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2012 State of the School Report

2012 State of the School Report

the leader in wilderness education The mission of the National Outdoor Leadership School is to be the leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership that serve people and the environment.


When September arrived and the 2012 fiscal

year was behind us, I looked at the results of the year, and my initial thoughts and comments were that most of the year had gone as planned. Our student numbers were close to the expected, course outcomes were not a surprise, the financial picture bottom line was close to the budget, the risk management data was also about what we anticipated. Yet, as I thought back on the year and dug further through the stories of 2012, it became clear that while the final picture was as planned, average, or even expected, getting to that point was anything but. In many ways it was a year of unusual events, unexpected occurrences, and uncertainty. For example, we constructed the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus, which was not anticipated when we built our plans and budget the previous spring. Our Rocky Mountain classrooms experienced record heat, dry conditions, and extreme fire potential while our classrooms in Alaska saw unprecedented snow levels. Enrollment got to its final result by way of a record-high fall semester enrollment and weak spring enrollment. It was a year that combined the unexpected with overall outcomes that were expected. The phenomenon of the unexpected leading to the generally expected is not unique for NOLS. After all, tolerance for uncertainty is in our leadership curriculum. In looking at our many multi-year achievements and reviewing our strategic planning dashboards, it is apparent that having clearly identified goals and milestones has led to amazing results and helped us achieve goals that half a dozen years ago seemed nearly impossible. Certainly, there have been misses; right after we adopted the strategic plan about four years ago, the stock market cratered, putting it nearly out of the question that our endowment would reach our stated goal of matching our operating revenue by December of 2013. But the misses are more



rare than the goals we successfully achieved. So even in the chaos that is sometimes the NOLS world, I still believe in the power of a vision and goals. Because of that very conviction and dedication to our vision, this year of unexpected hurdles, of average and expected results also yielded a record number of students educated, record scholarship support to students who might not otherwise have been able to join us, our second highest year for philanthropic support, completion of the majority of the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus, recognition from two separate entities as one of the best employers in the country, and a new home for NOLS New Zealand. Many of the achievements in this year have created great opportunities for our future. A shining example of this includes the growth potential that comes from the completion of the Wyss Campus. The acquisition of property in New Zealand also opens the door to further growth in that country with its spectacular classrooms. Finally, the support we received for our endowment will provide more opportunities for scholarship students and expanding our Gateway Partner program. Philanthropic support was key to each of these achievements and their subsequent student opportunities. I want to thank our philanthropic supporters, our alumni, advisory council, trustees, staff, students, and friends for helping us achieve our goals in fiscal year 2012. Congratulations to our 17,722 new graduates, and welcome to the NOLS family. I look forward to charting our future course with all of your help. I hope you enjoy our State of the School Report. Thank you for supporting our mission.

John N. Gans Executive Director

MESSAGE FROM THE board of trustees

We learn from shared stories of

the great highs and challenging disappointments experienced on NOLS courses before us. At the same time, NOLS students and instructors create new stories every day to carry us into the future. My own NOLS story was life changing. I recently had my son put me on belay so I could venture into our crawl space to find my course journal. I was struck by how challenging my course was—with an instructor breaking his leg and a two-foot dump of snow occurring almost simultaneously and about 30 miles from the nearest road head. I was most struck by how clearly I loved it all. The deep beauty, the incredible challenge, the tight friendships, the vast learning, the necessity of being my best and strongest self; all of these things changed me over those 30 days and put me on a trajectory that holds true today. That course became a defining story, and I’m only grateful. I then took my Instructors Course and was fortunate to move on to several fulfilling summers as an instructor. I was inspired and challenged by my students, fellow instructors, the in-town staff, and the classrooms. I learned that my own NOLS story, which arced from taming my burly pack to falling in love with big mountains to thriving on the physical challenge of mountain travel, was compelling for some students but not others. I grew up camping with my family. NOLS had me with the first catalog photo of someone who looked kind of like me hiking

up a snowfield. But I’m becoming the minority. By 2042 the U.S. majority will be people of color. Already more than 80 percent of us live in cities. What are the stories that will resonate with future generations about the value of time spent outdoors? How do we make our case? How do we attract a student population that is demographically, socioeconomically, and ethnically diverse? How might we need to change? How might we need to fiercely not change? How we respond to these questions matters a great deal if we are to continue to be relevant and expand our enrollment and the network of alumni who play a critical role in our world. Diversity is a priority in our strategic plan, and the revamped course catalog and investment in diversity and inclusion are among the many examples of NOLS taking action. We all need to recognize the role we can and must play in helping NOLS meet current and emerging targets in diversity to become the school the changing world demands. What will we decide for NOLS as the world races toward 2042 and beyond? The stories we tell embody the decisions we make about how we want to navigate the time that is given us and how we want to create the time that lies ahead. We should think about how our own and the school’s stories can expand in their scope and shift in their emphasis to reach and include a broader audience, and so carry NOLS into a thriving future.

Contents: WMI Expands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 New campus will support the rapid growth of WEMT program

Fellowships Bridge to Careers . . . . 7 Fellows set an example for future students

NOLS and WFAP partner . . . . . . . . 9 USFS recognizes NOLS’ contribution

Giving Campaign NOLS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Annual fund . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Planned giving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Highlights Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability . . 17 Risk Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Financial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

NOLS Supporters . . . . . . . . . 25

Kate Gunness Williams Chair of the Board of Trustees

2012 State of the School Report



knowledge for Life While in the Virgin Islands with Sail Caribbean during the summer of 2010, a girl in her early teens fell down the staircase leading from the deck to the cabins below on a 50-foot sloop. Seeing that she had been knocked unconscious, the captain of the boat, WMI alumnus Morgan Grigsby rushed to the scene. Morgan was working for the teen adventure program that summer after graduating from Rhodes College. He had recently completed a Wilderness First Aid course taught by WMI as part of his training to become a captain. With the knowledge from his WMI training, Morgan quickly took charge of the situation, assessing the girl’s injury and administering care. WMI gave Morgan “the knowledge and fortitude” to handle this emergency. These weren’t easy skills to foster, but with the aid of his instructor team, along with the practice scenarios, Morgan learned to approach challenges like this with poise. “One of the most influential things that I took away from my course was confidence,” he explained, “confidence to know what to do under emergency situations.” A strong believer in NOLS mission, Morgan chose to make a named gift to the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus this past year. For him, the most important work NOLS does is to give students, “the tools necessary to better respect and appreciate the wilderness so that they may inspire and educate the following generations.” With the completion of the new campus, Morgan understands that NOLS Wilderness Medicine will have, “the ability to instruct a great amount of individuals and impart them with the unique knowledge and experience that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

The Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus graduated its first WEMT course in November 2012. Wyss Wilderness Medicine campus, Lander, Wyoming,




WMI Expands: Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus On an overcast, windy Friday, over 100 mem-

bers of the NOLS community gathered to dedicate the nearly complete NOLS Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus. The campus lies in Red Canyon 12 miles southeast of NOLS International Headquarters in Lander, Wyo. The dedication was a highlight of the annual October board meetings in Lander and was a testament to the breadth and promise of NOLS, the fervent support of the NOLS family, and the dedication to the school’s values of education, wilderness, and excellence. Thanks to the generous donations of Hansjörg Wyss and former landowners Dr. Charles and Mary Ann McMahon, the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) was able to move forward with design and construction of the new campus last year. Made up of five student cabins, a main educational facility, and a caretaker residence, the customdesigned campus will be highly energy efficient. Every aspect of the campus was designed with high performance in mind. Photovoltaic and geothermal technologies are employed, as are day-lighting, recycled building materials, rainwater collection, composting toilets, and water-efficient appliances. These strategies will help the campus achieve its net-zero energy consumption goal.

This new residential education facility will support the continued growth of WMI’s Wilderness Medical Technician (WEMT) program. These intensive 30-day courses combine the national EMT curriculum with WMI’s wilderness medicine curriculum. A wide range of students are attracted to these courses including outdoor professionals, members of the military, search and rescue specialists, and pre-hospital care providers. The inaugural group of students graduated from the first WEMT course at the Wyss Campus on Nov. 30, 2012. In 2013, WMI will host 10 WEMT courses at the campus in addition to a variety of other NOLS programs, shorter WMI courses, and staff meetings. The Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus also plays a crucial role in local conservation. The campus footprint is just 20,000 square feet of the total 243 acres acquired by NOLS in Red Canyon. NOLS’ decision to leave most of the property undeveloped will help conserve valuable wildlife habitat and beautiful landscapes. This vision also affords WMI students the opportunity to practice their skills in wild environments. Realistic medical scenarios during courses will be conducted among the property’s red rock hoodoos, on sagebrush-covered hillsides, and on the banks of—and in—the Little Popo Agie River.

Since its inception in 1990, WMI has trained more than 130,000 students, and the long-term vision applied to the new campus will support WMI’s growing program. In fiscal year 2012, WMI increased its reach by nearly 1,000 students. WMI conducted 645 courses in 41 states and 19 countries, educating 14,693 students. In addition to English, WMI offered courses in Portuguese, Swedish, Spanish, Japanese, and American Sign Language. Over the years, WMI has become the largest provider of wilderness medicine courses in the world. The Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus will become a critical element of this successful program and WMI’s continued growth.

Since its inception in 1990, wmi has trained more than 130,000 students, and the longterm vision applied to the new campus will support WMI’s growing program.

2012 State of the School Report


Daniel Santamaria

Pays it Forward

Partnerships and scholarships allow students who would not typically have access to NOLS courses the opportunity to explore a new world and share it with their peers. Brooks Range, Alaska, Tracy Baynes, STEP

A Manhattan native living in a concrete jungle, Daniel Santamaria had never much considered time in the outdoors before taking on the Wind River Wilderness course in June 2009. But the scholarship that allowed him to take a NOLS course resulted in a lifealtering experience. His high school, the Phillips Academy, guided him to what would turn out to be an eye-opening adventure. The skills he learned and memories he created left an impression that has become incorporated into his daily life and interactions. For example, Daniel gained confidence from taking on his first independent endeavor. Through overcoming adversities such as long days and a fear of heights, he also discovered the value of not only being a strong leader but also sharing leadership roles. Daniel is now able to take much more in stride. “If I have something that I’m coming up against, I know that there are people who will support me. I know I’ll be able to handle it,” he explained. The lessons learned and classes taught on his NOLS course have left a lasting impression on Daniel as he joins the family of nearly 200,000 graduates from all over the world. To support the NOLS mission and enable others to take advantage of the many lessons to be learned in the backcountry, he has demonstrated leadership by donating what he can.



fellowships build a bridGe to careers with nols after decadeS Of fine-tUninG OUr SchOlarShip

and outreach programs aimed at broadening the scope of the nOlS mission to a more diverse audience, we have concluded that attracting a more ethnically diverse student population is not leading to a more ethnically diverse staff population at nOlS at the rates we had planned. So as our student groups continue to grow more ethnically diverse, our U.S. staff population remains essentially the same— primarily caucasian/White. a goal of our strategic plan, expedition 2013, was that by 2013 U.S. citizens of color and international citizens would comprise 20 percent of school directors, 13 percent of nOlS middle managers, and 23 percent of faculty. although we have now met some of these targets, all upward trends have been due to an increase in the number of international citizens occupying these positions. the number of U.S. citizens of color occupying these positions, on the other hand, has remained constant or decreased over recent years. Why is it that nOlS is not attracting more people of color to join its staff? One conclusion, which is supported by research, is the lack of role models. a 2011 study reported that on college campuses “minority” students were more likely to succeed in the traditional classroom if they had “minority” teachers as role models. (fairlie, et al., a community college instructor like me: race and ethnicity interactions in the classroom.) nOlS had come to this conclusion a lot earlier. a 1992 study by former nOlS staff member Susan benepe concluded that training people of color to be role models was essential if adventure education wanted to serve a more diverse audience. (benepe, Susan, racial and ethnic diversity in wilderness use and environmental education.) Unless

we change the face of our school, we will be challenged to develop role models who inspire people of color to engage in outdoor education. enter nOlS fellowships. to help create a pathway for people of color in the U.S. to pursue a career in outdoor education and at nOlS, we provide opportunities for them to work for a season at a nOlS location. the fellowship exists to provide these individuals with a remarkable nOlS work experience and valuable skills that are transferable to any career path they choose. fellows also become alumni ambassadors—essentially alumni representatives who can speak to the nOlS experience within their own communities and hopefully encourage more people of color to connect with the outdoors. fellows interested in becoming nOlS field instructors also have opportunities for professional development through an instructor-in-training program. Since 2010, five fellows have worked at various nOlS locations, including nOlS Southwest, northwest, alaska, and rocky mountain. in 2013 we hope to bring fellows to nOlS headquarters, our vernal river base, and nOlS teton valley. Of our five past fellows, two have obtained employment at nOlS after their fellowships, and one is actively working toward becoming a field instructor. these numbers may seem like drops in a bucket, but our fellows’ individual achievements are sure to have a ripple effect in their own communities, and the success of this innovative and growing program as a whole is tangible. Just this year, applications for fellowships skyrocketed, placing nOlS on the radar of even more young people of color who are interested in outdoor education.

noLs Fellow tyrhee Moore In seventh grade, Tyrhee Moore, a native of Washington, D.C., decided to try something completely different. He enrolled in the City Kids Wilderness Project School, a summer program and NOLS Gateway Partner, that allowed him to explore far beyond the city streets of his hometown. “I had never seen mountains like that before,” he said of his adventures in the wilderness with City Kids. A few summers later, Tyrhee decided once again to take the path less traveled and applied for and was offered a scholarship to continue his outdoor education with NOLS. With this opportunity, he completed an Alaska Backpacking course in 2010. But his story with NOLS was just beginning to unfold. Through the NOLS Fellowship, a program designed to help students of color design an outdoor career pathway, Tyrhee has completed an outdoor educator course and been a summer employee in the NOLS Alaska issue room. In a new adventure, Tyree is a member of Expedition Denali, the first predominantly African-American attempt on Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest peak. This NOLS initiative will create outdoor role models for youth of color across the nation. “I don’t blame people for not doing [outdoor recreation]. It’s because you weren’t raised thinking it was cool; you weren’t raised thinking it was possible,” Tyrhee said. However, since he was 12, he has been changing that paradigm by demonstrating to his peers just how cool and possible a life of adventure is.

Snowy conditions help teach essential leadership skills for fire-fighting teams, as NOLS Professional Training and the WFAP have demonstrated over several seasons. Lassen Volcanic National Park of California, Ashley Wise 8


nols and wildland firefiGhter apprenticeship proGraM partner each Year, a 14-fOOt trailer travelS frOm nOlS

headquarters in lander, Wyo. to Sacramento, calif. with six backpacking courses worth of gear, one full nOlS professional training coordinator office, and a rations room worth of food. effectively bringing an expedition support facility to the customer allows nOlS to provide the practical experiences that enhance leadership effectiveness for the Wildland firefighter apprenticeship program (Wfap) students. this year marked the third season of successful Wildland firefighter leadership expeditions. nOlS professional training sets up its remote base of operations in the Wildland firefighter training center for two and a half weeks to simultaneously run six sevenday leadership backpacking expeditions. this year, 12 nOlS instructors, eight federal agency unit instructors, and 55 firefighter apprentices dispersed into lassen volcanic national park and the ishi Wilderness of california. Selected by their home units around the country, wildland firefighters come to Sacramento to participate in a monthlong advanced academy with the Wfap, and their week with nOlS is critical. this year, with temperatures in the teens overnight and snowfall up to a foot for some groups, adversity in the wilderness classroom provided ample opportunities for leadership development. cold and snow are a drastic difference from the smoke and heat wildland firefighters typically endure in their work, but any natural adversity teaches the same

lessons and provides the same immediate feedback on decisions. the leadership curriculum taught on these courses is designed to develop leadership skills to build and maintain cohesive crews in high-risk work environments. nOlS and the Wfap each have a strong history of leadership collaboration. the U.S. forest Service missoula technology development center hosted the first human factors Workshop in 1995, collaborating with other organizations that operate in high-risk environments to address training. this was just the first step in developing formal leadership training for firefighters in fireline leadership. from these roots, the Wfap was created to train fire leaders, and leadership curriculum was integrated into the academies as it became available. nOlS began collaborating with the forest Service’s wildland firefighters in 2006 and conducted stand-alone courses for various regional units. nOlS offered its first Wfap course in the death valley in 2008. Since then, nOlS has delivered 24 courses for the program, reaching approximately 180 students. nOlS and the Wfap continue to emphasize the value and impact created by taking the classroom outdoors and collaborate to continually improve the delivery of the expedition format. interacting across organizational cultures has provided opportunities for the Wfap and nOlS to expand perspectives and learn from each other. both organizations look to a bright future collaborating for further innovations in practical, cutting-edge leadership education.

Forest service thanks noLs Forest Service National Coordinator Doug Howorth, presented NOLS with an award recognizing the school’s cumulative work with the Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program. The award letter stated the organization’s gratitude: “Your expertise, innovation, and passion will always be the driving force behind the Apprenticeship Program... Together, with your future support, we will make the Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program the most successful training program in fire and aviation management.” noLs has been collaborating with the Wildland Firefighter Apprentice Program since 2006.




caMpaiGn nols: endowinG our core Values 20 MILLION

Our Place on The Map:





















JAMie o’DonneLL

we continue to MaKe proGress toward raisinG $19,250,000. once we reach that Goal, we will receiVe the capstone challenGe Gift of $750,000, brinGinG us to a total of $20 Million.



Current fundraising total: $16 .5 million Mid-campaign gift received after raising initial $10 million Remainder to be raised to receive capstone: $2,750,000 Capstone gift of $750,000

campaiGn nOlS: endOWinG OUr cOre valUeS iS a

comprehensive campaign to raise $20 million by the end of 2013. consisting of $15 million to strengthen our endowment and $5 million for the annual fund, this campaign aims to provide the school with financial stability for years to come. campaign nOlS will furnish scholarship funding, protect our wild classrooms, and develop curriculum— ensuring nOlS remains the leader in wilderness education. in december 2011, nOlS reached the goal of raising $10 million to meet the first challenge gift of $2 million. during fiscal year 2012, we made significant progress and through the generosity of our donors are now less than $3 million away from our goal of $19,250,000. reaching that goal will trigger the campaign’s capstone challenge gift of $750,000 to close out this $20 million dollar campaign. fiscal year 2013 will be dedicated to raising these dollars by the deadline of dec. 31, 2013. throughout the year, regional Steering committees and alumni volunteers hosted events to build the nOlS community and educate alumni on current nOlS funding priorities. these campaign awareness events were held around the country—in new York city, boulder, Washington d.c., San francisco, and connecticut—focusing on individuals in the surrounding areas. dreamed up, planned, organized, and hosted by local alumni who truly care about nOlS, these events show the commitment of volunteers to seeing the nOlS mission and core values endure. Our thanks go out to everyone who has participated as we embark on the final leg of this vital campaign to endow our core values.


Believes in the Power of education Leadership in the context of a group is one of the most important lessons NOLS provides, says Laurie Nash. Rocky Mountains, RAinBoW WeinsTocK

In her work and as a volunteer, Laurie Nash cannot help but support education. Professionally, she specializes in advising top cultural and educational nonprofit organizations as well as environmental organizations and foundations. The NOLS alumna also serves on the board of the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and has been a member of NOLS’ advisory council since June 2011. Laurie first came to NOLS as a student on a Wind River Mountaineering course in 1983 and has participated in several alumni trips since. Her parents selected NOLS over other programs because of its safety record and approach to learning and working within a group. The course left her with a deep love of the outdoors and respect for nature, an understanding of what it takes to work intensely with a group, and a sense of how much more she had to learn about leadership. “And I’m definitely still learning!” Laurie admitted. “I have profound respect for the model of leadership that NOLS teaches and think my experiences with NOLS since have influenced how I approach life professionally and personally.” Laurie would like to see NOLS continue to expand the number of people it reaches and to raise its profile as the “gold standard” in leadership education. For her, the most important work NOLS does is to help people understand the dynamic of leadership in the context of a group, versus focusing solely on the individual. In a demonstration of dedication to NOLS and belief in the future of the school, she has made a pledge to support the endowment through Campaign NOLS. “I firmly believe in the power of education, and I see NOLS as an organization that can truly benefit from my support,” she explained. “I have enormous respect for the NOLS mission, for its staff, and for the lessons instilled in me so many years ago during my first course.” 2012 STATE OF THE SCHOOL REPORT


The NOLS Annual Fund

NOLS Annual Fund: Ethical Leadership for a Global Community The NOLS Annual Fund is an organized effort

NOLS Annual Fund Goals and Dollars Raised $1500000




Goal: $1,467,000 Funds raised: $1,438,657 Percent unrestricted dollars: 78% Number of donors: 3,180 Number of new donors: 711 Donor retention rate: 54%





Goal: $1,386,522 Funds raised: $1,410,571 Percent unrestricted dollars: 98% Number of donors: 3,289 Number of new donors: 836 Donor retention rate: 53%

FY '12 Goal





FY '11 Goal

Nacho Grez

of NOLS alumni, parents, and friends dedicated to furthering the mission of the school with flexible, unrestricted annual income. When you make a donation to the annual fund, you’re supporting essential day-to-day operations, scholarships, outreach, curriculum development, and sustainability initiatives, all of which allow NOLS to continue to be the leader in wilderness education. This past fiscal year, the NOLS Annual Fund accomplished many goals despite missing our dollar goal by roughly $28,000. More than 3,180 dedicated alumni, parents, friends, and staff helped us to raise $1,438,657, our largest figure for the annual fund to date. This year, we saw growth in our monthly, quarterly, and yearly giving clubs as a direct result of the option now being available online. A total of 30 individuals set up a recurring gift to NOLS this year, an increase of 47 percent. For the first time in NOLS fundraising history, more than 50 percent of NOLS staff supported the school’s annual fund, Campaign NOLS, or Wyss Campus. This is a huge milestone for the school to reach, and we blew our goal of 40-percent participation out of the water. Despite seeing a decline in NOLS Annual Fund donors this year, the total number of donors to the school as a whole is up, due to donors giving to the NOLS Endowment and the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus, a project that is now fully funded and complete. The overall number of donors is up 8.2 percent in fiscal year 2012 from fiscal year 2011. Thank you to all of our donors for supporting the NOLS mission. We truly appreciate your support.


supporting ‘team noLs’ NOLS has been incredibly important to Neill Wessell over the past 10 years of his life. He first came to NOLS on a Semester in Alaska, and two years later he was a member of the 2004 Denali Mountaineering course. These experiences remain unparalleled reminders of the skills Neill turns to on a daily basis, such as an enduring confidence in himself as an individual, and as part of a group, to accomplish nearly anything in the face of adversity. “The world we live in is essentially a consistent case of expedition behavior,” Neill explained, “and the ability to squeeze every last ounce of energy out of everyone around you—predicated on their own abilities—is paramount to being a great member of a team, family, or work group.” On his Denali expedition, Neill and his coursemates had to learn to work together toward immediate as well as long-term goals, despite an overwhelming sense of “summit fever.” With such a specific and lofty long-term goal as reaching the summit, there is a tendency to lose sight of what is the best interest of every team member along the way. The first step to overcoming this was a sense of openness and honesty amongst the expedition members. Trust was established early on, ensuring everyone was comfortable speaking up and contributing. Neill explained how, “from that position, there was a consistent focus on how each decision impacted both the journey and our long-term goals. Only with such a strong base of communication and trust could we truly balance both sides.” Neill believes in what NOLS is doing and the vision NOLS has for its future. He says that the school imparts skills and a sense of vision that continually makes NOLS students successful and ethical contributors to the world at large. “My desire to make NOLS a philanthropic priority is part of what I learned on my two NOLS courses. You have to give of yourself in any way possible to support a team you believe in,” he added. “And NOLS is a team I believe in.” Graduates like Neill learn to balance long-term goals and changing circumstances to thrive, even in the most challenging of environments. Mt. squire, Washington, MATT RichTeR 2012 STATE OF THE SCHOOL REPORT


PLanned giving

Planned Giving–A Legacy in Leadership and Wilderness Education For many donors, a planned gift to NOLS is

the capstone of their charitable giving career. For most, it’s the largest gift they’ll make in their lifetime. But for all, it’s a way to establish a lasting impact on the school and the lives of its students, carrying the donor’s legacy forward in perpetuity. The members of NOLS’ Summit Team have chosen to include NOLS in their estate plans or make a deferred gift to NOLS. As a part of our recognition society for legacy donors, Summit Team members express their steadfast belief in the power of a NOLS education. Planned gifts grow NOLS’ endowment, ensuring the opportunity for future generations of NOLS students to have a meaningful wilderness experience. A thoughtful planned gift also creates financial benefits for the donors, often providing important tax relief for donors themselves, or for their heirs. Summit Team members find planned gifts to NOLS a great option; they pair a sound financial decision with creating a legacy that reflects their personal values. In fiscal year 2012, the Summit Team had 5 percent growth, marking a slight increase in our program over last year. NOLS is a relatively young organization, and as such, the majority of our alumni are younger. We hope to grow the Summit Team and our planned giving program in the coming years, providing the foundation that makes NOLS the international leader in wilderness education. I ndicates a monetary gift from a current or former member of the NOLS Board of Trustees. # Indicates a monetary gift from a NOLS employee employed in FY12. + Indicates individuals that have supported NOLS for 10 out of the last 11 years. *



Summit Team James A. Acee Joan F. Adibi Barry Auskern Douglas P. Bacon John L. Barton+ Douglas C. Benoliel# Kathleen A. Beres and Miller D. Einsel Elizabeth Britt Caroline B. Burnett+ Daryl J. and Ana P. Burtnett Susan E. Chamberlin* Alpin C. Chisholm+ Philippa Coe#+ Sherwin B. Cotler Joyce Courtney Duncan N. Dayton*+ Katharine Dernocoeur+ Danielle Dignan Mark J. Donahue Robert H. Donoho+ Catherine L. Douglas and Mark A. Sargent Susan T. English Paul M. Ford and Dennis W. Pendleton Carole L. Forgan D. Steven Fox+

John N. Gans#+ and Stephanie A. Kessler+ Jon C. Geissmann Daniel S. Gelfand Helen J. Gemmill+ Eric N. Gilbert+ Thomas L. Glazier Peter R. Goldman+ Lynn Gossard Andrea J. Grant* Bonnie P. and John Gruetzmacher Bernardine M. Hall+ Molly M.+ and Bruce E.+ Hampton N. Stuart Harris Gary D. Hermalyn Diane D. Herth Dorothy C. and William A. Hilshey Christopher W. Holinger Joanne Hurley* Ann L. Iijima* and Myles G. Bakke William L. Jamieson Cameale Johnson Cleveland T. and Rachael G. Justis Cheryl M. and Daniel F. Kelley Steven L. Kral Janice S. Ladley+

Sheila C. Lally Richard H. and Cathy Lampman Judith L. Lane Cristi L. Larsen Fred N. Littooy+ David H. Long Walter D. and Valerie S. Long Wylie D. and Sharon Lowery Douglas S. Luke*+ Allen B. Macomber*+ Stanley+ and Wendy O.+ Marsh Keith A. Marshall William C. Mayo Michael F. McTeigue G. Craig Meacham Ann C. Mills John W. Molander David M. Neary J.C. Nemecek Ronald C. and Elizabeth C. Nordstrom Robert M. Parker+ David R. Pennes+ Thomas E. Perlman Allen E. Perrel Marshall R. Peterson Patrick M. Pettit+

Marc B.* and Lorraine Randolph Christopher M. and Melanie S. Robbins Peter S. Ross+ Mary M. Ryan David I. Schiff Michael Schmertzler*+ Catherine C. and Mark F. Sieffert Winton C. Smith Jeanne+ and Jerry W.+ Southwood Robert I. Spengler+ Anthony K.#+ and Erika+ Stevens Cynthia B. Stevens Robin B. Supplee+ Wyllys Terry* Leslie F. van Barselaar# and David R. Kallgren# S. Lee Warner Richard G.+ and Loni+ Weber Wilford H. Welch* Timothy B. Weymouth+ Jennifer S. Whiting Reid A. Wiecks+ Gregory L.+ and Patricia R.+ Wright Elizabeth H. Yacubian+ Charles L. Zwick#

J.C. Nemecek

Beyond His Time

NOLS courses provide defining moments, moments that inspire graduates for the rest of their lives and move them to give back to the school.

Growing up in Lander, Wyo. during the 1960s, it would have been hard for J.C. Nemecek not to hear of NOLS. When a friend of his took a course and returned obviously changed, J.C. decided to take one too, a Wind River Wilderness course in 1970. NOLS opens many doors at the same time, and it gave J.C. the confidence to be mentally ready for any situation that was demanded of him. While he struggled with rappelling down cliffs during his course, he was ultimately able to let go of his trepidation over descending from heights. “It was somewhat nerve-wracking, but I finally just allowed myself to drop my reluctance for a few seconds and then things took care of themselves,” he recalled, “I have carried that through many moments in my life.” His time in the mountains with NOLS also gave J.C. a higher degree of self-confidence along with the realization that nothing was in isolation. For this reason, he feels the NOLS experience is instrumental for all students. “[NOLS] adds a vital perspective that is not met in daily experiences,” he explained. “It is the catalyst for a greater awareness not only of one’s self, but also the interrelationship of so many things.” That’s why J.C. has shown his dedication to the future of NOLS by including the school in his will. He believes that giving others the opportunity to grow, to learn, to share so many positive aspects of a NOLS education is not only a legacy but also a statement about values and priorities. J.C. concluded, “It is a gift to the future for a ‘good’ beyond my time.”

Cochise Stronghold, Coronado National Forest, Arizona, Kyle Duba 2012 State of the School Report


An essential aspect of the NOLS experience is interacting with protected, but accessible, places. Alaska, Rachel Curtis

Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability

maintaining the balance between preservation and recreation We quaintly describe the vast landscapes

that inspire and challenge our students as NOLS classrooms. These classrooms are not intact and inspiring landscapes by chance. Generations of motivated citizens have advocated the preservation of these lands, and backcountry travelers today reap the rewards of their efforts. As a conscientious user of these pristine landscapes, NOLS plays the role of steward, promoting conservation campaigns when appropriate, educating students on the history of these landscapes and providing them with opportunities for engagement, and promoting access to these lands while teaching visitors to be responsible and to tread lightly. In the U.S., land managers grapple with the tension between the dual purposes of the Wilderness Act. On one hand, Wilderness is designated to protect the untrammeled qualities of the landscape, to provide opportunities for solitude, and to meet conservation goals. On the other, it is made available for people to explore recreational, educational, historic, and scientific opportunities. In an effort to balance these purposes, land managers may place limitations, such as group size caps, on commercial users to protect the wilderness resource. The NOLS Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (ESS) Department works closely with land agencies and other partners to ensure that these limitations do not unnecessarily constrain our ability to provide a rich educational experience to our students. We also promote alternatives to limitations, such as education and the promotion of Leave No Trace practices, which allow more visitors to experience the Wilderness while preserving its primitive qualities.

Beyond Wilderness boundaries, adverse impacts to students’ experiences can come in the form of extractive development. NOLS lobbies for the protection of landscapes when such threats arise. A classic example is the effort to protect the Wyoming Range, which culminated in passage of the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, protecting 1.2 million acres of these mountains from future oil and gas development. Though this act passed in 2009, the U.S. Forest Service is still grappling with decisions on oil and gas leases that pre-date the act, which would have a dramatic impact on backcountry recreation and on NOLS courses in the area if developed. NOLS partners with a broad swath of interest groups, including sportsmen and conservation organizations, to ensure that the spirit of the Act is realized in forthcoming decisions by the Forest. Similarly, in Red Canyon near Lander, Wyo., the striking setting of NOLS’ new Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus, there has been a recent spike in interest to lease the surrounding state lands for open-pit phosphate mining. Many across the state who value the natural character of this awe-inspiring canyon have teamed up to find an alternative to development. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Wyoming State Lands Board, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and several interested parties including NOLS are exploring a land exchange between the BLM and State Lands, wherein the land would be transferred to the BLM and withdrawn from availability for phosphate mining. The first critical step of this negotiation, the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the BLM and the State Lands Board, was achieved in the fall of 2012.

In situations where NOLS is limited in its ability to respond to a situation or has little to add to an effective response, we educate our students and build policy-specific curriculum around the topic. Such is the case in NOLS Patagonia, where salmon farming continues to expand into once-pristine waters. As the third-largest industry in Chile, salmon farming has been a revenue boon for the cash-strapped economy. It brings with it, however, adverse impacts on native fish populations and an abundance of buoyant flotsam washing up on shores. The ESS department has coordinated development of curriculum to help students better understand this growing industry. By and large, NOLS does its best work by bringing students to stunning landscapes and giving them an opportunity to explore and develop their own ethic. Many of these leaders go on to realize careers that demonstrate a close connection to the land. As we do the policy work of the school, we discover NOLS alumni at every level of government and public lands agencies, who, through their respect for the landscape and their value for the NOLS mission, help us realize our goals.

NOLS does its best work by bringing students to stunning landscapes and giving them an opportunity to explore and develop their own ethic.

2012 State of the School Report


risk management

Reaffirmed commitment to excellence School report, fiscal year 2012 (Sept. 1, 2011 through Aug. 31, 2012) began with great sadness throughout the NOLS community when Thomas “Tom” Plotkin died during his course on Sept. 22, 2011. Tom was a student on a Fall Semester in India who slipped while backpacking on an established trail, fell down a steep slope into a turbulent river, and was never seen again. Thomas’ passing serves as stark and sobering reminder that the environments through which we travel entail risk and the responsibility we have to our students is great. We have clear educational outcomes and a robust and tested curriculum, but the death of a student shakes us to our core. We have reflected long and hard on what this tragedy means to Tom’s family and to us as an organization, and we have reaffirmed our commitment to excellence. We did not achieve excellence in our risk management performance in 2012 as the death of one student tarnishes any successes we did have. However, our risk management program continues to be a core component of how we conduct courses and one of the ways we measure our school. Our risk management program forms the basis of the NOLS culture of reliability and is fundamental to our resilience as an organization. Our primary goals are to promote the health and well being of students and staff while striving to achieve our curriculum and course objectives. Our medical evacuation rate of 0.99 evacuations per 1,000 program days was 9 percent below our five-year



average, and was the eighth lowest in 28 years. We did, however, respond to a number of challenging medical and near-miss incidents: • In over 12 years between the deaths of Thomas Nazzaro in 1999 and Tom Plotkin in 2011, there were 1,913,047 program days and 49,000 students on NOLS expeditions. The fatality rate for this period was 0.0005 per 1,000 program days. • Our two most serious incidents occurred when a student had a seizure while sea kayaking in Norway and an instructor was charged and gored by a feral bull while hiking in Australia. Both ended with the patients being evacuated and recovering fully. • Our most unique near miss happened in November 2011 when two students were caught in quicksand, one for over 12 hours. • Our emergency and evacuation systems provide emergency support to NOLS courses in our operating areas in 11 countries and 14 U.S. states. • Our crisis management systems were utilized effectively in responding to Tom’s fatality. We staffed and managed four command posts—two in India, one in Washington State, and one in Lander, Wyo.; we collaborated with the

U.S. Embassy in India, the India military, and numerous local authorities (about 20 contacts); we maintained effective relations with Tom’s parents; and we sent additional NOLS personnel to India to assist—at least 56 NOLS staff contributed to our response to the situation. • Our practices for traveling in grizzly and black bear habitat were thoroughly reviewed and rewritten. • Ninety-six percent of NOLS students completed their courses. Fiscal Year 2012 Medical Incident and Evacuation Rates Compared to Previous Averages 3.0

Rate/1000 Program Days

As was reported in our 2011 State of the


2.74 2.40




1.5 1.0





0.5 0.0

26 yr. avg.

10 yr. avg.

Medical Incident

5 yr. avg.

FY 2012

Medical Evacuation

While we could not have anticipated a seizure, the instructors conducted the course in such a way that they could effectively respond to the unexpected. They adhered to established NOLS field practices of teaching.

Risk Management in Action

Ashley Wise

Being prepared for the unexpected is a common maxim in the outdoors—almost to the point of being cliché, but on July 14, 2012 this state of preparedness likely saved the life of one of our students. Catie was a student on a NOLS Scandinavia Sea Kayaking and Backpacking course who, with the rest of the group, was paddling a single kayak within a “pod” of 10 kayaks as they traveled in Norfold Fiord in Norway. She suddenly dropped her paddle and capsized. Other students yelled “boat over” and the instructor, Dave, at the rear of the pod 10 meters (30 feet) away, began to paddle toward her anticipating she would perform

a wet exit and get out of her boat. She didn’t. The course leader, Raul , who was at the front of the pod, about 15 meters (50 feet) away, also acted quickly, first directing a third instructor to take charge of the group, then paddling to Catie’s kayak and quickly assessing the situation. Catie was hanging from the cockpit of her boat and appeared to be unresponsive. Raul reached underwater and pulled the spray skirt off Catie’s boat. When she still did not come out of her boat, he reached down, grabbed her personal floatation device, and pulled her and her loaded, and now water-filled, kayak, upright in one quick motion—performing what sea kayakers call a “hand of God” rescue. The rescue happened within about 30–45 seconds after she capsized. When Catie was upright, she remained unresponsive, her body rigid and her eyes rolled back. Raul realized she was having a seizure and supported her body in his arm. After a few seconds, she took a large breath and began to regain responsiveness. Raul and Dave pumped water out of her cockpit, replaced her spray skirt, and towed her to shore where the rest of the course had set up a shelter, and were prepared to treat her for hypothermia. Raul used the satellite phone to call NOLS Scandinavia and begin arrangements for an evacuation. Catie had three more seizures and was flown by

helicopter to the nearest hospital, 70 kilometers (44 miles) away. Catie traveled home to the U.S. on a commercial airline accompanied by a nurse. She was diagnosed with a condition for which she underwent surgery and has since recovered. She had no prior history of seizures. While we could not have anticipated a seizure, the instructors conducted the course in such a way that they could effectively respond to the unexpected. They adhered to established NOLS field practices of teaching and practicing wet exits early, of keeping a well-organized pod, and staying appropriately close to shore. In a water rescue, time is of the essence, and the redundancy created by paddling in pods is an important risk management technique. This incident also points to the value of skilled instructors with strong sea kayaking skills who can respond under less-than-ideal conditions. The rapid response by Dave, combined with Raul’s quick and decisive assessment and reactions, boat handling skills, expertise, and experience, contributed to Catie’s swift rescue.

2012 State of the School Report



Being Part of the noLs Impact When Kary Sommers decided to take a 94-day Semester in the Rockies, she thought she was just giving herself a college graduation gift, albeit an extraordinary one. What she didn’t know was how hooked she would become on NOLS. Nine years later, Kary still hasn’t left. Kary decided to stay because of the profound impact her instructors had on her. She wants to pass that on to new students, and as the marketing manager and a field instructor she gets to bring them in the door and share her passion for the wilderness with them in the field. “I learned that the most rewarding experiences can also be the most challenging and that challenges provide excellent learning opportunities,” Kary explained. “At the end of a NOLS course I know that things will never be the same for my students … because NOLS changes lives. I like being part of that impact.” Taking her belief in the school a step further, Kary has been a long-time donor to the NOLS Annual Fund through NOLS’ payroll deduction program. She sees how NOLS teaches people self-reliance and an appreciation of wild places; how NOLS field courses get people outside and out of their comfort zones where a lot of learning happens; and how young people come to NOLS, grow up, get real, and go back to their communities to make a difference. Simply put, Kary gives back to NOLS because she believes that the world is a better place with NOLS grads in it!

A clear plan and adaptability are invaluable tools for both NOLS students and NOLS as an organization. Pacific northwest, RiLey hoPeMAn

financial highlights

Stronger than ever It is with great pride that as we come to the

NOLS Balance Sheet


Aug. 31, 2012 and 2011

83% Program 14% Administration 3



Assets Cash Endowment investments Receivables Pledges receivable Prepaid expenses Merchandise




















Accounts payable



Student deposits



Other Property, plant, and equipment net

total Revenue


Total assets Liabilites and net assets

79% Tuition and Fees 13% Fundraising

Long-term debt




Total liabilites



Net assets






Other Program Revenue

3% Investment Earnings

Total liabilities and net assets

end of another fiscal year we are able to once again announce the financial position of NOLS has never been stronger. Through the hard work of staff and the guidance of our supporters, we have been able to operate in a fiscally responsible manner at all levels of NOLS, especially in the continuing difficult economic times of the last few years. Two items of note stand out in our balance sheet. The first is the retirement of our long-term debt. Thanks to the success of the International Base Camp Initiative and past decisions to pay off portions of this debt, we were able to retire all outstanding bonds three years early, leaving NOLS with no long-term debt. The second item of note is the increase in our property, plant, and equipment. This increase is related primarily to the construction of the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus. The financial resources that have been generated from operations and donor support are an important responsibility and opportunity. A key part of the strategic plan has been to create and fund cash reserves. These reserves have been created not only to sustain us in difficult circumstances, but also to allow us to pursue opportunities to expand our reach and mission. The ability to create, maintain, and add to these accounts is a measure of our financial success recently and cause for confidence for the future.

We will continue to invest and use our financial reserves to support our students and mission while protecting the integrity of our financial resources.

2012 State of the School Report


NOLS Statement of Activities

Our Statement of Activities is reflective of

For the fiscal years ending Aug. 31, 2012 and 2011 Unrestricted

Temporarily Restricted

Permanently Restricted

Total 2012

Total 2011






Revenues and other support Program revenues Tuition and fees Other program revenues Total program revenue


























Fundraising activities Contributions and grants Released from endowment Net assets released from restriction for Program Buildings and Equipment











Interest and investment income






Net realized and unrealized gains on investments






Total fundraising revenue Investment and other revenue

Gain (loss) on sale of equipment




































Total expenses






Change in net assets


($970,000 )




Total investment and other revenue Total revenue and other support

Expenses Program Administration Interest Fundraising



our continued focus on meeting both our educational and financial goals. This year we are not only delighted with our success in the further implementation of our strategic plan goals, but also in how we dealt with a difficult operating environment. When faced with operational challenges, staff throughout the school responds in much the same manner as we do when faced with challenges in the field by being flexible and innovative. We continue to thrive financially in very challenging times, and this past year we set a new high for NOLS in operating revenue and achieved our second best ever overall change in net assets. There is much that is familiar in comparing the last two fiscal years. In both years, we received strong philanthropic support, most notably through gifts to Campaign NOLS and in support of the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus. In addition, the endowment had positive investment results with a gain of 6 percent over what was a very turbulent year for investments. The combination of strong philanthropic support, positive investment returns, and another strong operating year resulted in the second best increase in overall net assets ever. We are again very pleased with and proud of the financial results we achieved this past year. The strategic plan has provided us with a direction for the future, and while the conditions of the world have forced us at times to change our path, we feel certain we are on track to meet our goals. The education of our students is, as always, our primary focus. We recognize the importance of being excellent stewards of our financial resources to that focus. Our positive financial results are due to the support and efforts of many and will help us to carry the NOLS mission into the future.

NOLS Seven-Year Financial Highlights

Total assets Total liabilities Net assets

Though the last seven years has been a time







































































Revenue Program Contributions Investment Other Total revenues Expenses Program Fundraising Administration and interest















Total expenses








Change in net assets








Number of students NOLS field courses Wilderness Medicine Institute Leave No Trace





























Total students








Number of student days















NOLS Professional Training

Scholarship recipients

of economic turmoil, one constant has been the continued growth of both the educational impact and financial position of NOLS. Our net assets have increased in each of the last seven years and have nearly doubled over this time. These continued positive results are indicative of the commitment of NOLS staff and supporters to insure that the NOLS mission thrives today and into the future. While each of the last seven years is a collection of unique stories, NOLS has seen strong operating results and support from our friends. Contributions to our mission have continued to grow through gifts to the NOLS Annual Fund, our endowment, the International Base Camp Initiative, Campaign NOLS, and the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus. Gifts to these campaigns over the past seven years have reached nearly $23 million. Another highlight over the past seven years is continuing diversification of our revenue through the growth of the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute and NOLS Professional Training that have helped us to expand both our educational reach and our financial stability. Thanks to the support and efforts of many, we continue to build on the successes of our past and look to our future with a strong financial position.

2012 State of the School Report



Leading Change and overcoming uncertainty As a change leadership and communications consultant, Bronwyn Poole helps executives lead and communicate with their employees during times of change and uncertainty. In 1984, as a student on a NOLS course, she developed the very skills that would lead her to a career advising on merger integration and business transformation. During her Rocky Mountain Wilderness Natural History course, her group learned how challenging map reading can be. Bronwyn recalled such days were “an exercise marked by keen observation of our surroundings, violent disagreement about our location on the map, and opposing views about the route to take.” But she and her coursemates managed to work together to get to camp each night. The greatest lesson Bronwyn learned, however, has affected her life in a different way. “I learned about the interdependency and fragility of our ecosystem,” she said. “On our course we were careful to ‘leave no trace,’ and that helped me appreciate the need to recycle and conserve energy at home and wherever I travel.” For Bronwyn, this appreciation for the wilderness and the need to conserve it is the most important lesson NOLS teaches. She explained that it carries over to how graduates lead their lives, the choices they make, and how they impact the environment. “It’s hard to build support for conservation among people who have never experienced the magnificent beauty of our planet,” stated Bronwyn. That’s why she feels so strongly about giving back to NOLS. As a double decade donor—someone who has given to the school for over 20 years—Bronwyn has made supporting NOLS a top priority. “I believe it’s my obligation to ‘pay it forward’ and share the NOLS experience with future generations. NOLS has stayed true to its mission and grown in ways that reinforce its core strengths.”

As students learn how to pack their canoes, they also learn about valuing the “magnificent beautify of our planet,” as Bronwyn learned on her course. Alaska, sTÉPhAne TeRRieR

National Outdoor Leadership School 284 Lincoln Street • Lander, WY 82520 • (800) 710-NOLS Cover: Robert Hakim, Waddington Range; Back: Fredrik Norrsell, Norway

NOLS 2012 State of the School Report  
NOLS 2012 State of the School Report  

NOLS 2012 State of the School Report