Celia Ripple recently joined the NOLS Alumni Trips team to help with program growth, customer service, and all things Alumni Trips. I am very excited that she has joined the office in Lander, WY and brought with her a passion for the relationship building that is most important to this program.
Now that Celia has been in her role for a few months, I sat down with her to learn a bit more about her and how she is liking the new gig.
What do you actually do in the Alumni Trips office?
As the Alumni Trips Specialist I do a wide variety of things that are mostly related to customer service. I answer a lot of questions! Phone and email are most common, but I hear and answer questions every day from folks interested in alumni trips. I love seeking out the answers and learning more and more about our programs through the eyes of participants.
What do you enjoy about that?
I really enjoy the weird/funny/specific questions that people have about trips. Sometimes folks are timid about asking about what life is like on a trip, we actually get these all the time. What is the bathroom situation? Am I fit enough? What should I be worried about?
I’m having fun learning with our alumni. Just the other day I learned that you can get different sizes of fins on your flippers for snorkeling/diving, I had no idea!
Backing up a bit, what was your first connection to NOLS?
I had a boss at a past job that was a NOLS instructor. When I decided to move to Lander, he suggested that I take a look at NOLS for work. I did, and started working at the NOLS Rocky Mountain campus in Lander. Honestly, I didn’t know much about the school at that point.
Wait, you moved to Lander prior to working for NOLS? How did that happen?
I first visited Lander on a road trip post-college with one of my best friends. We stopped to climb for a bit and really liked it. The town, the local camping, the climbing, it was all pretty awesome.
She had to fly home and I kept going on this road-trip. I told her that if I hadn’t had to take her to the airport in Jackson, I probably would not have left Lander!
A year later I made the decision to pick up and move. Now that I am here, I love the community. I am surrounded by people who share my values and amplify what I believe in. I also love that I live in a place that has world class rock climbing.
And before Lander…What were you up to?
In college, I studied Geography and History - I started shifting towards a museum education focus and thought I might be going in that direction. I studied in Oxford, England for part of my program and was excited about that direction, then the pandemic hit and museums closed, and the future became very unclear very quickly.
I started work at Deschutes Brewery as a brewer. It was just a job that I ended up in due to the pandemic and it was actually really cool, but it wasn’t the career that I would have anticipated. I really enjoyed feeling that I was creating and making something, surprisingly satisfying. When I had to start working night-shifts… I didn’t like it anymore and decided I needed some change, so I moved to Lander.
NOLS is your first foray into the outdoor industry, did something draw you in?
My first backpacking trip was in the White Mountains in NH while in college. I grew up in Wisconsin where there are no mountains. The view from the Franconia ridge blew my mind. That there were places like this that I could access was just incredible. I remember telling the leader of the trip that this was the most incredible place I had ever been. I was hooked and just wanted to spend more and more time outdoors.
When did you start rock climbing?
High school—I was part of a “club/team” that climbed together and did some indoor competitions. I had been a swimmer most of my life and was getting a bit tired of it and wanted to find something else. Climbing felt like the perfect shift to stay active and do something that challenged me.
I did my first outdoor climbing trip as I was graduating high school and really loved it. It was so much cooler than indoor climbing, being in a beautiful space. I realized quickly that I wanted to spend more time climbing outdoors.
When did you decide you wanted to work as an instructor at NOLS?
My first summer working at NOLS Rocky Mountain. The instructors that were coming in seemed really cool and I looked up to those folks. They had a certain level of confidence with being in the outdoors that spilled past personal confidence and into teaching others. I thought it would be an incredible growth opportunity to push myself into that role and learn how to be that person.
Do you draw any parallels between museum education and working for NOLS?
Very much so. As a field instructor, I like to start with a small focus on something like a wildflower. From there, I can build a full educational experience around it. The lesson doesn’t need to be as focused as identifying the wildflower, it expands to consider the ecosystem, then it can expand further and become a metaphor to understand how someone fits into the world around them. Good museum exhibits or educational classes can bridge into these same learnings.
Ok, last question and one that I personally get all the time. Is there one alumni trip that you are most excited to work someday?
Oh this is the hardest question! I would love to go on the skiing trip in Sweden. I love cross-country skiing, but am not a winter instructor for NOLS yet so that is maybe a future dream.
Backpacking in Italy is a dream. I studied abroad there, speak Italian and really enjoyed the country. Being able to help facilitate others enjoyment of Italy would be incredible.
I also want to work a llama course. I love animals and think llamas are really funny. I worked on a goat farm for a bit and think of llamas as similar.
Celia Ripple is the newest member of the NOLS Alumni Trips team. She brings great enthusiasm, energy, and a new perspective to our team that will help this program continue to improve. Keep your eyes open, you’ll likely chat with her on the phone, email, or maybe see her on your next Italy trip.
Travis is the NOLS Alumni Trips Director. Travis took his first NOLS course in 2009, a WFR in northern Thailand. He became an Instructor the next year and moved to Wyoming to work at NOLS' Global Headquarters. Before NOLS Travis lived in SE Asia and Central America for a few years, working as a SCUBA Instructor and exploring remote places through personal expeditions. Nowadays, Travis primarily organizes trips for NOLS Alumni but also instructs sea kayaking, hiking, and wilderness medicine for NOLS. Travis is known in his community for his love of all things hot pink.