Allison Bergh on Astronauts and the Arctic

By Alison Hudson

Apr 3, 2012

Allison Bergh, a long-time instructor for NOLS, got her start in outdoor education as a river guide. While she loved the wilderness aspect the job, Bergh soon realized that she wanted to be an educator rather than a guide.

“In 1994, armed with enthusiasm, limited backcountry experience (but a huge passion for rivers and river trips), and a desire to learn, I applied for a NOLS instructor course,” Bergh said.

Today, in addition to teaching for NOLS, Bergh is the co-owner of a leadership development business that she started with another NOLS instructor, Kat Smithhammer.

“I have my work with NOLS and NOLS Pro to thank for developing my skill set, confidence, and leadership capabilities to where I am now successfully running my own business," said Bergh. “Being a new business owner takes up most of my professional time, but I still work a few courses a year for NOLS Pro because I love it so much.”

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Overlooking the Mountain River in the Artic. Photo credit: Allison Bergh

One of the reasons Bergh loves NOLS Pro is the clients. As Bergh notes, “[I get to work with] astronauts... need I say more?” But she does, emphasizing that the amazing people on NOLS Pro courses are what keep her coming back.

“I have been introduced to some amazingly talented, interesting, passionate, and hard-working people through my NOLS Pro work. I have yet to run into a client who doesn’t feel as if they have something to learn about being a more effective communicator, or becoming better at using situational leadership.”

When asked about a story that highlighted the efficacy of NOLS Pro courses, Bergh went back to NASA astronauts.

“[We were] sitting on the side of a canyon in southern Utah, trying to decide whether we were going to head up into a slot canyon with a rainstorm brewing. It was a defining decision-making moment for the group, with relevancy from the canyons of Utah applying to work up in space. I appreciate the learning that goes on during our courses because it feels real and tangible to our clients’ everyday work life.”

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NOLS instructors Betsy Treadway, Allison Bergh, and Kathy Brown traveling in the Arctic. Photo credit: Allison Bergh

Bergh doesn’t see herself as having a sole “great accomplishment” in the outdoors.

“I would describe it more as an appreciation for being a competent outdoors person who has strong decision-making and communication skills. [This allows me to] access remote places on the globe safely and travel within them with groups of friends. I canoe in the Canadian Arctic with a group of girlfriends every few years, and those are some of the best weeks of my life. I have NOLS to thank for refining my leadership and team skills so that I have friends who continue to want to go to the Arctic with me!”

Written By

Alison Hudson

Alison is the NOLS intranet manager and a NOLS instructor.

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