Message From the Executive Director
The Education That Lasts a Lifetime
By John Gans
Reprinted from The Leader, Spring 2002, Vol. 17, No. 2
A strong hint of spring is in the Lander, Wyoming air today. NOLS staff are taking off for "lunch break" runs in shorts and t-shirts. Given it is late February, I know this is just a tease of summer, but that tease is a reminder of end of school year's past, graduations and approaching summer-our busiest season at NOLS.
Our cover story this month, by Worth Allen, is about the journal he kept on a NOLS semester course in that was later published as the book, In Mind, In Country. Worth is a NOLS graduate who is currently working as an intern in Lander. Worth's journal brought back memories of my semester in Africa, which was my last semester before graduating from college. While Worth's course occurred 20 years after mine, I found there were many more similarities than differences. I was reminded again of the relevance of a NOLS education and the timelessness of the outcomes.
My semester course taught me lessons that I have used throughout my personal and professional life. That course was clearly the most formative experience of my formal education. The leadership and working with people lessons easily translated to non-wilderness environments. The wilderness and recreation skills we learned have provided for a lifetime of enjoyable wilderness trips with family and friends. The course also built a wilderness and travel ethic that has changed how I view the world and what I feel is important for the world.
Not surprisingly, these educational outcomes have led to further recognition, not only from NOLS students, but also from high schools, colleges and universities around the country. This Leader contains information on college credit arrangements and articulation agreements with post-secondary institutions around the country. These arrangements speak further to the relevance of a NOLS education.
The long lasting outcomes from my NOLS course were due to excellent instructors and the NOLS curriculum, but thanks are also owed to the experience of different places, cultures and people. In the wake of last fall's terrorism attacks, many folks in the U.S. have turned their focus close to home, with travel and visa requests falling off. While that reaction was appropriate and understandable, we must not forget the lessons we learn from other places, other cultures, the wilderness and the world. The articles in this Leader provide glimpses of those lessons and the value of a wilderness education at NOLS.
Worth Allen is one of several NOLS authors featured in this edition of the Leader. You will also find brief reviews of books by Bruce Hampton and Candice Olsen (formerly Carpenter), both of whom are past instructors for NOLS. Also featured are NOLS grad Sebastian Junger's new book Fire and the book Looking for Alaska, by NOLS parent Peter Jenkins. In Peter's book on his trip to Alaska, his traveling companion is his daughter Rebekah, a graduate from a NOLS Idaho Backpacking and River course. Reading between the lines in all of these books, one can see the impact of NOLS on their lives and their work.
In other news, last week the Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) of NOLS held their staff meeting in Lander. WMI has now been a part of NOLS for a couple of years and has been a great complement to our mission. Their work in teaching wilderness medicine is excellent and they continue to expand the reach of their programs. The staff meeting provided a great opportunity to further expand our curriculum and offer further training to our staff. We are looking forward to WMI's move from Colorado to Lander this coming summer. This is another key transition in the joining of our organizations. As in past issues of the Leader, you will find Buck Tilton's column on the Wild Side of Medicine as a feature article.
As summer approaches, I urge you all to think about what role wilderness will play in your summer. Give us a call and join NOLS in the wilderness-it will be an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime!