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Quantifying the Unquantifiable: What I Learned after a Week in the Wilderness with the Archer School for Girls

By Jen Pontrelli on 5/9/16 8:10 AM

There I was in the middle of the Galiuro Wilderness in southern Arizona. Traversing a mountain trail at top speed for the terrain, sweating profusely in the desert sun, and humming Fergie’s 2007 hit “Glamorous.”

As a diehard Metallica fan, I didn’t expect this particular tune to be rattling around in my brain, but my fellow expedition members, 12 high school freshman girls, would not have it any other way.

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Topics: Backpacking, adventure, Live the Dream, NOLS Southwest, NOLS Professional Training, leadership, NOLS Custom Education

Love at NOLS, A Valentine’s Day Story

By Anne McGowan on 2/12/16 11:37 AM


Photo by Mayur Gala.
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Topics: Alumni, Live the Dream, NOLS Professional Training, leadership

How NOLS Made Me a Better Restaurant Manager: The Northstar Cafe Story

By Jen Pontrelli on 12/8/15 10:17 AM


Practicing decision-making. Photo by Darren Malhame.


The restaurant business is known to be a notoriously tough gig. Long hours, fluctuating market value for goods, high employee turnover and food fads all play into a stressful work environment for even the most seasoned restaurateur. So when a team of restaurant professionals does find a working formula, how do they take their thriving business to the next level?

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, cooking, Backpacking, adventure, backcountry, NOLS Professional Training, leadership

No Borders in the Backcountry

By Jen Pontrelli on 11/20/15 8:36 AM

“What did I get myself into?!”

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Topics: Alumni, Behind the Scenes, Sea Kayaking, NOLS Alaska, backcountry, NOLS Professional Training, NOLS Custom Education

Preparing for the Unexpected: Wilderness Risk Management Conference 2015

By Alyssa Rainbolt on 10/22/15 8:00 AM
Discussing risk at the 2015 WRMC. Photo by Kirk Rasmussen.

I sat down to breakfast at a table of folks including Outward Bound Vice President of Safety Mark Vermeal. Vermeal was sharing the story of his friend, who had neglected to tie a knot at the end of his rope while rock climbing. We at the table agreed that it was not an unfamiliar story: climber is comfortable at their home crag and doesn’t think to take the precaution of tying a knot at the end of the rope. Climber is injured; in this case, a broken arm. In other cases, outcomes may be far worse. It’s a common mistake that is highly avoidable, and one that should drive the need to shift the climber mentality.

“So, how do we do that?” Vermeal posed to the table.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, WRMC, risk management, Educators Notebook, NOLS Professional Training, leadership

Why Outdoorsy People Make the Best Co-workers

By Molly Herber on 10/16/15 10:00 AM

What does whitewater canoeing have to do with a board meeting? Or mountaineering with watercooler gossip? More than you’d think.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, education, NOLS Professional Training, leadership, NOLS Custom Education, Prime, Adult courses

New NASA Mission Features Crew of NOLS Grads

By Cole Medders on 8/16/15 8:00 AM

Astronaut Suni Williams spacewalking. 

Space, the final frontier, will now be brought into the private business sector as NASA prepares the first commercialized space flight. American soil has been void of launches to space for a while now due to a lack of funding. It has been the goal of NASA and government administration to once again make space flight a part of American industry, and that goal will soon be reached with the help of some incredible NOLS alumni.

NOLS graduates Doug Hurley, Sunita Williams, Bob Behnken, and Eric Boe will proudly participate in the first commercial crew transportation system and lead space exploration into a new era.

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Topics: Alumni, NASA, instructor, Live the Dream, Astronauts, NOLS Professional Training, leadership, NOLS Custom Education

SUWS of the Carolinas and the WRMC

By Anna Wiser on 7/29/15 12:26 PM

With the 22nd annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) fast approaching in Portland, Oregon, October 14-16, 2015, we are excited to continue highlighting organizations that attend the conference year after year and contribute to its success.

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Topics: WRMC, risk management training, risk management, Educators Notebook, NOLS Professional Training, professional development

Future Global Leaders Thrive at NOLS Rocky Mountain

By Molly Herber on 5/12/15 2:00 AM

“This was an opportunity to learn from a diverse group of future leaders whose backgrounds reshaped my perspective of what true leadership is!” – Oghenefego Ahia, Future Global Leader

Students pause for a break in Bonneville Basin in the Wind River Range of the Rockies. Photo by NOLS Instructor Darcy Mullen.

By Michele Cantos, Program Manager for the Future Leaders Foundation

During the summer of 2014, our inaugural class of 2014 Future Global Leader (FGL) Fellows embarked on the first phase of the FGL Fellowship: The FGL Leadership Expedition with NOLS. For three weeks, these students from 12 different nationalities backpacked over 80 miles of rugged terrain through an (unseasonably) rainy August in Wyoming’s Rocky Mountains. Although previously strangers to the wilderness and one another, they united and overcame immense challenges, such as crossing an 800 ft-steep temple pass, walking miles uphill, suffering allergic reactions to insect bites, and adjusting to having no modern-day accommodations or technology (no cell phones allowed!). In the end, they shed their old selves and became a strong and wise team ready for any challenge.

One of these fellows, Cherline Bazile, shared that, “the most valuable lessons I learned is that the road to resilience does not have to be a lonely one. While climbing an 11,000 ft high mountain, I discovered I had a fear of heights but I made it to the top because of the support I had!”

Why did we choose NOLS?

Our main goal was to find a program that would strengthen our Fellows’ bond with one another, and to provide them with lifelong leadership skills and confidence needed to reach the highest levels of success. NOLS was the perfect match for us!

Our FGL Fellows are an elite group of resilient first-generation college students selected for their academic excellence, global ambition, and desire to give back to others through their success. Our newly elected 2015 FGL Fellows represent 17 nationalities, speak 19 languages, and all hail from top universities in the US, France, Singapore, and China. Among them: Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, Brown University, Columbia University, Wellesley College, University of California, Berkeley, Yale-National University of Singapore, and Peking University.

They are aspiring leaders and change-makers acting on the simple premise that our world is increasingly interconnected and in need of strong and compassionate leadership – leadership which is not achieved without a strong network of support. It is our vision that through our programming – including NOLS, fully-funded internships abroad, mentorship, and a global network – they will have the tools necessary to help them reach their ambitions.

Where are they now?

Since NOLS, our 2014 FGL Fellows have achieved some incredible milestones, like securing summer internships in 17 different countries! Jeremiah will shadow his mentor in Paris and then intern with a German start-up. Emma and Louise will be interning in businesses in Dubai, while Hamidah will be in Lima. Heather and Justin will be interning for a major bank in London, and Jackie and Nabig will be interning in nearby Brussels and Geneva. The list goes on, but as our Fellows prepare for their next challenge they all keep the lessons learned at NOLS in their minds.

As one of our fellows said to me after the course, “If I can climb a mountain, I can succeed at anything!”

Meet our 2015 FGL Fellows

View pictures from last year’s FGL Leadership Expedition with NOLS on Flickr.

Learn more about how you can design a custom course for your club, team, or office on the NOLS Professional Training webpage.

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Topics: leadership, Behind the Scenes, NOLS Rocky Mountain, Backpacking, adventure, backcountry, NOLS Professional Training

Spring Break in a Tent: The Patagonia Leadership Trek

By NOLS on 5/7/15 2:00 AM


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Topics: leadership, NOLS Patagonia, Backpacking, Live the Dream, backcountry, NOLS Professional Training, NOLS Custom Education

Berkshire School Slays Powder in the Tetons

By Kate Koons on 3/12/15 1:00 AM

On Monday, NOLS Teton Valley wrapped up the inaugural winter ski course with the Berkshire School, a private boarding school in Massachusetts. The branch was pleased to host the new course and have our first ever high school students out on a winter adventure.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, skiing, NOLS Teton Valley, NOLS Professional Training

Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management in NOLS Patagonia

By Casey Pikla on 2/3/15 5:01 AM

Jerry Rizzo, Director of Leadership Programs at Cornell's Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, reflected on the adversity, learning, and new-found confidence his students encountered on the school's recent NOLS expedition. Ranked among the nation's top business schools, Johnson has gone to Patagonia with NOLS since 2013. Read Jerry's full post here.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, NOLS Professional Training

Astronaut Reid Wiseman on Expedition Behavior

By Casey Pikla on 11/4/14 9:14 AM

Astronaut and U.S. Navy Commander Reid Wiseman wrote the following missive about expeditionary behavior from low Earth orbit to be read to the astronaut class of 2013 on their NOLS course. A highlight of that course was connecting with CDR Wiseman on the International Space Station via satellite phone from deep in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.

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Topics: NASA, Educators Notebook, expedition behavior, Astronauts, NOLS Professional Training, leadership

Are You Ready to Lead in the Outdoors?

By Casey Pikla on 5/9/14 7:56 AM

By Leif Andreassen, Bruce Kaufman, Dorothy Voorhees, Eva Tsang, Anderson Baptista, Jared Barnett, and Reid Tileston

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Topics: Southwest, Expedition Prep, NOLS Pro, NOLS Professional Training

Leadership in the Wilderness: The First Darden/NOLS Course

By Casey Pikla on 2/24/14 4:46 AM

By Alex Fife

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Topics: Expedition Prep, NOLS Professional Training