Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism

National Outdoor Leadership School and the U

Origin of the Partnership

The Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) have maintained a productive professional and collegial partnership spanning more than 25 years. Beginning in 1980, the two schools signed a memorandum of understanding through which NOLS students would receive University of Utah credits for participating in their NOLS expedition. As part of this agreement, the PRT faculty began yearly reviews of NOLS curriculum and instructor qualifications. Today, the relationship between the two organizations is characterized by high quality outcome and process-oriented research, educational exchange, and an annual scholarship provided to a PRT student to attend a NOLS course.

NOLS Background

NOLS is a wilderness education school, established in Wyoming in 1964 by mountaineer and educator Paul Petzoldt. NOLS’ mission is to be the “leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership that serve people and the environment.” In 1964, during their first summer of operation, NOLS served 100 students in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. Today, over 4,000 students attend expeditions around the world annually, ranging from week-long wilderness adventures in the canyons of Utah to semester long programs around the world. NOLS curriculum focuses on leadership, judgment and decision-making, communication, small group behavior, outdoor skills, and environmental awareness. Students are most typically college-age, although professional, adult, and youth programs are popular as well.

Educational Exchange

The partnership between NOLS and PRT is served by educational exchange. Several members of the PRT faculty teach for NOLS. Kirk Nichols began working for NOLS in 1986 and continues to instruct each year. John Cederquist teaches both NOLS alumni and custom courses, including the Copper River in Alaska. Throughout the years, a number of PRT graduate students and adjunct faculty have worked as NOLS instructors. At various points, NOLS faculty, including executive director John Gans, have taught classes for the Department. John Gookin, NOLS Research Manager, and Bruce Palmer, Director of Marketing, regularly teach special topics for the department.

NOLS Research Partnership

The partnership is also served through research. Led by Dr. Jim Sibthorp, Dr. Karen Paisley, and NOLS Research Manager John Gookin, a number of studies have been conducted on topics ranging from risk management to outcome achievement. Recent work has focused on the processes that lead to development and transfer of learning in adventure education.