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What You Learn on a NOLS Semester

By Brooke Ortel on 8/30/18 9:10 AM


Photo by Jordan Cranch.

On her Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator semester, Erin Phillips skied backcountry mountains, canoed whitewater rapids, and hiked more than 100 miles across the Utah desert. Each new landscape brought fresh experiences, including the day she and her coursemates hiked for hours to reach a water source in the desert’s slot canyons and danced in celebration.

The desert awakened another kind of thirst as well, a burning curiosity about the beautiful and harsh environment that surrounded her: “Escalante taught me a very special lesson: to stop. To stop doing and start listening.” 

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Topics: outdoor semester, Semester, Semester abroad, Behind the Scenes, leadership, culture

Research Connects Wilderness Experience with Stronger Problem-solving Skills

By Shannon Rochelle on 8/28/18 9:11 AM

Photo by Justine Cornelison.
 

Last summer, the Antler River was a knee-deep stream flowing through a broad meadow deep in the mountains of Alaska. Now, it was a moving lake, flooding the entire meadow.

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Topics: Semester, Semester abroad, outdoor semester, Behind the Scenes, Research, Problem Solving, leadership

The Top 3 Leadership Lessons You Won’t Learn in an Office or Classroom

By Liz Townsend on 7/10/18 8:51 AM


My rope team heading back to base camp. Photo by Liz Townsend.

You might think that seven years of working in the business world would have taught me about leadership. Yet the best lessons I’ve learned have come while climbing rocks and mountains and hiking miles into the wilderness, where traveling with companions over steep snowy passes and through thick forested valleys has forced me to face leadership challenges in ways that I rarely encounter inside.

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Topics: Live the Dream, NOLS Custom Education, Backpacking, leadership, MBAs, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty

Pay It Forward: How My NOLS Semester Helped Me Lead My Own Backcountry Trips

By Carolyn Highland on 6/27/18 10:00 AM


Photo by Carolyn Highland

November 21, 2012 was one of my favorite days on this planet. Up until this point, the idea of identifying a favorite day had seemed impossible, like choosing your favorite drop of water in a rushing river. But this was a day that made you realize if you couldn’t identify days that made the shortlist, you hadn’t yet experienced the type of day worthy of it.

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Topics: NOLS New Zealand, Semester, leadership, Live the Dream, skiing

Learning a Non-Linear Leadership Style from Sea Kayaking

By Jen Dulz on 6/12/18 10:00 AM


Getting ready to launch the boats. Photo by Ali Bradley.

It was hot. I struggled to find shade as our group went through necessary orientation tasks: carry 3-5 water droms behind each boat, assign cook groups, gather group gear, divide group gear, assign and load boats.

Since I'd paddled on a NOLS trip before, I was "voluntold" to be the lead boat in a single kayak. I learned our heading, received a few instructions about monitoring my speed, and then we launched—a group of women on a Baja Sea Kayaking course.

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Topics: NOLS Mexico, Baja, Sea Kayaking, women, leadership, all-women

NOLS Instructor Expeditions of 2017

By Molly Herber on 6/6/18 9:36 AM


Photo by Eric Page.

How do you become a better educator? There’s no one best answer, but continuing to be a learner yourself is certainly up there.

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Topics: Instructor expedition, Instructor Development Fund (IDF), packrafting, leadership, kayaking, mountaineering, Himalaya, Alaska, canoeing

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Why I Went Back to NOLS

By Elena Cabot Rodriguez on 4/3/18 9:11 AM

Photo courtesy of NOLS archives.
 

All my life my dad had preached the power of NOLS. The first summer he moved to the United States from Venezuela, he completed the four-week backpacking course in the Wind River Range.

Speaking little English, he cruised with his team through snowy mountain tops, only to be caught in a snowstorm at 8,000 feet with an instructor who had a leg injury. He still loves to talk about carrying the instructor up to a clearing and snuggling with him at night to prevent hypothermia.

“I’ve never done anything like it,” my dad told me.

“Cool, Papa,” I said for the thousandth time, tired of hearing about Wind River epics that seemed so foreign to me.

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Topics: Live the Dream, Semester in the Rockies, Alaska backpacking, leadership

Why It’s Important for Teens to Learn Leadership

By Molly Herber on 3/22/18 9:12 AM


Photo by Ella Bruijn.

As our students hiked off, each in their own small group and following the routes they’d planned themselves, a knot twisted and untwisted in my stomach.

My instructor team and I had spent the previous three weeks backpacking with our students, all 16- and 17-year olds, handing off more decision-making responsibilities to them each day.

I’d seen them make responsible choices, and also learn from making their own mistakes (like taking the “shortcut” through the boulder field rather than the slightly longer but much easier walk around the lake). They were ready for the responsibility, but it was nerve-wracking to watch them go, even knowing we’d meet up again in just a few days.

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Topics: leadership, teens, experiential education

How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Take a NOLS Course

By Erica Nelson on 3/15/18 10:37 AM


Photo by Craig Muderlak

When I heard from NOLS’ staffing office that I’d been accepted on the River Instructor Course, I was beyond stoked. I ran to tell my boss the great news. Expecting her to be happy, instead she said, “We can’t afford to lose you this time of year.”

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Topics: Live the Dream, leadership, Expedition Prep

4 Strategies Leaders Use to Make Better Decisions

By Molly Herber on 3/7/18 10:06 AM


Photo by Betsy Winston.

Imagine this: You’re trying to figure out the best way to cross a river with your group of four friends. Even though you’ve crossed rivers on your own before, you’ve never led a group while doing it.

You’re wracking your brain trying to remember any acronyms that might help you, scrambling around the riverbank trying to guess the river’s speed, and weighing the equally strong temptations of “just going for it” and staying put, making camp, and coming back to the decision in the morning.

When you’re on the verge of total frustration, your friend shouts, “Hey, I found a log! Let’s use it to cross the river!”

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Topics: Live the Dream, leadership, decision making

55 and Climbing

By Liz Johnson on 12/11/17 7:31 AM

“You’re cruising, Alex. I can hardly keep up with you!” I called up to my climbing coursemate as I belayed her.

“I’m trying a new technique,” she yelled back. “It’s called ‘Keep Going!’”

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Topics: Live the Dream, rock climbing, leadership

Learn Your Habits to Make Better Decisions

By Molly Herber on 9/20/17 8:56 AM

Humans’ ability to use patterns helps us make decisions faster, but can also lead us into what NOLS teaches in our leadership curriculum as decision-making traps.

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Topics: Live the Dream, leadership, decision making

Teaching Leadership Through Storytelling on Wilderness Expeditions

By Eric Boggs on 7/19/17 1:00 PM

Instructor, University of Oregon faculty member, and speaker at the 2017 NOLS Summit Eric Boggs talks with us about how to use storytelling as a powerful way to teach leadership.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, leadership, storytelling

Make Leadership the Focus of Your Gap Year

By Katherine Boehrer on 3/23/17 9:42 AM

Backpacking in Alaska. Photo by Tara Pesman.

I took my first NOLS course, Alaska Backpacking, the summer before my senior year of high school. Many things I learned in the backcountry made me better prepared for my final year of high school and starting college.

If you're thinking about taking a gap year, that's a perfect time to hone your leadership skills. The value of travel, work experience, or service during a gap year isn't just in activities—it's also in the intangible skills like teamwork and self-reliance.

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Topics: Gap Year, Behind the Scenes, leadership

Big Agnes Co-Owner Len Zanni: Finding His Way in the Outdoor Industry

By Molly Herber on 9/13/16 11:59 AM

At last summer's Outdoor Retailer event, we were able to connect with Len Zanni, co-owner of Big Agnes, Inc. and a NOLS grad! Len talked with us about what he’s learned from NOLS and from his years of working in the outdoor industry.

Len Zanni first found the outdoors when he headed to Colorado for college. Finding himself in one of the West's best places for the outdoors just after finishing a Wind River Wilderness course in Wyoming, he drank in everything he could.

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Topics: Alumni, Behind the Scenes, education, leadership