Human Resources Director

Human Resources Director

National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

Lander, Wyoming or Remote   |   August 3, 2020

About NOLS

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 15 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. 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.

Like all organizations in the travel and educational spaces, NOLS has been dramatically affected by the impacts of COVID-19. In April 2020, the organization underwent a significant downsizing. NOLS restarted limited summer operations at about 15% of normal program volume and plan to return to fall and spring offerings about 50% of normal size. NOLS will be operating domestically only until at least boreal autumn of 2021. As such, the organization has had dramatic shifts in staffing numbers and approaches.

NOLS is at an exciting inflection point despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a new President who joined the organization this year, the organization is currently having thoughtful and intentional conversations about the evolution of this influential organization. NOLS is now carefully re-opening its operations and 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 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 working with a Steering Committee assembled by people within or associated with NOLS whose voices reflect an array of traditionally underrepresented community members. We believe that elevating these voices in the dialogue to build a more equitable and inclusive organization will better inform recommendations for where and how the organization should invest in external diversity, equity and inclusion expertise as well as participate in ongoing assessment of needed progress.

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.

Wilderness Medicine

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

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.

Risk Services

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

The Opportunity

This is an opportunity for an experienced HR professional to make a real, measurable footprint at an organization whose impact reaches far and wide. Reporting to the Faculty & Studies Director and working closely with NOLS’ new President, this HR leader will have decision-making influence on a new organizational design as it relates to HR and will help the organization to consider which systems and procedures it will develop, implement, and invest in in order to best support its staff. The next HR leader does not need to come from the nonprofit world – what matters is that this individual is solutions-oriented, collaborative and adaptive when it comes to thinking about the human resource function at NOLS.

Now is a pivotal time to join the organization as the school responsibly reopens and considers how its structures and systems may need to evolve.  The Human Resources Director will be responsible for managing 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 warm, passionate, and dedicated staff who care deeply about the environment, equity, and intentional learning experiences.

Key Responsibilities

HR Systems and Process Implementation

  • Leads the selection and implementation of a new HRIS for the organization as part of a larger organizational IT modernization effort.
  • Partners with the Executive Team to determine the processes and procedures that NOLS should invest in long-term to follow best practice and drive efficiency.
  • Ensures that NOLS is compliant with U.S. Federal and State labor laws and regulations, and is familiar with international resources to support non-US locations in their compliance.
  • Plans, develops, and administers benefits plans and evaluates compensation structure yearly. 

Team Leadership and Cross-Department Collaboration 

  • Evaluates the human resources organization structure and team plans for continual improvement of the efficiency and effectiveness of the department.
  • Collaborates with finance and Executive Team to manage the Human Resources annual budget.
  • Oversees and manages the work of two HR staff members and potentially other staff depending on future structure.
  • Builds relationships with departments and leaders across the organization to increase communication and transparency and to support HR needs.

Talent Development and Retention 

  • Partners with departments across the organization to develop effective recruitment strategies that attract talented and deeply committed staff at all organizational levels.
  • Develops workforce planning strategies that embrace and advance diversity at all levels of the organization.
  • Implements and trains staff on onboarding practices, performance management, and exit interviews and gathers data effectively to share with leadership and the Board.

Equity, Inclusion and Employee Relationship Management 

  • Collaborates with DE&I Manager to evaluate, modify, and implement equitable organization-wide policies and systems.
  • Serves as a tactful department leader for employees to discuss confidential and personal experiences such as sexual harassment and misconduct within the organization.
Candidate Profile

Key Competencies

The following is a representative list of knowledge, skills, and abilities recommended for this role:

  • HR Expertise: Fluency with primary HR functions: employee relations, compensation and benefits design, performance management, HR administration and compliance.
  • Systems Thinker: Hands-on experience with implementing and managing an HRIS and other HR systems for a medium-sized organization or company.
  • Inclusivity: Understanding of best practices and experience in building inclusive and engaged workplaces.
  • Equity: Cultural awareness and sensitivity with a lens on racial, gender and physical accessibility and a track record of supporting diverse constituencies.
  • Conflict resolution: Ability to deal with conflict effectively and to manage difficult employee relations confidently and calmly.
  • International HR understanding: A chief collaborator and supporter of the program directors in seeking out information and resources regarding international compliance. A general understanding of and awareness of international labor law would be considered a plus.
  • Team leadership: Demonstrated ability to manage a team of HR professionals.
  • Communication: Ability to establish rapport with multiple department heads, bringing a sense of inquiry and curiosity. Adept at keeping all stakeholders apprised of relevant information, status of deliverables, and progress towards goals.

Koya Leadership Partners has been exclusively engaged by NOLS for this engagement. Kara Teising and Libby Cornelssen are leading this search. To make recommendations or to express your interest in this role please use this link or email Kara or Libby at [email protected] or [email protected]. All nominations, 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 Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners, a member 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.

For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit