NOLS: National Outdoor Leadership School Home
Mission and Values

Our Mission
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.   

NOLS Values
The NOLS community-its staff, students, trustees, and alumni-shares a commitment to wilderness, education, leadership, safety, community, and excellence. These values define and direct who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

We define wilderness as a place where nature is dominant and situations and their consequences are real. Living in these conditions, away from the distractions of modern civilization fosters self-reliance, judgment, respect, and a sense of responsibility for our actions. It can also be a profoundly moving experience that leads to inspiration, joy and commitment to an environmental ethic.

We believe that education should be exciting, fun and challenging. With this in mind, our courses are designed to help people develop and practice the skills they need to live, travel and play safely in the outdoors. On our expeditions, people learn by accepting and meeting real challenges. Our instructors are educators, not guides. They are committed to inspiring students to explore and develop their understanding of wilderness ethics, leadership, teamwork, natural history, and technical skills.

We believe that leadership is a skill that can be learned and practiced. With students and staff, we encourage the evolution of judgment, personal responsibility, and awareness of group needs-key leadership traits-through practical experience and timely feedback. We value integrity, experience, accountability, and humility in our leaders.

We accept risk as an integral part of the learning process and of the environments through which we travel. The recognition and management of risk is critical to both the development of leadership and to the safety and health of our students and staff. We believe successful risk management stems from good judgment based on experience, training and knowledge.

NOLS is an international community composed of talented individuals who care deeply about what they do. We value diversity, integrity and personal responsibility while recognizing that our strength lies in teamwork and commitment to our mission and each other. We appreciate creativity, individuality and passion among our staff and as an institution. We take our jobs seriously and pursue our mission with
enthusiasm, and we cherish our sense of humor and our ability to laugh at ourselves.

We seek excellence in all we do. We recognize that maintaining excellence requires that we question decisions, learn from failures, and celebrate success. We are committed to high quality experiences where every moment and every relationship counts. We evolve and adapt with new technology, changing techniques and differing circumstances. 

Expedition image
The goal of every NOLS course: to give you the tools to lead your own expeditions.
Photo: Brien Sheedy
"I learned a lot about patience and respect for the mountains on my NOLS course. It's a big part of what's kept me alive in the mountains all these years."
-David Breashears
Mountaineer, filmmaker - Adventure Course '71
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