not need to be a branch rep-- or we don’t have to have just one branch rep for each location. Many hands make light work.

    More recruitment ideas? A newsletter? We really need to get folks to stay connected, not just pay for one year and drift out.

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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