Position at NOLS: Word of Mouth Coordinator
NOLS Course: Fall Semester in the Rockies, 2003
Wilderness Medicine Certification: Wilderness First Responder
Instructor Since: 2007
Eighty percent of NOLS students find out about the organization from word of mouth. Behind that figure, you’ll find Kary Sommers, strategically planning strategies geared towards spreading the NOLS word.
Kary hails from Cary… No joke. Growing up in Cary, Illinois her desire to spend time in the outdoors began at a young age when she and her family would take vacations to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Here, she could hunt and fish while building a solid foundation in outdoor living skills. It was only a matter of time before this foundation would lead her towards extended expeditions.
After earning an undergraduate degree in Professional Communication from Elmhurst College in 2003, Kary decided she deserved something to celebrate; something extraordinary. “I gave myself a NOLS semester as a college graduation gift!” comments Kary. “I requested a catalog and when it came, I fell in love!”
For the next 96 days, she would get her first real dose of all the Rocky Mountains had to offer. While backpacking and winter camping in the Absaroka Range, climbing at Devil’s Tower and the Needles, and canyoneering on the Escalante River, Kary’s passion for the outdoors continued to grow. “Sometimes the most rewarding experiences are also the most challenging,” comments Kary. “Epic travel days can seem never ending. But in the end, that challenge is more educational than anything else.”
I guess you could say Kary caught the bug after her NOLS semester, because she’s been with the school ever since. Starting off as a Marketing Intern, she’s steadily climbed through the ranks to her current position, Word of Mouth Coordinator. Here, she manages all word of mouth and grassroots marketing for the entire school. “I’m the first and only Word of Mouth Coordinator,” says Kary. “This allows me to have a lot of creative license which keep things new and exciting.”
It was only a matter of time before Kary pursued the path of becoming a NOLS instructor. “I always wanted to become a NOLS instructor because my instructors had such a profound impact on me,” says Kary. “I wanted to do that for someone else.”
In May 2007, she spent 35-days fine-tuning her own skills, while acquiring more from her course mates and instructors. An avid backpacker and horse packer, she thrives in a variety of environments. “The biggest reward for me is working one-on-one with a student to help them reach a goal while out in the field,” expresses Kary. “Many students never think they can accomplish something so challenging and when they do, it’s a milestone.”
Kary’s energy never seems to sway from the NOLS spectrum. She loves NOLS and she’s not afraid to tell you. “I work here because I love the lifestyle and I’m passionate about what I do!” says Kary. “I believe strongly in the NOLS mission and am proud to help further NOLS as an organization.”