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The NIA stance on key issues at the school.  Platform planks are drafted by NIA members and adopted by the NIA Board.  They are written to reflect the thinking of our voting membership. Our positions are dynamic; they're revised as situations at the school change. Feedback from employees in every corner of the school is an integral part of this process.  E-mails to board members with your thoughts on individual issues are welcome, as are posts discussing specific planks in the Forum section of this website.  The NIA is a bottom-up organization.  Individual input is the key to our aggregate success. 

Abstracts are collected below, click the red link above each to read a more in-depth position paper on each issue.

NOLS' Response to COVID-19

The NIA acknowledges and appreciates the hard work of the NOLS administration as well as the steps they’ve already taken to soften the impact of the global pandemic on NOLS employees.  We believe it is important for NOLS to acknowledge the many negative impacts of the current state of affairs on instructors that are not yet addressed by the current course of action. We advocate for NOLS to: pay 100% of all cancelled contracts, maintain timely transparency in decision making, delay the deadline for Fall WRAPs, carefully examine the impacts of running ICs in 2020, provide guidance for employees seeking unemployment benefits, and strive to lead the industry in epidemic best practices.

Living Wage Position Paper

If NOLS is to continue to thrive until the end of the century and beyond, then it must take seriously the impacts to excellent student experiences caused by inadequate compensation, lack of job security, and a changing outdoor jobs market.  The NIA calls on NOLS to set a goal of a living wage for all employees and a middle class income for senior faculty and managers to be realized by the end of the next strategic plan.

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.

Advocacy for In-town Employees

The NIA recognizes the essential role that in-town employees play in supporting excellence on all NOLS courses. Students and instructors alike benefit from stable, well-trained and well-compensated support staff. Advocating for in-town staff supports our mission “to advocate for employee views and work within the NOLS community to promote the school’s mission and values.”

The NIA has represented Wilderness Medicine instructors since August 2014. On behalf of these constituents, we advocate for NOLS Wilderness Medicine to be treated as a full pillar partner, on equal footing with NOLS Expeditions, as well as for specific changes in how Wilderness Medicine Instructors are staffed, paid, and reimbursed.

Expedition Instructor Pay

The NIA applauds the budgetary efforts that resulted in major compensation increases during the last strategic plan, and calls for a stated long-term goal of a living wage for all employees and a middle-class income for senior faculty and staff, without reference to the low comparables in U.S. outdoor education. Faculty would feel deeply valued and supported by the school’s adopting an aggressive goal in this area, even if that goal may not be met for many years.

International Expedition Pay

The Compensation Task Force (CTF) announced that beginning September 1st, 2015, all international field instructor pay scales would be adjusted to annual exchange rates. These wages are re-evaluated every January 1st. It was reaffirming to see the CTF’s solution fall in line with the drafted solutions written by the NIA as well as both Chilean and Indian Instructors.

Expedition Instructor Travel Reimbursement

The NIA supports a long-term goal of reimbursing 100% of average travel costs for all Expedition instructors. In addition, we recommend paying faculty members half their daily wage for all travel days, providing a per diem rate for food, and providing a per diem hotel rate for all overnight layovers. We also recommend creating an electronic system through which TEJs and receipts are processed for reimbursements.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are increasingly visible and valued at NOLS. The NIA applauds the efforts NOLS has undertaken to provide more resources and training to students and staff in this area. Equity underlies many of the NIA’s advocacy efforts, in particular our advocacy for a living wage for all employees, and for an employee-focused voice at the highest levels of decision making at NOLS. 


The NIA advocates for the staffing of Proctors on all semesters with I-teams larger than two, and where possible on two person I-teams. We applaud the NOLS administration and Board of Trustees for approving a budget in June of 2014 that includes a return to I-level wages for Proctors to aid one section per semester. We believe that the NIA's efforts to keep this issue in the spotlight since 2008 were integral to this victory.

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