Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Go Beyond - Part II

The U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review’s annually published rankings of top schools are tainted by schools’ public relations efforts. School officials constantly joust with the publications’ ranking criteria to position their schools closer and closer to the top of the lists. With or without measurements of the student/teacher ratio, challenge index, dropout rate, and diversity index, it’s time to permanently place the following powerhouse schools on the tippy-top of both coveted lists.

Give it up for…
Outward Bound
NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School)

It’s a lot of work to navigate all of the details on both spine-tingling websites, so for the time being, enjoy the CliffsNotes’ version down below. But promise yourself to revisit them when you have the time to enjoy the breathtaking pictures and mind-swirling possibilities. Introducing yourself to Outward Bound and NOLS just might become one of the best gifts you ever give to yourself.

I wish I could tell you that I am a proud graduate of one of their courses, but I can’t. My post-Michigan years have been filled with obsession, and I long to hang one of their framed certificates next to my Michigan diploma…once again, revealing a larger than life accomplishment. Outward Bound and NOLS are about people, adventure, survival and returning yourself to a world that gets to know your world without gravity or borders. No tethering cell phones. No inconsequential deadlines. No bullshit.

What does that neglected part of my life feel like? After I experience it, in what ways will I be transformed?

Both schools are over 40 years old, and their programs and wilderness courses exist to help us develop an adventurous relationship with our self, a unique team of peers, and natural environments full of life, challenge, and discovery.

Courses include backpacking, canoeing, canyoneering, desert backpacking, dogsledding, horsepacking, mountaineering, rafting, rock climbing, sailing, sea kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, and wilderness medicine. Activities take place on four continents, and you can adventure for 2-9, 10-20, 21-39, 40+ or even 100+ days. You’ll also emerge with additional life skills after completing required hours of the Wilderness First Responder first aid course.

As you would expect, there is a price tag fastened to each course, but it’s not unrealistic for any of us to apply and participate in both of their scholarship programs.

Outward Bound Scholarships
NOLS Financial Aid

In addition, courses are available to us at all ages. As we become more experienced in the workplace, we can put pressure on employers to invest in our future using Outward Bound and NOLS as professional development resources. Many employers already pay for employees’ graduate courses, and these alternative wilderness courses net huge experiential rewards for fractions of the cost of traditional graduate degrees.

At some point in our young lives, we had conversations with people who encouraged us to work hard and prepare for college. Today, I hope I can start a conversation with you to encourage adventures that capture meaningful milestones beyond college. If you’re a current Michigan student, alumnus, or alumna interested in discussing these schools and their courses, feel free to contact me by visiting my inCircle profile. You’re also welcome to enjoy more amazing pics and a February 2005 mid-course letter (password: travel) written by a friend of mine who recently graduated from an 80+ day NOLS adventure.

FREE Outward Bound course catalog
FREE NOLS course catalog

Young and old, we find ourselves bleary-eyed with distractions, and we count on dramatic experiences to clear our vision. Whether it’s a Michigan education, the day we are engaged, the aftermath of a natural disaster, rescanning the last sentence in a life-changing book, or finding freedom on the sun-kissed face of a mountain; Outward Bound and NOLS tend to be one of the rare post-Michigan adventures empowering us to be proactive in finding the most vividly defined versions of ourselves.

With Outward Bound and NOLS, we get to pause…and absorb the powerful presence of the earth. Pause…and find the release that comes with self-awareness. And pause…to embrace the uninterrupted support of peers. Let’s keep them at the top of our lists. Go Beyond and Go Blue from Texas!!!