By Alexa Rosenthall, Faculty Summit Intern
Despite snow flurries and muddy roads in the Red Canyon, the 2014 NOLS Faculty Summit was a great success! Over 200 participants came to the Wyss Campus for three days of presentations, workshops, networking, and high spirits.
The fourth annual NOLS Faculty Summit was kicked off with a welcome from NOLS Executive Director John Gans and Chair of the NOLS Board of Trustees Kate Williams.
Williams encouraged instructors to “invest everything in the quality of your teaching in the moment and, at the same time, believe and be changed by your belief that the impacts and rewards of this investment with your students and yourselves must be realized in places and times far beyond these fabulous classrooms we get to move in.”
The Summit hosted inspiring speakers such as Shawn Benjamin, former NOLS instructor and principal of Leadership Public Schools (LPS) Richmond. LPS Richmond sponsors students to pursue summer opportunities, such as NOLS, to encourage character development. Benjamin presented on how non-cognitive factors like self-control, gratitude, and leadership profoundly influence the likelihood of college graduation and life achievement.
Scott Briscoe, Expedition Denali member, spoke on Wednesday morning about the journey of the first African American team to attempt the Denali summit. He highlighted how the project has sparked an interest in the outdoors in diverse populations and those who may otherwise never have been exposed to the wilderness.
Other excellent morning plenaries included Jim Halfpenny, Jeff Jackson, Drew Leemon David Chrislip, and Richard Adams.
For the afternoon workshops, 21 NOLS instructors and five guests presented various topics ranging from “Sappy Natural History: Making Environmental Studies Stick” by Jeff Wohl and “Beyond the Five Senses: Opening Your Perceptual Fields” by Suza Bedient to “Tribal History is Part of Wilderness: Making the Connection Through Indigenous Perspectives” by Lynette St. Clair.
Tuesday evening brought the presentation of the Instructors Awards. Jared Spaulding and Fabio Oliveira won the Instructor of the Year award, Briana Mackay won the combo In-Town/Field Staff Award, and Ariel Greene won the Thomas Plotkin Memorial Award. The audience was filled with supportive peers and roaring cheers.
The keynote address was delivered by Caroline Byrd, a former NOLS Instructor and the current executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. She spoke on how outdoor leaders make great conservation leaders. Byrd linked common character traits and habits of NOLS instructors to the skills necessary to make gains in conservation of wilderness.
If you missed the Summit, check out the videos of the presentations and workshops here.