Students of the Wilderness

Where the wilderness becomes a classroom and students become leaders.

WY NOT: Students of the Wilderness

Every decision has a repercussion- with those outcomes, an opportunity to learn is created. Relying heavily on experiential education, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) works with over 24,000 students a year. Students are pushed to their potential in courses in rock climbing, backpacking, sailing, skiing and more.

“It’s where you will test your mind and body in pursuit of the vertical and spend hours on the rock learning to dance up face climbs, or jam their way up cracks.” Says NOLS rock climbing instructor, Anna Haegel.

“Generally, so much of it is about your attitude and the attitude to immerse yourself in the education. Also, having and interest and openness to the uncertain, the unknown and even some adversity and one thing that we recognize is we train leaders who are good at dealing with uncertainty, with adversity and changing conditions.” explains NOLS Executive Director, John Gans.

In the mid-sixties when the outdoor movement was increasing; the wilderness act had just passed and colleges were starting outdoor programs, Paul Petzoldt, founder of NOLS began his work training leaders with skills in leadership appropriate to working in the back country and leading others in an outdoor experience. Today, NOLS international headquarters is still located in Lander, Wyoming.

 “Clearly, federal public lands are key to NOLS and key to who we are. The lands are our classroom. We are a school that doesn’t have regular classrooms and so therefore, Wyoming is key and our public lands and the quality of those lands is key to making that happen.” Gans explained.

The wilderness is our original home and it’s a place where you can return to. It’s where you find an openness to embrace uncertainty. Not only is it a classroom, but it is a place to spend time off camping, fishing, hiking, hunting and those are key to the Wyoming Experience.

"The Wyoming experience is at the core of our public land and our wildlife. It runs through our blood and our souls. That’s what goes on with so many visitors to Wyoming and what starts happening to them as they spend time in our precious state.” Says Gans. “I’m here because Wyoming gives you the space in which to get lost and in the process you can really find yourself.”

What better place to hone those skills than the solid granite mountain ranges in the Wind River of Wyoming? Not to mention other climbing opportunities throughout the state. From the basics to the pros, it’s the perfect spot to experience adventure from new heights.

Skills learned on the side of the mountain are not lost when the course is over. Many NOLS graduates have gone on to become leaders in their fields. They have taken the decision making and team work learned in the outdoors and applied it to everyday life allowing them to consider consequences of every situation and stand out as leaders.

Now we want to know: What’s your WY? Share your story with the hashtag #ThatsWY.


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