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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  • Wednesday, September 03, 2014 5:48 AM | Sean Williams (Administrator)

    Sean Williams, board member and GAR instructor

    Annemarie Vocca, NOLS India Program Supervisor and NIA branch representative 

    Ravi Kumar, NOLS India base manager

    Courtney Kuhl, NOLS India Operations Manager

    Forrest Young-Taft, FSI instructor and NIA member

    Kuttss Bommanda, GAR instructor

    Mandeep Nandal, FSI instructor and NIA member

    Devin Duffy, FSI instructor

    As with all meeting minutes, these notes are a summary, with minimal editing, meant as a rough record of ideas discussed, rather than the considered opinion of any of the participants or the formal position of the NIA.

    Ravi:  What is the NIA?  

    Sean:  A faculty organization to act as a voice for instructors to stay atuned with what is going on at the school and to be a funnel for voices.  Represent instructors at Board of Trustees meetings.  Approximately 150 paid members.  Board members: 12 bi-yearly cycle with 6-7 very active.

    Ravi: I need to know what NIA does.  I value NIA but I need to understand what NIA is today.  Rick Rochelle was super proactive and empowering others to become involved.

    Sean:  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.  Currently a lot of people getting involved.  A new website as a tool for spreading ideas and making the process of membership and renewal easier.


    1. Faculty engagement

    2. International Compensation

    3. Field Instructor compensation

    Ravi:  Can we focus on why enrollment is low currently (for example), rather than only focus on compensation?

    Sean:  Ideally, yes, but we need people to become more involved.  Ravi believes that is where NIA should focus more on.  Sean states we need more ideas and engagement from faculty.  A branch forum is a great avenue to spread ideas and a way to get dialogue started for the creation of new ideas.  Minutes are posted from all meetings, get shared on the website, and then discussions get started. Ongoing dialogue can happen through the NIA Facebook page.

    Kutts: first 5 years with the school what he noticed is misunderstanding of what NIA is and stands for. He appreciates the pro-activeness that seems to be happening now. 

    Compensation Task Force: why are there no instructors involved on the task force? Without instructors being involved, the task force is not inclusive.  If NOLS focuses on leadership roles, why does the broader school operate with a hierarchical structure?

    Sean:  Pay scales in Brazil and India - Fabio is working with Marco to create a solution that all Brazilian instructors can agree with and can realistically be worked out within the existing administrative constraints.  No news on this since early summer.

    How can NIA be part of a better feedback cycle?

    What instructors seek is acknowledgement that there are issues that are being worked on, rather than defensive explanation of existing system.  A desire for more empathy within the administration, or from those who are responsible for making decisions.  We want to hear what is happening in the future and how problems will be solved eventually, not why existing system is in place.

    Kutts + Sean:  Seems like the communication style within administration could be worked upon. Sometimes, we seem to get the go-around, answers that are not as satisfactory, defense of policy rather than listening and responding to ideas or frustrations.

    Anne-Marie Voca has volunteered to be the NOLS India representative because she wants to be able to support the issues that are going around and to increase the number of instructors aware of these issues.  There is a small number of instructors who truly have a grasp on the issues instructors around the world are dealing with.  We need more people aware of what is happening. 

    Forrest: Though it is getting easier for folks to become members, it seems that the same issues are being focused on over and over again. Dialogues should happen on a small scale more often.  How can those thoughts get collected and represented to the board, on scales between I-teams and large meetings or websites?

    We should have more of these conversations.  How do we empower people to put forth the work it takes, on a volunteer basis, to take up NIA initiatives outside of compensation issues…

    Sean + Anne-Marie:  NIA is volunteer-run and changes moves slowly, but has served a valuable role of maintaining field instructor perspective over the long-term on important issues of education and the NOLS experience.  The proctor pay issue was finally resolved after 6 years because people did not give up on the issue even when the administration said it would never happen. 

    Comment cards are a great way to get issues expressed. We need to get folks motivated to share their concerns, as well as their appreciations.

    Why is the administration as a whole not accountable to faculty for their actions in a way comparable to how instructors are accountable and evaluated on their performance on each course?

    People at this meeting are appreciative of NIA efforts and high level of current outreach and sense of positivity.  Some folks feel motivated to become members again.  The frequency of these meetings and the dialogues that are happening are inspiring.

    Kutts hopes that the conversation about student enrollment becomes addressed.

    Sean believes it may just take someone to become motivated to gather data and write an article for the NIA website.

    Include everyone, not just members, in emails etc?

    Monthly NIA newsletter? Keep things fresh and hold members as well as NIA board members accountable.

    Do the travel Survey! Represent yourself.


  • Monday, July 28, 2014 12:15 PM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    PNW NIA Meeting Minutes 7/28/14

    Facilitated by Liz Riggs Meder

    Minutes taken by Marie Siwicki, edited by Liz Riggs Meder


    There were about 25 people in attendance; a few people came and went. We went around the room and introduced ourselves. There was a mix of current faculty, program staff of mixed current and “lapsed” faculty and in-town staff.

    NIA Platform Issues

    We discussed the current issues on the NIA platform.

    Proctor pay

    Briefly touched on the current changes to proctor pay as an example of successful work that the NIA has done.

    Faculty and eligibility for membership

    Touched on the definition of “faculty” and who should be eligible for NIA membership. Talked about the pros and cons of WMI instructors joining NIA as full members. A new term of “sitting” for the school was introduced (as a discipline in addition to boating, walking or climbing) for program and administration staff. This discussion was revisited later, where some felt the NIA might be better suited as an employees’ organization representing all NOLS employees while others thought that instructors needed a unified representation since most of our work takes place in the field and we are not necessarily interacting with other NOLS employees on a daily basis.

    Travel Reimbursement

    Several voiced the opinion that an instructor shouldn’t have to spend their first few days wages just to pay for their travel. Travel should cover all expenses including transfers, hotels, meals etc (as in everything the IRS allows you to deduct for travel).

    There was some debate about how a plann that fully reimburses for travel might change staffing trends. Some liked to be able to travel to a lot of different places and would be willing to get less of their travel reimbursed in order to preserve that. Some wanted the option of being able to work several courses at one branch in a season and being rewarded for that (lowering their carbon footprint) through greater travel reimbursement for greater number of courses worked. If you put that you are willing to work anywhere in your WRAP you should be rewarded for that through travel reimbursement.

    There was a comment that instructors have turned down work because they didn’t have the money to travel right away. Are there options for advances on contracts, or a reduction in the contract amount with the travel coming directly out of the contract amount?

    International pay scale

    While the NIA platform specifically targets the Brazillian pay scale, given the number of Indian instructors present at the meeting, the current similar disparity in the Indian pay scale was of greater interest – namely that Indian instructors are being paid 30% less than their American counterparts because of fluctuations in exchange rates.

    Chris Agnew took some time to explain the various solutions and pros and cons of each. There was agreement that this issue should not be limited to Brazilian instructors and should include all places where this is an issue – India, Scandinavia, Chile etc.

    Some felt strongly that the rates should be adjusted every year, while some could see the downside of having your salary fluctuate every year. All agreed that there should be more information available on thistopic(more than the e-mails that are sent out) andthere was suggestion that the NIA website could be a place to explain and discuss this complex issue. Greater transparency and explanation is desired. The NIA should stay more involved with the committee that is working on this. Could NIA get included on weekly managers’ notes on this topic or from this committee?

    Open Discussion: What’s on your mind?

    NIA: Asking for more than just compensation

    Craig Lenske brought up that the NIA gets extraordinary privilege to have the EDT and the board’s ear. We should be using this influence to talk about broader issues beyond compensation. Would NIA have more influence if it broadened its perspective on other issues that would benefit multiple stakeholders at the school, beyond just instructors?

    We should also be talking about things like curriculum, and FIQPE’s, and other things we want to change! We should think about how we communicate with the EDT and the board, and what issues we communicate on! We should also offer solutions, not just say “we need change.”


    NIA could play a great role in getting past the slowness that is implicit in an extremely inclusive decision-making process. Representative from NIA is like a 1-stop shop for hearing voices. And this can be HUGE for promoting exceptional student experiences; we should unite on this front too.


    P-sup turnover: they have such an important role and face many of the same issues as instructors, especially regarding pay, but they don’t have a voice like instructors do. Should NIA be representing or advocating for them? This directly affect instructors and student experiences.

    Two-way communication 


    There is a desire to know more about what is going on and happening at the board level and how as instructors we can support them (and the new strategic plan). The NIA can play a greater role in facilitating this communication.

  • Tuesday, July 01, 2014 12:01 PM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    Teton Valley NIA Meeting Minutes 7/1/14

    Facilitated by Tova Sularz, NIA TVB Branch Rep

    Minutes compiled by Tova Sularz

    Equitable Travel Reimbursement and Pay.  Scott Robertson sent a recent email about changing language to all NOLS educators being 'NOLS instructors' rather than differentiating between WMI instructors, NOLS Pro instructors and catalogue field instructors. If we're all instructors, why are the systems and scales by which we're paid/ reimbursed not the same? Could we charge catalogue students more in order to reimburse instructors fully for travel, just as NOLS Pro clients are paying a price that includes full travel for those instructors, as are WMI partner organizations? 

    Another idea is to incentivize instructors to work more courses in a particular branch for a particular season by paying a higher percentage of travel cost based on the number of weeks worked as a result of that travel.  This would also support sustainability goals by incentivizing less overall travel for work. 

    Some questions were raised about transparency with NOLS Pro staffing and pay:

    • Why are NAME and Archer courses not paid at a NOLS Pro rates? 
    • Transparency around NOLS pro pro assessment. How does that work?

    Ultimately this group felt that certain groups of people are implicitly valued more at NOLS through: 

    • Different compensation for doing the same or similar jobs. e.g. catalogue instructors vs. Pro instructors vs. WMI instructors. 
    • Different reimbursement systems when we're all traveling with the same goals: to better serve NOLS students by delivering excellent courses (EDT members vs. Salaried Faculty positions vs. catalogue instructors vs. Pro instructors vs. WMI instructors.)
    Vernal. Vernal needs some love. Staff housing! Maybe it could be the sight of the next NIA gift/project. 

    NIA Membership. Some people are not NIA members because they feel like instructor interests get filtered through program supervisors and branch directors. They prefer to donate that money to scholarships. 

    ROPE. New ROPE guidelines are unfair to folks coming off ICs. Please return to old system where IC grads with lots of experience are able to be recognized as such.
  • Saturday, June 21, 2014 11:06 PM | Sean Williams (Administrator)

    Alaska NIA Meeting Minutes 6/21/14

    Facilitated by Sean Williams

    Minutes compiled by Claire Powers and edited by Sean Williams

    Attendance: 35 people including recent IC grads.

    I. Introduction to/explanation of what NIA does

    -How to join & membership costs

    II. Platform and plank drafts introduction.

    III. Q&A

    1. NIA separate from NOLS? Why does NIA need to exist separately from NOLS vs. internally?

                -Began as a result of conflict and strike. NIA organized as formal action at that time. Now NIA is seeking to express ideas and vision from field faculty with the administrative, in-town NOLS staff. Wages and compensation have been a large focus of the NIA’s historically. NIA is also open to talking about field curriculum, being better instructors, etc.

                Tonto shared information about an issue regarding compensation discrepancies for particular international branches and staff, current status of Brazil pay rate issues as example of NIA-supported work led by motivated local instructors.

    2. Proctors?

    -Explanation of when proctors began and recent changes in proctor pay.

    Someone asked if proctors are a consistently positive impact on course. Sean responded that the effects are difficult to track accurately. Robby added an explanation of the effect on more senior staff of junior instructors willing to work sections of a semester unpaid.

    3. Is the NIA still trying to track peoples’ real travel costs?

                -Survey was created on survey monkey. Aaron reported data to a board meeting. Instructors were paying twice as much on travel then they were being reimbursed. (Sample size=47). No known current efforts to improve travel reimbursement. The NIA takes no formal stand on this issue.

    4. South American instructors’ reimbursement to work in Alaska?

    -A U.S. citizen who travels from a South American branch to AK receives more reimbursement than a South American instructor who does the same.  The North American will receive both the Alaska reimbursement and the South America reimbursement, while the South American will receive only the South America reimbursement.  This appears to be an oversight in the travel plan, but is clearly unfair.  Sean encouraged the idea of gathering a list of affected instructors and their travel costs and presenting this information to Staffing.

                Side note: Anyone can write a plank draft for the platform, not just people on the NIA board.   This travel discrepancy would be a good topic for a plank.

    5.  What happens with program evaluations?

                Tre-C explained the process of compiling and synthesizing data from program evaluations at the end of the season. The information is condensed into two pages of information and is used to guide some discussions at director level meetings.

     6. Question about what the NIA is specifically and successfully advocating for currently.

                -Lots of plank drafts now, some issues (proctors, travel reimbursement) may be gaining momentum.

    7. How is the relationship between the NIA and Board of Trustees?

                -Generally this is unknown, sometimes communication from BoT or EDT to NIA Board seems charged or frustrated.  Dave Kallgren would know more about this.


    8. Within the advocacy of the NIA, is there some system that creates structure around redefining curriculum mission and goals?

    -This structure is not built in but should be. Aaron explained that those conversations are being had internally at NOLS and that NIA representatives in those open door conversations would be supported.

    Internet and Facebook would be useful tools for creating and having those discussions.

    9. Shout out for working in Brazil: Amazon is an amazing place to work with respect to wilderness, culture, adventure, fish.


    10. Best way to get involved with NIA?

                -Become a member! Check out and use the Facebook page. Also, see the website for current information and to see as planks and platforms are updated.

  • Thursday, June 05, 2014 9:34 AM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    RM NIA Meeting Minutes 6/5/14

    Facilitated by Summers Eatmon, NIA RM Branch Rep

    Minutes edited by Dave Durant

    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 in El Sol, a Mexican Restaurant in Lander.  The group was quite representative.  It included Instructors from South American and Africa as well as Lander locals.  There were new IC grads about to go out on their first courses, Senior Staff, Program Supervisors, and Lifetime NIA Members.  The tone was positive and creative, and a passion for NOLS was evident when each person spoke.

    After a round of introductions and an explanation of what NIA does, we moved rapidly into a forum format where attendees were asked the open ended question: what's the one thing you want Jon Gans (and other decision makers at the school) to know?  Topics are presented here in the order they came up, in an attempt to reproduce the flow of the conversation.

    1. Compensation

    2. Travel Reimbursement

    3. Sick Days

    4. NIA Recruitment

    5. NIA Operations

    6. NIA & WMI

    7. International Pay Scales

    8. Job Security and Sustainability of NOLS Lifestyle

    9. New Marketing Ideas

    1. Compensation

    A Senior Staff member who holds a Salaried Faculty position immediately identified increased compensation for in-town and field staff as being their primary issue.  While recognizing that the administration has made continued efforts over the years and that compensation has been rising, they pointed out that there is still more work to be done.  One example of this is that Program Supervisors often take a pay cut from their CL wage to work in town.  Since they are our supervisors, we support a compensation policy that leads to consistency, sustainability and excellence.

    An interesting conversation ensued about the passage of a $15/hour minimum wage in Seattle and the broader movement for an increased minimum wage in other parts of the country. The point was made that outdoor education should not somehow be seen as exempt from the need for a living wage.  People present felt that in order to be "the leader in outdoor education" NOLS would also have to lead the way towards a sustainable living wage for their employees.

    2. Travel Reimbursement

    It was noted that there are very different travel reimbursement plans at NOLS.  Travel for international catalog courses, domestic catalog courses, lower 48 catalog courses, WMI courses, NOLS Pro courses, AFP travel and travel by HQ staff is all paid for or reimbursed differently.  The main comparison then taken up was between catalog courses in the lower 48 states and WMI courses.  In the former case instructors are eligible for $150 in reimbursements per operating season.  (N.B.: Subsequent to this meeting the cap was raised to $175.)  In the latter, mileage is reimbursed at the federal rate (.56/mi), airfare is purchased on behalf of the instructor, lodging is paid for, a per diem is provided for food, and Instructors are paid half their daily wage for days spent in transit. 

    A WMI instructor present pointed out that to some extent we were comparing apples to oranges.  WMI Travel reimbursement is ultimately paid by the sponsor of each course.  This model isn't practical for NOLS to adopt.  The point was then made that perhaps the apple needs to look more like the orange, regardless.  In the theme of long range strategic planning, the possibility was broached of NOLS setting as a goal a WMI-style system of full travel reimbursement by 2020.

    3. Sick Days

    A very senior instructor noted that NOLS does not allow us to accrue more than 50 sick days.  Because of this, the instructor that works for years without ever leaving the field is dis-incentivized to continue to maintain such good self care.  They can no longer collect their benefit.  One possible solution is to bump sick days down to 40 after a year or two at 50 and pay out ten days salary as a bonus.  The instructor then can begin to re-accumulate sick days.

    4. NIA Recruitment

    One attendee (not an NIA Board Member or Branch Rep) likened being a NOLS instructor who isn't a current NIA member to drinking a cup of tea they didn't help to prepare.  In other words, all Instructors benefit from NIA representation, so all Is should pay their dues.  He then related how he has a conversation in the field with all of his co-instructors encouraging them to join the NIA.  He does this on every course.

    It was noted that Paypal can be difficult to use at foreign branches.

    The current NIA membership goal is 301 - a majority of active field instructors.

    5. NIA Operations

    An idea here was for the NIA website to link to or explain how to access key documents on Rendezvous.  Instructors have trouble finding the Travel Expense Journal, WRAP Portal, etc. 

    It was explained that the NIA is an independent organization from NOLS, funded exclusively by the dues we collect from our members.  The one exception to this is that travel is paid for an NIA representative to attend Board of Trustees meetings, for which we are very appreciative.

    Someone has displayed interest in serving as a branch rep at every NOLS location open this summer.  Meetings are planned for the RM, AK, PNW, and TVB.  Meeting minutes posted on the NIA website get read by NOLS administrators.  

    6. NIA and WMI

    Should WMI Instructors be eligible to be full NIA members?  Another WMI Instructor present made the point that WMI instructors feel heard, particularly by Melissa Gray (WMI Director) and Adam Crenshaw (WMI Staffing Director).  Counterpoints raised included: that if they want to join, we shouldn’t be excluding them.  It was also noted that many of the things that the NIA traditionally advocates for are decided by people higher up the chain of command than Melissa.  The NIA could be a conduit for WMI staff to be heard by NOLS at large.

    7. International Pay Scales

    Chile. It was anecdotally reported that some Chilean Instructors are losing around $1000 US per contract under the current currency conversion system.  Some people have tried to address this issue individually by taking their concerns up the chain of command, but Chilean instructors are not yet working together.  This is a perfect example of the type of issue that the NIA can help with.

    Brazil. The pay scale is universally abhorred by Brazilian Staff.  They have organized collectively with Fabio, NIA Board Member, Senior Staff, and Brazilian Instructor to make their case to NOLS Admin. In their view, there are three main problems: 

    1. The NOLS system for setting exchange rates was not adequately thought through, nor were it's repercussions on individual instructors or the peculiarities of the Brazilian economy adequately researched.
    2.  NOLS Amazon Staff were not consulted before the policy was set.
    3. The fact that a foreign instructor working in Brazil now ends up being paid more for the same position than a Brazilian instructor with the same number of field weeks can be construed as discrimination.  This is illegal in Brazil.

    Students are paying in american dollars. Instructors buy plane tickets in US dollars and often have to pay US prices for the gear they need to work.  Why can't they be paid in USD?

    8. Job Security & Sustainability of NOLS Lifestyle

    Many attendees expressed concerns about job security and the amount of work available.  Folks voiced that they feel disposable. 

    Attendees voiced support for guaranteed work for qualified graduates right off the IC.  The feeling was that if an IC grad is available, they should get work.  (The NIA appreciates that this situation essentially existed this summer.)

    Perhaps NOLS could do a better job of recruiting IC students whose desires fit our staffing needs.  For example, since we will always have a greater need for Is during the summer, we could explicitly recruit teachers, professors, and other folks who only want to work during the summer.

    The point was made that there are close to 600 instructors requesting work each summer, but only 14 field AFP positions.  Is this system too binary?  Could there be room for some "half time AFP" positions?  People who are guaranteed 12.5 weeks of work each year?  Could there be instructors explicitly hired as "Summer Instructors" with a clear path provided for how to become eligible for year round work?

    Can NOLS do a better job of offering larger blocks of work?  For instance two week chunks of employment at branches in between contracts to fill out a person's summer schedule?

    9. Marketing Ideas

    Instructors are confused as to how to get their ideas for new NOLS courses, or ways to market NOLS courses heard.  Folks would also like to help out marketing NOLS courses in the places they live, but don't know how to go about doing this.  Could some sort of paid program be set up?  This would also help Is craft a more sustainable lifestyle.

    Chilean instructors present noted than they feel Chile is a large and largely untapped market, particularly for WMI. 

    The idea of Themed Semesters (e.g. River: Raft/Kayak, Canoe, Swift Water Rescue, WFR or Mountain: Climb, Mountaineer, Ski, WFR) was mentioned again.

  • Tuesday, May 06, 2014 7:17 PM | Allie Maloney

    NIA Summit Open Meeting

    May 5, 2014


    This meeting was held in the Dining Room of the Nobel Hotel on the eve of the Faculty Summit. in attendance were more than 40 NOLS instructors, in-town staff and WMI instructors. From the board of the NIA, Jon Kempsey, Drew Seitz, Daren Opeka, Dave Kallgren, Allie Maloney and Sean Williams were in attendance.

    Energy was high, the room was brimming with ideas, and we tried to keep it to the scheduled time, moving quickly through the agenda. Hopefully this meeting will serve as a jumping off place for folks to begin to have deeper conversations throughout this summit week and on into the summer season.

    Topics covered fell into three main categories:

    1. Introductions. What is the NOLS Instructor Association, what are the current/traditional issues we focus on, who are the board members, as well as a sneak peak at the website.

    2. Questions and Ideas from the audience.

    3. What do we appreciate as a staff about NOLS?

    The NIA is a faculty organization, and traditionally our focus has been on field staff needs. There is a discussion that has been opened up about how our role should shift to include WMI staff, In-town staff, and HQ staff. It was pointed out that traditionally the NIA has been very good at starting things (newsletter, pro-deals, chatter about proctor pay) and then gently influencing the school to take up the thing/issue and make it a NOLS responsibility instead of a NIA one. Hope was expressed that the NIA could use such an influence to help form more connections between all branches of staff at the school.

    We encouraged everyone there to see this time as an opportunity to act as a focus group for the NIA, helping to redefine and rearticulate the issues that really matter to instructors

    Touched on the status of the standard issues:

    Compensation: not actively pursuing any change at this time. An ongoing topic, but on hold for now. Gain Share last year was widely appreciated.

    Instructor travel: an active topic for the NIA. Gathering information about the true cost of travel for instructors. Please record and share data on the websiteundefined full travel costs including food, rooming, time, and ticket/gas expense. We will have a survey up soon and appreciate the participation.

    Proctor Pay: Has been a tricky subject for the last few years, but some forward momentum has been gathering. We know there is progress when the Branch Directors say “back off a little, we’re actively working on it”.

    International Pay Scales: NIA is starting to explore this topic, facilitating discussions between instructors, branch, and HQ around currency conversions.

    Membership: Involving the entire NOLS community, accurately representing instructors to the Board of Trustees, becoming more visible and doing some level of self-promotion. Membership is just over 100 instructors right now. We are shooting for the number 301, which will give us a majority of active instructors and will allow us to speak with authority at board meetings, giving weight and substance to the NIA’s words. Speaks to the fact we are representing the faculty at large. Makes it clear that we are actually representing the people’s opinions.

    Open Forum-- Questions and Comments

    What does it mean to be an active NIA member? Pay your dues, sign up for the website, participate in idea exchanges on the Facebook group, host an NIA meeting at your local branch, wear your NIA hat with pride, write a newsletter article, contribute a curriculum resource to the school.

    What is the NIA’s biggest weakness? “Well, we’re a volunteer organization run by active NOLS instructors” (big laugh). But it can be hard for the NIA board to keep up the good momentum of meetings and exchanges throughout the year. Communication with members has been lacking in recent years. Also, we don’t have a lot of bargaining power with the board of trustees right now, because our numbers are so low. They always listen politely, but it would be good to give our words some authority.

    Daren gave an overview of the new website nolsinstructorassociation.org Ideas came up around using the website options to organize and support NOLS talkingundefined separating ride shares from “free chickens” for instance. Other ideasundefined having a “jobs net” 2.0 with job openings that are especially good for NOLS instructors, as well as setting up a way for short NOLS in town gigs to be publicized instead of only being word of mouth. Have a link to a concise news source that can bring field instructors up to date with world news in a non-overwhelming yet comprehensive way. And maybe NOLS news too?

    When we opened the floor for comments and ideas, the word that came up again and again was “Sustainability,” at both a micro and macro level. There was desire voiced for easier recycling containers at the RM, NIA-sponsored compost buckets to go out on climbing camps, and an earnest wish to value the ethics that we teach to students with living lightly and leave no trace. Even on hiking courses, developing a system for separating the organic trash seems do-able.

    Sustainability was the also the word when talking about instructor careers. This “sustainable work” topic seemed to resonate far more with the crowd than any talk on field staff compensation. From getting more stable program supervisors by advocating for in-town compensation, to guaranteeing successful IC graduates work, to encouraging staffing to let instructors know farther in advance that they will be working on these dates-- and then actually working on those dates. Instructors acknowledged that these things were more of a wishlist than anything else, but it was interesting to see how much passion flared up with  the idea of treating this job as a long-term career that would also allow for a life around field contracts.

    Dave K talked a bit about the Flamingo Fund, which is separate from dues, and allowed the NIA to focus its fundraising efforts on specific projects that will benefit branch life in a tangible way. One instructor voiced that Vernal was a place that could use some fund. More specific project ideas are welcome! There is a forum set up on the website to share thoughts.

    Other Ideas

    Could the NIA facilitate supporting scholarship students with old, quality instructor gear?

    Should the NIA throw an annual party?

    More freshies in the rations.

    Seek out the folks who do not support the NIA and really listen and act upon their feedback.

    Have more posts in the newsletter and manager’s notes.

    Getting to Lander is difficult--Could we support a vanpool from denver/salt lake during the summer months? Is this something that could somehow be accommodated by staffing?

    Excitement and Appreciation

    At the end of the meeting, we spent a few minutes sharing things that we really are excited about and appreciate as staff members at NOLS.

    -Climbing and canyons rendezvous--let’s keep that happening, providing a space for instructors to grow in new skill areas and be mentored by peers.

    -Seminars and training trips

    -The gain share this year

    -Internship opportunities (and can we find a way to support those more financially?)

    -Appreciate the compensation

    -Our autonomy as educators

    -The high bar that is set for instructors and the feedback and support that allows us to move towards that bar.

    -Ongoing research

    -The wonderful international branches

    -And staffing--always friendly and supportive--and seems like they try really hard to have balanced i-teams!

    Jon Kempsey reminded us that one important role of the NIA was to represent outside of the field those values that we practice when out in the wilderness. We hold the torch, so let’s reflect those values--especially the ones of simplicity and sustainability.

  • Saturday, April 12, 2014 5:11 PM | Allie Maloney
    NIA Minutes
    Sean Williams

    Intro to NIA, board, membership requirements, and relationship with school
    Looking for members, as well as ideas for improvements for instructors

    NIA topics of interest
    -streamlining membership
    -website running
    -faculty summit
    -wages (a sustainable wage, living wage)
    -looking at instructors as people, less as expendable
    -travel: NIA collecting data on travel expenses
    -payment of proctors not yet assessed to work that skill area (drop of “I” pay for proctors several years ago, looking for solution such as not paying proctors, or inviting to proctor but not work a certain section).

    Benefits or setbacks of paying a proctor with regards to how many contracts are available and how many go out to AFP and proctors.
    Noah, former semester in Australia student, suggests proctor would have been helpful in her experience.
    Discrepancy between what different parts of the school want with regard to proctors (John Gans, branch directors, instructors).
    Quality of proctor influences outcome of semester, length of sections as influential in necessity of proctor
    Suggested proctorship as an award

    Job security for both new and senior instructors as a possible NIA focus

    NIA involved in strategic plan? Why not?

    -Unclear communication about amount of travel reimbursement, and timing of reimbursement delivery
    -Time and energy involved in travel reimbursement is too much
    -Not just the mathematics involved, but the feeling of whether or not travel reimbursement is invited, instructors feeling looked after, not needing to battle for it
    -Middle person, liaison between finance/Marco and the instructors? (This appears to be Dorinda, instructors do not know this)
    -Sense that travel reimbursement involves a convoluted process which makes it difficult to receive the money
    -Clear expectations of instructors for reimbursements, but unclear expectations on when those reimbursements will be paid
    -Suggestion: full payment of travel money to all who travel for work without receipt process

    Instead of using shuttle bus, pay $45 or whatever to an individual to pick up instructors in a car. Suggestions made for this process at NOLS NZ.

    Question of how much autonomy can each branch have with regard to picking up instructors; is adhering to the “mother ship” rules necessary? Why so much control from Lander? For NZ, instructors could pick up other instructors. Issue of feeling looked after, taken care of as an instructor.

    Faculty Summit: expensive production
    Why is it annual?
    More thriftiness
    Why should AFP staff be required to go? sacrificing desired coursework in order to attend. AFP relinquished for AFP instructors not on contract who do not attend is frustrating.
    Difficult to see the waste and money spending there as an annual event when branches and instructors are struggling, and the school exists for the students

    Providing mentors for instructors, funneling questions to an experienced instructor, having a sort of coach figure, someone to check in with

    Appreciative of money distributed from gain share, especially after a challenging year. Instructors thankful for the recognition and reward.

    Instructor-driven school: what if the instructors are running the show, and we think of NOLS as working for usundefinedall the structures and support of NOLS under your rule or guidance, how would that shift mentality? How would that revolutionize the school, the mindsets? How would communications improve between the instructors and decision-makers, budget managers, etc.?

    Instructors are the face of NOLS, representing the school to all the students.

    Recognize the great work the admissions department is doingundefinedthe efforts involved in calling, prepping. Acknowledge, however, the change in the type of student coming in (based on Dear Abbey article in 2007). The change itself may be fine, but a better warning could be involved. A change in the application questions may help. The question on the application “what are you going to do after NOLS?” should be answered with relevance to NOLS. Perhaps a more directed question would help reveal more, like “how are you going to use this education?” or “do you have goals 2for how to put to use what you learn at NOLS?” Let’s make the student experience better with more information. “On one to ten, how much of doing a NOLS course was your idea?” “Did you fill out your own application?” 2nd round of applications? Follow-up questions?

    Enjoying the summer search students
  • Wednesday, February 12, 2014 11:00 PM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    Hello All:
    This is a portion of the NIA Report I provided to the Board last month.

    February 12, 2014
    NOLS Instructor Association reporting to NOLS Board of Trustees, Tucson, AZ
    Aaron Divine (NIA Board Member) sitting in for Dave Kallgren (NIA President)

    Aaron’s Personal Introduction – (omitted here)

    NIA – Reporting:

    Current NIA Board Members –

    David Kallgren, Anna Talucci, Daren Opeka, Drew Seitz, Shari Kearney, Fabio Raimo de Oliviera, Aaron Divine, John Kempsey, Allie Maloney (new term), David Durant (new term), and Sean Williams (new term)

    I am pleased to report that the NOLS Instructor Association is alive and well. With recent additions to the NIA Board there has been a resurgence of energy, increased discussion, activity, thoughts for positive action.

    The NIA Board is looking to re-define Board roles into greater specifics to include the standard roles of President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Membership as well as adding – Branch Representatives, Visibility/Events Coordinator, Webmaster/Social-Media, and Special Projects manager and more.

    NIA Membership –

    NIA paid membership seems to be hovering near the 90 person mark with a handful of newer “Life-Time” members (these numbers have not been verified w/ Daren Opeka, membership coordinator, currently in the field). There are 345 current NOLS faculty/staff who follow/participate in the closed enrollment NIA Facebook page. A membership drive has been planned for this year’s Faculty Summit – with the idea of moving all memberships to start/end at the Summit for ease of tracking. New members will receive a NOLS NIA hat or some sort of swag to increase visibility and interest in the NIA.

    Recently discussed NIA Projects & Goals –

    • Annual Gear Sale at the Faculty Summit - All proceeds from the sale of donated gear are to be split between the Staff Endowed Scholarship Fund and the NIA Flamingo Fund ($ for special project requests at various branches such as quality of life improvements for communal instructor/staff use – i.e. sauna materials, climbing walls, bicycles, etc.)

    • NOLS Enrollment/Marketing – Are there more effective ways in which instructors can assist with enrollment & marketing efforts beyond the current instructor referral cards? Some fresh ideas were coming up in the Marketing Committee meeting that sounded like the NIA could encourage instructors to support – such as Instructor Referrals for 2nd Course Students.

    • Education Focus – NIA feels it vital to continue highlight the quality benefits and niche educational opportunities of experiential education at our school. It was encouraging to sit in on the Student & Studies Committee yesterday; the NIA looks forward to hearing how we might be of assistance with your curriculum efforts.

    • Faculty Retention – We would like to work more closely with HR or Staffing Office to see if there are there ways that the NIA can assist with better faculty retention efforts? A suggestion had been creating an organized (but voluntary/informal) faculty mentoring system that could begin following ICs? Perhaps where senior faculty are paired with junior-level instructors for mentoring with specific goals/outcomes in mind.

    • NIA Website and other related exposure/outreach – requests for a more professional and universally accessible NIA Web-Domain have been made rather than relying solely on Facebook and Yahoo Groups – we have allocated funds for the development of this website. New NIA Brochures have been developed, NIA Branch Representatives / Board Members are currently planning & scheduling Branch meetings open to ALL – with a tentative goal of at hosting at least one meeting per branch per operating season as well as following each IC.

    • Social Events and Camaraderie – NIA plans to continue sponsoring/co-sponsoring events such as the Red Rock Rendezvous each spring as well as a Social Mixer at the Staff Endowed Scholarship Fundraiser and at the Faculty Summit – with the aim of bolstering and extending the sense of Community within NOLS Faculty, Staff and Administration.

    • Faculty Voice to Board & EDT – Continue to work with the Board of Trustees and Executive Director Team to best represent Faculty positions, concerns and interests at the School.

    I asked of the BoT, Can any of you take a guess at what the most commonly voiced concerns being raised by Faculty to the NIA Board members has been over the past 6 months? The Board & EDT immediately responded with -
    - Travel
    - Compensation
    - Proctor Pay, and
    - Benefits
    This echoed the notion that they are aware of these issues.

    I think I have been around long enough to understand that many large steps have been taken in all of these arenas and I would like to thank you all for those incremental adjustments over the past several years. I would love to see our school culture swing in a direction of earning a more sustainable/fulfilling wage/lifestyle for full-time work.

    NIA Travel Expense Journal / Survey follow-up –
    In the last Board Report Dave noted that the NIA conducted a voluntary Travel Expense Journal or Survey of Faculty members for the summer season 2013. Forty Nine interested respondents took the survey and shared their information and thoughts on the current travel system at the school.

    An example of the data:

    • Of the 49 Faculty members the average spent $897 traveling to work at their respective branches,

    • While the average anticipated reimbursement from our school under the current travel plan was $442, or just under 50%

    • This disparity between actual money spent and reimbursement can equate to 2 or 3 days’ pay for most instructors.

    • The majority (75+%) of the respondents took between two and 2.5 days of unpaid travel time to get to their work location.

    These last two bullet points equate to the average instructor investing upwards of the first 5-6 days of their contract earnings making up for lost time and money from traveling to work.

    If there is interest from the Board or EDT in some of the additional results or aggregation of individual comments of Faculty from last open-ended survey question, please contact me.

    Lastly, special thanks to both John Gans and Kathy Dunham for helping make it possible for me to attend this meeting. Many thanks for your time and attention.


    The following bullet points are Additional Items / from my Notes in attending of the BoT meetings:

    • The new Strategic Initiative Plan was unanimously approved by the Board.

    • A planned Tuition Increase was approved for 2014-15 = 2.25% (on average, varies by course/branch). One Board Member suggested testing a course tuition/price differentiation model where early enrollment could provide small/minor incentives or price reduction.

    • Enrollment for current fiscal year (Sept. 1st) is up roughly 3%

    • Current repeat student rates are roughly 10.6% (including IC students) or 8.5% (not including the IC students). It was unclear to me if this included WMI or not – this was a “limited conversion of WMI grads to NOLS Catalog course repeats”. I am honestly not sure what that meant. However, the bottom line is that Marketing is interested in bringing the return participant numbers up and it seems like a place where the NIA could potentially assist! Ideas???

    • Regarding growth modeling and targets for the School – John Gans provided a statement regarding growth something to this effect: He likes the idea of growth but wants to support Quality over Quantity. He wants to focus on sustainability of Quality of Life for Faculty and Staff and see how that will fit into any growth model proposed. The BoT decision regarding growth targets were: Field Courses – Summer, 2%, and for Off-season, 2.5%; Classroom – 3.5% (primarily driven by WMI & NOLS Pro).

    • The Finance committee report eluded to 3.5% increase scheduled for compensation in 2014.

    • There were several sideline discussions over the two days about what the next WMI or NOLS Pro type of innovation would be… a common notion was to explore the idea of a younger audience sort of NOLS Summer Camp…

  • Wednesday, February 12, 2014 10:50 PM | Dave Durant (Administrator)

    NIA Seasonal Branch Meeting Minutes
    Location: TVB
    Date: February 12, 2014, concurrent with the new Mid Winter Rendezvous

    This meeting, which lasted about 90 minutes, was a resounding success. Folks stayed animated and engaged throughout, often speaking passionately about NOLS and the issues at the school that they felt affected them the most. Topics covered fell into three broad categories:
    1. What the NIA can do to increase membership and be more effective
    2. Issues that impact instructors, especially proctoring & support for outside trainings
    3. Marketing ideas for NOLS

    1. Advice for the NIA
    Interestingly enough, given that none of the participants were current NIA members, this was the topic that elicited the most excitement.

    1a. Membership/Recruitment

    What haven’t folks joined the NIA or renewed their membership?
    -I don’t really know what they do for me.
    -It seemed like too much money.
    -Just didn’t know much about it.
    -Don’t know when my dues are up.
    I think it’s noteworthy that three of the four points here can be reduced to lack of information. Should visibility be our number one priority this year? Would an increase in visibility bring a correlated increase in membership?

    IC Grads. Attendees brought up without prompting that they felt IC grads should hear from an NIA representative during their debrief. We also discussed how potentially powerful it would be for this message to come from a “rank and file” NIA member rather than a board member. This led into a discussion of how it’s important that the NIA been seen as more than just a president and 12 board members.

    Recruitment on Seminars. Another idea for incorporating members into recruitment was to approach seminar instructors to see if they’d be willing to lead conversations about the NIA. Folks felt that the more informal Rendezvous (climbing, canyons, winter, mid winter, etc.) would be especially fertile ground for this sort of work.

    Program Supervisors. One of the attendees, a program supervisor, thought that P-sups would be willing to talk up the NIA during briefings or debriefings. It was pointed out that in the past P-sups have been asked by Development to mention staff giving in this context. One idea was that a NIA board member or the NIA president could address all the P-sups when they are in Lander for their annual meeting.

    Dues Collection. A member whose dues had lapsed suggested that we find a way to allow folks to sign up for automatic annual deductions. His point was that he didn’t mind paying the $25, but remembering to do so was a hassle. In a slightly different vein, could to NIA arrange to have dues automatically deducted from NOLS paychecks? Would it be worth getting one of those new iPhone attachments that allow us to swipe credit cards? We could use these at the Faculty Summit and future branch meetings.

    1b. Activities

    Website. Folks agreed that a NIA website would add an increased air of professionalism, and would be more effective at presenting certain types of information than the Facebook group. It was suggested that once we have our website up and running, we should have a link to it on Rendezvous. There was a request for the website to host a list of non-NOLS trainings that would benefit instructors (AMGA, Rigging for Rescue, Avalanche Courses, etc). There was a request to create a job network for NOLS instructors on the website. This would be similar to our alumnae job listserv, but to be included a job would have to be eligible for ROPE weeks. (This last request was born out of a discussion of how NOLS instructing is not a viable full time job for the vast majority (e.g. non-AFP) of instructors.)

    Facebook. It was noted that there are instructors who do not have Facebook accounts, or who do not check it regularly. However, people did think it would be important to keep the Facebook group, even once the website was up and running. For many users, depending on their settings, Facebook sends an alert when there is a post, which a standalone website won’t do.

    Input/Voting. Folks suggested concise polls (single question?) conducted frequently (monthly?), to get instructor involvement but not be overwhelming. Can we do this with a survey monkey type app? Would this be an effective way to have our membership vote on issues?

    Summit. There was broad agreement amongst attendees that the Faculty Summit would be the most effective place to recruit as well as build visibility. People are excited to see our promised presence at the upcoming Summit.

    2. Issues that Affect Instructors

    Proctorships. There was a clear split in the group between more senior staff who have already proctored, and are not looking to do so again, and newer staff who would love the opportunity as a way to build field weeks and advance their careers. Perhaps because of this, there was no consensus as to whether or not bringing full blown proctorships back to the RM should be a major push for the NIA.

    There was general agreement that proctors are, in fact, working on sections that they are aiding, and should be paid, at least at “I” level for this. A P-sup present pointed out that the general FIQPEs for an Instructor are five pages long, while the FIQPEs for a given skill area tend to be just one page. There was an idea floated to add a question or questions about the impact of a proctor on the student experience to the survey that students take after de-issue at the RM. This could provide the data we need to back up this point.
    One attendee expressed that he had gotten more work as a result of fall proctorships being cancelled at the RM.

    The P-sups present informed us that this spring RM semesters are staffed with a “Semester Buddy” who would work all sections they are assessed to. Essentially this is a protoship that dodges the question of proctor pay for an aided section.

    Outside Training. Two of those present noted that they had received IDF awards and/or Pete Absalon Fund awards to pursue trainings that go beyond what we offer in-house, but that the amount awarded fell far short of covering the cost of the training, particularly when travel, meals, lodging, etc. were all factored in. There was a general consensus that if NOLS instructors don’t pursue professional trainings in individual disciplines, NOLS could risk falling behind industry standards. Perhaps this could be addressed by IDF awards as a percentage of cost (50%?) rather than a hard and fast $450 cap, or 2-3 full tuition scholarships each year.

    3. Marketing ideas for NOLS

    Themed Semesters. NOLS could offer a whitewater semester (WFR, swiftwater rescue, canoe, raft/kayak) or a mountain semester (WFR, mountaineering, climbing, “ski mountaineering” (winter))

    Certifications. More certifications could be offered during semesters, e.g. “top rope site manager.” There is a large market for this sort of thing amongst people working at summer camps or outdoor education centers. Since this already exists in our curriculum, it could largely be a matter of having a certificate printed up and handed out. This would be similar to offering a rec level 1 Avi cert on winter courses, which is currently done out of the TVB.

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