Founded in 1965 and headquartered in Lander, Wyoming, NOLS is an international nonprofit organization that teaches wilderness-based skills with a mission to be the leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership that serve people and the environment.
NOLS is administratively based in Lander, Wyoming, in the foothills of the Wind River Range. With a population of around 7,500, Lander is located on territory traditionally used by indigenous people, including the Northern Arapaho, Eastern Shoshone, Cheyenne, Bannock, and Crow. Public lands within a short drive of town provide access to hiking, biking, skiing, and rock climbing. NOLS supports the realistic needs of remote work, and this role can potentially be based remotely, although Lander-based is preferred.
The mission and impact of NOLS reaches far and wide, with 14 locations worldwide and operations in all 50 states. In pre-COVID times, NOLS enrolled more than 28,000 students and employed nearly 1,400 full-time and part-time staff with an annual budget of approximately $40 million. With COVID-related shutdowns, the school is operating in limited domestic and very limited international capacity, and is on a return trajectory from a dramatic downsizing in April, 2020. We are in a rebuilding phase of both programs and personnel, and are examining the opportunities presented to re-evaluate long-standing structures and personnel policies to align with our current realities and forward looking goals.
Today, there are 360,000 active alumni all over the world who have completed NOLS courses. A student’s experience ranges anywhere from four hours to several months in classroom and/or wilderness settings. Curriculum varies by course type and may include outdoor skills, wilderness medicine, applied leadership, and risk management.
NOLS is at an exciting inflection point as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. With a new President who joined the organization in 2020, the organization is currently having thoughtful and intentional conversations about the evolution of this influential organization. NOLS has carefully re-opened its operations and is running courses in a responsible manner, and there has been a growth in engagement from potential students who have a renewed interest in the empowerment that comes from a skill mastered, a peak summited, and a barrier overcome.
Central to NOLS’ mission is an explicit commitment to growing our understanding and practice of diversity, equity and inclusion. This commitment is always evolving as a result of feedback and input of engaged alumni and staff worldwide. Today, the NOLS Executive Team is in the final phases of selecting an external consultant to begin guiding us towards more effective strategies and engagement of traditionally underrepresented voices and identities within both NOLS and the outdoor education industry.
As an organization, NOLS is constantly evolving and changing, and while it began as an outdoor skills school in a small cabin in Sinks Canyon, Wyoming, today the organization encompasses a wide range of programming:
NOLS offers hundreds of expeditions at locations around the world each year, with options for gap year programs, study abroad programs, adult expeditions, and affinity courses for women, POC, military and LGBTQ+ identifying individuals. The curriculum for these courses has been carefully designed to foster leadership, wilderness skills, risk management, environmental studies and goal-setting abilities for every student.
NOLS Wilderness Medicine is the world’s largest provider of remote medical certification. In its history, NOLS Wilderness Medicine has run courses in 50 US states and 46 countries. In a typical year, NOLS Wilderness Medicine will run over 1,000 courses. NOLS wilderness medicine courses are taught by highly qualified and intentional educators and prepare students to recognize, treat and prevent injuries common in wilderness contexts. Wilderness Medicine students come from diverse backgrounds ranging from federal agencies to outdoor recreationalists and military contractors to wilderness therapy professionals.
Custom Education at NOLS are courses customized for a team or organization with their respective desired skills, goals and core values in mind. These courses have been utilized by corporate teams, educational institutions, military units and travel providers all over the world.
NOLS offers programming in risk management for outdoor leaders, travel companies, guide companies, service learning organizations, scientist groups and more. Through training, consulting, the annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference or the NOLS/REI outdoor enthusiast trainings, individuals build a skill set for managing risk grounded in best practices.
To learn more about the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), visit www.nols.edu.
The Chief People Officer (“CPO”) will lead, manage and grow the critical talent resources of NOLS.
Reporting to the President, the CPO will be responsible for developing & executing the people strategy, and supporting the strategic direction of the organization. This leader will be able to influence the future of the organization as it works to continue to maintain an exceptional student experience.
This leader will be driving the restructure and rebuild of the People function at NOLS. As a member of the executive team, the CPO will be charged with scoping out the future of NOLS’s employee culture and infrastructure. They will need to be a skilled relationship navigator who can gather buy-in for a new vision within an institution with pre-existing culture and history. This is a change agent who brings rigor, a passion for problem-solving and an inspirational leadership style.
The successful candidate will bring a demonstrated understanding of the importance of a vibrant and inclusive employee culture. The CPO will manage the strategy and processes related to recruiting, building, rewarding and retaining a growing team of exceptional professionals. They will also be able to build out a team beneath them and hire a talented staff to resource this function properly.
This is an opportunity for a human resources and culture expert to make a measurable footprint at an organization whose impact reaches far and wide. NOLS is looking for a candidate who does not shy away from a heavy lift and who feels comfortable navigating the challenges of diverse opinions and perspectives.
This is a pivotal time to join the organization as the school transitions from a home-grown human resources model to creating an experienced and professionalized human resources function. The CPO will be responsible for building a team to manage the development and implementation of human resources policies including recruitment, retention, professional development, benefits and compensation, employee relations, and employee communications. This is a unique opportunity for a motivated human resource leader to work alongside a warm, passionate, and dedicated staff who care deeply about the environment, equity, and intentional learning experiences.
Key responsibilities of the CPO include:
- Operate as an active member of NOLS’s Executive Leadership Team;
- Design and communicate a People Strategy by developing a keen understanding of the school’s goals, strategies, and inclusive culture;
- Set near-term priorities to support the building of an HR function, while simultaneously developing long-term initiatives to support a change in the operating model;
- Oversee the HR function, focusing on change management and organizational effectiveness, talent development and shaping, nurturing and sustaining a culture of inclusion and equity;
- Build a competitive total rewards philosophy, ensuring processes and policies are in place alongside exceptional compliance systems to foster high quality operations;
- Ensure first-class delivery of HR support to each location, domestic and international, with responsibility for excellent execution of operations across the broad HR agenda;
- Lead the implementation of an HRIS as part of a broader schoolwide enterprise implementation that will provide data to manage the talent and meet business strategies;
- Develop workforce planning strategies that embrace and advance mirroring the values of the community at all levels of the organization; and
- Collaborate with an external consulting firm to imbed recommendations from cultural assessment into systems and processes.
The ideal candidate will have the following professional and personal qualities, skills, and characteristics:
- Experience in companies or organizations known for having “best in class” HR practices;
- Strong people skills and rigor around driving change among diverse perspectives;
- Hands-on experience building human capital capabilities for organizations in the midst of growth and transition;
- Excellent communication skills and experience establishing and marketing a successful brand and a compelling employee value proposition;
- A developer and enabler with a proven ability to accelerate the pace of innovation and change across an organization;
- A seasoned executive leader with experience playing a critical role in major strategic initiatives and building broad cross-organizational momentum;
- Demonstrated excellence in transforming diversity, equity and inclusion practices across an organization;
- Demonstrated success in the creation, implementation, and integration of progressive human resource and talent systems, processes and policies in a user-centric environment;
- Experience with successful and innovative approaches to talent, coupled with a proven ability to establish programs to attract, retain and develop a diverse workforce in a competitive labor environment;
- Business and financial acumen, as demonstrated by a clear ability to understand the broader strategy and market context of the school, identify its success drivers, and support them effectively both through HR strategies and broader recommendations; and
- The ability to lead and manage all functional areas of human resources, including talent acquisition and development, learning, organizational design, compensation and benefits, data and operations, and HR business partnerships.
Compensation & Benefits
Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience.
Kara Teising and Libby Cornelssen of Koya Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.
NOLS as an equal opportunity employer. NOLS is committed to building a diverse community that is inclusive of people from all backgrounds. NOLS does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, genetics information, disability unrelated to job or admission requirements, or veteran status. The school’s nondiscrimination policy applies to all phases of its employment process, its admission and financial aid programs, and to all other aspects of its educational programs and activities. Retaliation directed to any person who pursues a discrimination complaint or grievance, participates in a discrimination investigation, or otherwise opposes unlawful discrimination is prohibited.
About Koya Partners
Koya Partners, a part of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.
At Koya, we don’t just accept difference—we celebrate it, support it, and thrive on it for the benefit of our team, our clients, and the communities we serve.
Koya is an equal opportunity employer fully committed to creating an environment and team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, styles, and experiences. We encourage all to apply because we believe a diversity of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone. Koya does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, military status, veteran status, genetic information, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state, or local law.
For more information about Koya Partners, visit www.koyapartners.com.