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Faculty Engagement 

A fundamental part of the mission of the NIA is to help guide NOLS from the faculty perspective. We believe that instructors are the primary bearers of the NOLS mission through our direct work with students. From this unique role, working faculty have an essential perspective on school-wide decisions. Our goal is to further integrate this perspective into the work of the NOLS administration.

We approach this goal from two directions:

  1. Articulate faculty perspectives to NOLS’ administration and work to increase the visibility and value of these ideas, with the intention that instructors be sought out and actively included in all decision-making in a more thorough and intentional manner than they are at present.
  2. Educate faculty about the organizational and financial structure of NOLS so that faculty have the knowledge and confidence to participate in decision-making; impart to faculty the knowledge of our power and responsibility for the NOLS mission and the confidence to uphold that mission by working with administrative, program, and operations staff.

Our first step towards this goal is committing to understanding the role of faculty as working together with the NOLS administration to carry out the NOLS mission. We hope to help NOLS move away from the concept of faculty “working for” a school which is “run” by administrators, and toward the inclusion of faculty in essential school vision and decision-making. The faculty run NOLS, both by running excellent courses with high student outcomes and by participating in schoolwide decision-making. We believe that increasing the quantity and quality of this participation will enhance NOLS’ ability to accomplish its mission. 

Current work and future goals in this area include:

  • The inclusion of faculty on all committees making major decisions at NOLS, from the BoT and EDT to headquarters departments and branch operations.  We recognize that this will require flexibility due to faculty work schedules, and maintain that this goal is important enough to sacrifice some efficiency for.
  • Direct involvement of faculty, at minimum on a consultative basis, at the time of the selection of any new EDT member, including the Executive Director.  The leadership role and influence of these positions is so great, and their likely tenure so long, that the inclusion of a faculty perspective is essential.  This goal is directly connected to our philosophy that the work of instructors is central to the school and because of its importance, it's also our role to be a central part of decision making.
  • A system of inclusion and compensation for faculty working on planning committees.  We recommend the faculty member’s CL pay rate, based on an 8 hour day.
  • The NIA will provide timely and direct feedback from faculty when we are not consulted on decisions that impact the entire school.  
  • Providing information on headquarters operations and NOLS finances that is more concise and transparent, so that the general level of faculty knowledge and engagement rises.
  • Educating and motivating faculty to become engaged themselves before these goals are met, and maintaining among faculty a positive attitude and belief in the school’s desire to include them.

Work already accomplished in this area includes:

  • Having the NIA president attend NOLS Board of Trustee meetings, cultivating direct communication and quality rapport between the NIA president and both the EDT and BoT.
  • The NOLS institutional goal of 360 degree feedback, in which faculty ideas are solicited and taken seriously in program evaluations, debriefings, and surveys, and NOLS administrators are regularly willing and able to respond directly and seriously to one-on-one feedback from faculty.
  • The high frequency with which instructors work in administration, and employees at all levels work in the field, providing a regular mixing of ideas and knowledge and a shared understanding of these equally essential but very different roles at NOLS.
  • The regular verbal and written commitment to staff excellence, including compensation and retention, which helps to develop senior instructors with the experience and wisdom to contribute to planning and decision-making at a high level and with an irreplaceable perspective.  We recognize that it will take ongoing effort to maintain this commitment, and guard against complacency in regards to compensation and retention.  
  • Inviting NOLS administration figures, including EDT members and program directors, to NIA meetings, both to use their knowledge and experience for the education of faculty and to provide them with a direct and unfiltered ear to faculty thoughts, frustrations, and goals, while continuing to create safe spaces for our membership to discuss difficult issues. 


As on an expedition, the NIA’s vision is to take small steps towards ambitious goals which may take a long time to meet. As those who execute the NOLS mission in both the field and the classroom, instructors are uniquely suited to keep the big picture in mind while working to understand the effects of operational and financial decisions. Put simply, the view is different from the bottom, and while we value the past and ongoing field experience and non-NOLS experience of the school’s administration, we also believe that these changes can bring faculty’s perspective more powerfully into NOLS’ operational and strategic thinking. The NIA’s goal is greater integration of NOLS faculty with the NOLS administration, such that working faculty are genuinely engaged in all levels of leadership at the school.

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