Thursday, May 21, 2020

Reflections from the 2020 Student Award Honree

It was a treat to both attend the WEA conference and help in the background as a HoneyRock grad student/staff member this past spring. This past year, I was introduced to the WEA by my supervisor at HoneyRock, Mike Odberg, as we worked to integrate our summer wilderness staff training and the WEA 6+1 curriculum. It was an exciting process to utilize the curriculum as a framework and see its success play out in our staff as they led trips with skill, empowerment, and enthusiasm. 

This conference was an exciting opportunity to see more of the WEA as an organization and, even more so, a community. It also helped me as an outdoor professional to connect (and reconnect) with other professionals, which has been helpful as I’ve stepped into a new position working with an outdoor orientation program at a college. I’m looking forward to staying connected with the WEA crew as a source of community, learning, and growth!

In my new position as the Assistant Director of Outdoor Programs at Kalamazoo College, I help to organize and lead our pre-orientation wilderness program, along with developing our student leaders throughout the school year. Already, a handful of the connections made at the conference have been helpful as we have had to adapt our spring programming due to the coronavirus. I also anticipate that the WEA curriculum will be helpful in our leader training here in Kalamazoo.

Jess Port
2020 Student Leader Award Honoree
President Emily McKenzie, Honoree Jess Port, Presenter Michael Odberg
Board President Emily McKenzie, Honorre Jess Port, Award Nominator Michael Odberg

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

An Uncertain World

The world we have known is changing, and it has already changed in many ways. What we so
easily took for granted as mundane and routine has been uprooted. COVID-19 has opened our eyes to
the vulnerability every one of us faces each day. Out workplaces, grocery stores, and homes all affected
by such an imaginably powerful force, it is enough for anyone to become anxious. No one truly knows
how everything will look in the near future as we all scramble to figure out our unique situations. The
amount of control we once exerted over our lives no longer there. The freedoms we so easily took for
granted feel pressed upon and even taken away. In this time of uncertainty, what does it mean to be an
outdoor professional?
Gabe Garcez with Brad Daniel (left) and Andrew Bobilya (right)
Gabe Garcez received his COE Clinic Certificate from instructors
Brad Daniel (left) and Andrew Bobilya (right) at the 2020 ICOL at HoneyRock

: it is as if the entire world holds its breath as it ruminates on this word. There was
no action plan for such a swift societal pivot. For all our planning and frameworks we never saw COVID-
19 coming. It kind of feels like a wilderness trip gone wrong, doesn’t it? There were plans, expectations,
preparations, and precautions taken, but - as we all know - to be in the wilderness is to be in the unknown.

Because within the unknown there is inherent uncertainty. The difference is it is an uncertainty that we expect; changing weather, blocked paths, a forgotten injury creeping up on someone. There is a mindset we fall into while in the wilderness, a mental space where we expect to be surprised, where our plans have

For all its beauty and wonder the wilderness can be harsh and unforgiving. Yet we constantly
bring others into it. So why? Why do we put others in situations where even when we have taken every
precaution we cannot guarantee their safety? I would say it is because we all know of the transformative
power of the unknown, the growth and experience not found elsewhere. The difference for the outdoor
professional is we have become accustomed to uncertainty in the wilderness.

At this moment, countless others are facing levels of uncertainty they have never felt before.
There is no guide to help them along the way, though -- no calming presence. I believe that now, more
than ever, the outdoor professional has something of value for every person. Every home, school,
workplace, gathering place has become a wilderness experience, a trip into the unknown. With
uncertainty in every step forward, each of us must grow in our capacity to handle uncertainty. I believe
more than providing outdoor experiences quickly, our next step should be to empower those around us
to take up a wilderness mindset, so that even in an uncertain world others can experience peace.
Gabriel Garcez
Coordinator for Bear Adventures at Baylor University
2020 Certified Outdoor Educator Clinic Student
Gabe also invites you to join a Community Chat on May 28th 
to continue this discussion or connect over other issues. Read more here.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Reflections from the 2020 Paul Petzoldt Award Honoree

Now that the spring beauties, magnolias, and redbuds are busting out in Forgottonia, I find myself pondering the WEA Conference at Honey Rock of this late winter. It was a long one that has turned into a longer spring. Thanks again to the board, conference committee, and volunteers, for putting together such a wonderful program. Especially Rob, Mike, and all of Honey Rock staff for hosting with such kindness and thoughtful hospitality to our needs. Having been on the production side of conferences before, I appreciate how much work and midnight oil it takes to make it go. It is always good to get together in vivo to chat, compare notes, and commune with kindred spirit. 

It is especially important to stay connected with colleagues and fellow outdoor educators because we operate in such isolated venues and locations. Contending as we so often do with competition for scarce resources, I expect times will only get harder as the world attempts to address the emergent situation. I am reminded of the friends I have made through the association and the support both moral and practical they have rendered over the years. Keep these WEA friends and networks in mind as you try to solve the problems emerging from the COVID situation. Fulfilling our mission requires we get up close and personal with our students, campers, and clients. Sharing what ideas and information we have will help to weather the situation. Let’s Keep in touch!

Mike McGowan
2020 Paul Petzoldt Leadership Award Honoree and Keynote Speaker
Jeff Tindal introducing Dr McGowan
Presented to Mike by long-time WIU colleague and friend, Jeff Tindall.

President Emily McKenzie presents the award
Award presented by WEA Board President, Emily McKenzie
former-student Michael Odberg with Mike McGowan
Mike with former-student and HoneyRock conference host, Michael Odberg

Friday, May 15, 2020

Nominate Colleagues for Association Awards Honoring Excellence

In 2018 Dr. Andrew Bobilya received The WEA Certified Outdoor Educator Award at the conference held in Utah.  This was meaningful to him because he “believes in the work of the WEA and its potential to improve practice in wilderness education. Because of this and my commitment to integrating WEA curriculum in my courses, it is an honor to be recognized by my peers and the WEA. The award came as a surprise and was encouraging.”

When asked why others should nominate their colleagues and/or peers Andrew stated “These awards offer a wonderful opportunity to highlight the good work our colleagues are doing and to be an encouragement. I encourage all WEA members to consider nominating an individual or organization for at least one award this year.”

Reflections from the 2020 Student Award Honree

It was a treat to both attend the WEA conference and help in the background as a HoneyRock grad student/staff member this past spring. This ...