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Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin

Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin
Aparna is a NOLS instructor and has been the PR and Marketing Intern, PR specialist, and the Diversity & Inclusion manager at NOLS. She is a founding partner of The Avarna Group (

Recent Posts

Grad named top 40 under 40

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Jun 30, 2011

The May/June issue of Sporting Goods Business has named 1998 British Columbia Wilderness Course and 2000 Denali Expedition grad Tripp Baird as one of the top 40 leaders under 40 years old who are transforming the sporting goods business this year. Since founding finance company Partnership Capital Growth Advisors, Tripp has helped finance transactions in the action sports, outdoor recreation, and healthy lifestyle industry.

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Topics: NOLS, National Outdoor Leadership School, NOLS Advisory Council, Live the Dream, Tripp Baird

What's On Your Roof?

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on May 25, 2011

"108 solar panels are on ours," says a Noble Hotel window panel display to passers by. Yesterday, NOLS hosted Celebrating Our Past by Sustaining Our Future, a gathering to celebrate the unveiling of the solar array on NOLS Rocky Mountain's Noble Hotel. Despite cloudy skies and a thunderstorm, the panels did their job.

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Topics: NOLS, National Outdoor Leadership School, Environmental Stewardship, Noble solar array, Noble Hotel

On the boob tube again!

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on May 19, 2011

Last month, it was Lifetime Television's The Balancing Act, and this summer, it's Outside Television's Outside Today. Don't be suprised if you see our very own Admission and Marketing Director, superstar Bruce Palmer, at the next Emmy's!

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Topics: NOLS, Behind the Scenes, National Outdoor Leadership School, Outside Today, Outside Television

Turn On and Tune In Tomorrow Morning. . .

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Apr 18, 2011

. . . Tuesday, April 19, for a segment featuring NOLS and starring our very own Admissions and Marketing Director Bruce Palmer on Lifetime Television's The Balancing Act, airing 7 to 8 am EST and 6 to 7 am PST.

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Topics: NOLS, Behind the Scenes, National Outdoor Leadership School, leadership education, outdoor education, The Balancing Act, Parent Teacher Corner

Lifetime TV, Here We Come!

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Mar 10, 2011

What's better than telling millions of high school and college-aged youth about NOLS? How about telling their moms? This week, in an efforts to reach the decisionmakers in the family—working moms—NOLS appeared on The Parent Teacher Corner of Lifetime TV's morning talk show, The Balancing Act.

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Topics: NOLS, Behind the Scenes, Bruce Palmer, National Outdoor Leadership School, Beth Troutman, experiential education for kids, summer camps for kids, The Balancing Act, Parent Teacher Corner

Cady Coleman gets Lost in Space . . . Almost

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Dec 20, 2010

NASA's space shuttle program may be at its close, but that isn't stopping NOLSies from heading into space.

After a two-day flight, Russian spacecraft Soyuz brought a fresh crew to the International Space Station last Friday. The crew includes NASA astronaut and 2001 Nasa Leadership Expedition grad Catherine "Cady" Coleman. On the radio with her husband and 10-year old son on Friday, Cady said, "I almost got lost on my way to this place [the space station] from the Soyuz-it's so big in here!"

An MIT chemist who is a veteran of two Space Shuttle Missions, Cady is also an acclaimed Irish flute player. Packed with her space suit is a priceless traditional Irish concernt flute. So now, in addition to another NOLSie in space, the galaxy will get to enjoy Cady's ballads. Not a bad sound to project from the final frontier.


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Topics: NOLS, Catherine Coleman, National Outdoor Leadership School, Cady Coleman, International Space Station crew, NASA Leadership Expedition, Live the Dream, NOLS Professional Training

Max Belongs in the Mountains: The Waddington, to Be Precise

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Dec 6, 2010

Max Owens, one of two overall winners of the NOLS Patagonia Dream Expedition Video Contest, wants to take the Waddington Range Mountaineering course this summer. His video, Power of the Peaks, won him a NOLS course, all the gear he needs for the course, travel, and a bunch of other goodies from Patagonia and NOLS. Here's his winning video:

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Topics: NOLS, National Outdoor Leadership School, Dream Expedition Video Contest, Max Owens, NOLS Patagonia Video Contest, Live the Dream, Dream Expedition Contest, Max Beongs in the Mountains, Waddington Mountaineering, Power of the Peaks

Dreams of the Appalachian Trail Become a Wind River Reality

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Dec 6, 2010

Kumari Ratnayake, one of two overall winners of the NOLS Patagonia Dream Expedition Video Contest, is taking a Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator Semester this summer. Her video, I Dream of the Appalachian Trail, won her a NOLS course, all the gear she needs for the course, travel to Wyoming, and a bunch of other goodies from Patagonia and NOLS. Here's her winning video:

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Topics: NOLS, National Outdoor Leadership School, Dream Expedition Video Contest, I Dream the Appalachian Trail, NOLS Patagonia Video Contest, Live the Dream, Dream Expedition Contest, Kumari Ratnayake, Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator

A student blogs... from the field!

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Oct 25, 2010



(Transcribed from a note written by 9/13/10 Fall Semester in India student Anne Koening and given to NOLS India staff during a re-ration of their Milam Backpacking Section)

So far, our semester in India has been an exhilarating combination of beautiful Himalayan sights, long days of backpacking on challenging terrain (now affectionately referred to as the “Himalayan stair-master”), drinking chai in tiny tea stalls on trail and soaking in the local culture. Our group of fifteen students and four instructors has been continually amazed by what we’ve experienced in the one month we have been in the field.

The record rain totals India has received this season have been very evident and continue to be as we encounter landslide after landslide (both major & minor) while on trail. Luckily our days are now full of sunshine and beautiful weather.

The ten-day Pindar Backpacking Section [see this blog for more on this section] introduction to backpacking and living in the field, and set all of us up really well for the 30-day Milam Backpacking Section that we are now almost half way through.

As this blog entry is being written, we are in a tiny village about twenty kilometers from the Tibetan border. We are camping just below the local temple in Paton and happen to be joined by what sounds like a couple of hundred of sheep and their shepherds. The 30-day Milam section has been quite different from our previous section in that we have been much further from villages and the local people. While learning about off-trail route finding, map reading and other very crucial aspects of backcountry travel, we have been crossing extremely diverse terrain.

Today we are expecting our re-ration (re-supply of food) so we are spending the day in camp. We are doing laundry the best we can, planning our next section of travel and preparing our group for our entry into the Milam valley. In 16 days our group will be embarking on our home-stay section in a small village just outside of Munsiari. None of us knows exactly what to expect, but are excited to be truly immersed in the local culture and the day-to-day life. Following our home stay, the final section of the semester will be river rafting on the holy Ganges river. It seems very far away now, but time has been moving by quite quickly.

Would love to share our pictures with you ( We will see you all soon and look forward to sharing more of our experience with you when we return.


Anne, Tom, Muff, Julia, Abigail, Jamie, Cameron, Bridgette, Avi, Nick, Kalen, Stephanie, Elsa, Rachel, Sarah, Prani, Cass, Robin & Rahul (and Aparna in spirit!)


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Topics: rafting Ganga, NOLS, Fall Semester in India, Anne Koening, Expedition Prep, rafting Ganges, Milam hiking section, National Outdoor Leadership School, NOLS India, Milam Valley, FSI-2

Three Days to the Trailhead in Monsoon Madness

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Oct 18, 2010

Colors of the Himalaya

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Topics: NOLS, Himalayas, Fall Semester in India, Pindari, National Outdoor Leadership School, Pindar, 2010 Monsoons, Educators Notebook, NOLS India

Choose Chai Every Time

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Oct 14, 2010

NOLS Semester in India students on a chai break

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Topics: NOLS, study abroad, college drinking, National Outdoor Leadership School, drinking while studying abroad, Educators Notebook, chai, Semester in India, NOLS India, Gap Year

ATV'ers Hobnob with Conservation Groups

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Sep 8, 2010

Last week, 100 folks from all walks of life showed up at the America’s Great Outdoors Central Wyoming Forum at Lander Valley High School: outdoor educators, elementary school teachers, boy scout troop leaders, elected representatives, ATV and snowmobile association members, state and federal public lands officials, backcountry horsemen, human‐powered recreation and leave‐no‐trace advocates, conservation professionals, tribal leaders, and young people from the community.

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Topics: Central Wyoming forum, NOLS, children and the outdoors, National Outdoor Leadership School, Central Wyoming Listening Session, Environmental Stewardship, AGO, children and nature, America's Great Outdoors

Extreme Makeover Winner is Heading into the Winds

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Aug 26, 2010

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Topics: NOLS, Wind River Wilderness, Marshall-Spreiers, National Outdoor Leadership School, Ty Pennington, NOLS scholarships, Dream Expedition Video Contest, nols instructor, Live the Dream, Dream Expedition Contest, Extreme Makeover Home Edition

Mouse Turds or Trout?

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Jul 14, 2010

Photo courtesy of Bruce Smithhammer

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Topics: fly fishing in the Rockies, NOLS, angling, National Outdoor Leadership School, Educators Notebook, fly fishing guide, Bruce Smithhammer, trout fishing

From Coast to Coast in Seven Days . . . on a Bicycle

By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Jun 15, 2010

Some of us take a week to drive across this country, but 1989 Semester in the Rockies grad Christopher Gergen is hoping to make the same time . . . on a bicycle. Christopher and his team of eight left California last week to bike across the country relay style, with each rider cycling for 24 hours at a time. Christopher's team is competing against 60 other teams from more than 20 countries over a route that covers over 3000 miles, touching 14 states and climbing over 100,000 feet. "We hope to cross the country in just seven days," Christopher wrote. "It’s a bit crazy we all admit, but it’s for a great cause." Team Durham Cares is hoping to raise $100,000 on behalf of various non-profit organizations located in the team's hometown of Durham, North Carolina.

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Topics: NOLS, Semester in the Rockies, Race Across America, National Outdoor Leadership School, Team Durham Cares, Ride Across America, Christopher Gergen, Live the Dream