There are several items of importance for the AMGA and its members on the horizon: Near, mid, and long-range. As climbing guides and instructors know, it is vital to pay attention to the mountain moment, while also keeping an eye on what the horizon brings.
The AMGA's mission is “to be the leader in education, standards, and advocacy for professional guides and climbing instructors” and it is the BOD's obligation to craft policies that will aid in doing so. In joining a board, a new board member should come in with ideas for change, while also firmly understanding and respecting the existing efforts underway. And all board members need to be as transparent as possible to the membership regarding policy crafting and the impacts those policies will have on operational actions. Additionally, they should strive for stakeholder input.
Below, I have laid out the priorities that I wish to bring forward. My previous experiences on a spectrum of boards, coupled with a conscious practice of listening to others views, while also being mindful of not clinging too tightly to my own, provide me with the leadership qualities necessary to effectively contribute to existing board efforts while also shaping a successful path for the AMGA into the future.
Near-range, there is the implementation of the SOP. This has been a long-range process and its implementation is momentous. It is a process that is not without its complications and contentions, but I believe we cannot “let perfection be the enemy of the good” and with careful listening and response as implementation goes into effect, we can ensure that the end-goal—the professionalization of guiding in the American landscape—is one that betters that landscape for all.
Mid-range, there are several key areas of focus:
Continuing to open access to AMGA programming
Enhancing transparency and stakeholder input in AMGA decision-making
Advancing AMGA visibility among the public and land management agencies
Opening access first means making the AMGA a welcome environment for all people to pursue their professional guiding goals. Important steps have been made here and I look forward to helping move that further forward. Opening access also means examining and addressing the financial challenges that impede participation in AMGA programming. One successful response can be seen in the American Alpine Institute's programs that allow veterans to tap into Veterans Administration funding to finance guide education. This kind of innovation needs to be expanded.
The second mid-range goal, enhancing transparency and stakeholder input will involve a recalibration of how decision-making occurs at the higher levels of our organization. While I acknowledge the complexity of implementing programming in large organizations, I feel the AMGA often stumbles in doing so. A recent example regards the roll-out of the new evaluation rubric for Exams. I have seen no evidence that students in the various Exam tracks were consulted regarding a need or desire for these changes to occur or—if the changes were to occur—what they would like to see. Additionally, I am an SPI Provider. I use the same evaluation rubric used in Exams; there was no consultation with me or any other SPI Providers regarding this rubric change. This is just one example. Such instances undermine the AMGA membership's trust, commitment, and morale and these instances need to end.
Advancing visibility among the general public and land management agencies is a third area of focus. This mid-range goal dovetails with the long-range goal of increasing and enhancing access for AMGA trained/certified guides and instructors (see below). The AMGA Mission is “To be the leader in education, standards, and advocacy for professional guides and climbing instructors” and we are currently hitting the mark in regards to leading in education. The continued quality of that education lies in how guides perceive its value and much of that value is, in turn, influenced by public perceptions of the value of trained and certified guides/instructors. By way of example, a college could have an excellent training program, but if this isn't complemented by career connections, its value is sorely diminished. A public that recognizes and prioritizes the value of trained/certified guides and instructors connects those guides and instructors to a career that offers stability and reward. Therefore, priority must be placed on expanding the AMGA influence among the potential guided public and land management agencies.
One critical area of the public that the AMGA needs to influence are leaders in land management. Quite literally, land managers hold the key to the ability of guides to make a living in their profession. Great steps have already been made in the AMGA in terms of expanding visibility and influence among land managers: Today, AMGA certified guides serve as climbing rangers on Rainier, Denali, and other key areas. And many land management agencies are prioritizing staff professional development through AMGA training. We need to leverage these existing relationships while continuing to cultivate broader connections in the land management community. Through these relationships and connections, we can communicate the value that credential-based access presents to the public and to land-management agencies in terms of risk-management and resource conservation, building a future where credential-based access becomes increasingly the norm.
Climate change is the last—but ultimately most pressing—issue facing guiding. Warming mountains mean our workplaces are becoming increasingly hazardous and corollary effects like flooding and wildfires close some workplaces for significant portions of the year. We need stable workplaces to have stable careers. True, the AMGA is only a very small part of this complex global puzzle—but just because we can't do everything doesn't mean that we shouldn't do anything. Guides and instructors are leaders who help introduce people to the outdoors and, therefore, have influence in shaping people's opinions about and attitudes towards the outdoors and the effects climate change will have on it. I hope to work with the AMGA community to cultivate our ability to productively harness the power of that influence, through events like Climb the Hill, through our relationships with corporate sponsors, and through our daily interactions with the climbing public.
Qualifications & Qualities
Important steps have been made in diversifying the AMGA BOD in recent years. My inclusion on the BOD will not significantly broaden that diversity in terms of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or creed. One area in which I do offer significant diversity is geographic representation. There are currently 17 members of the BOD, two are based on the East Coast, and only one of those is in the Northeast. The last State of the Guiding Industry Report showed that 42% of guide/instructors live east of the Mississippi and 24% live in the Northeast. I intend to represent all of the AMGA membership and having a BOD member immersed in the literal and figurative landscape of eastern guiding is a strong step towards doing so.
I also present an educational and work history that adds depth to the BOD. Before pursuing full-time guiding in my thirties, I first directed the outdoor program at Georgetown University, earning a professional degree in NPO Management while there. Later, I was a faculty member in Recreation Management at Northern Vermont University. Along the way, I earned a masters in outdoor education and a doctoral degree in educational leadership. My experiences in program leadership, curriculum design and implementation, and educational theory will add depth and perspective to AMGA efforts.
My work and training will add further depth and perspective. For more than a decade, I have run my own independent guide operation, familiarizing me with the challenges of permits, insurance, and staffing, among many other angles. During nine of those summer seasons, I worked with one of the largest US guiding outfits, giving me insight into the experiences of the companies that employ a significant quantity of guides. While I took my first AMGA courses for professional development reasons while still in academia, I didn't start with intentionality on the certification track until my mid-thirties. I'm acutely familiar with the challenges faced by guides balancing home life, work demands, financial constraints, and the AMGA training process. It was even later that I decided to complete the full IFMGA training and exam process, wrapping that up in 2019. One departing board member is an IFMGA guide, one other will remain. It is useful to both have BOD representation at all stages of the certification process and to have the perspectives of those who have experienced those processes in full. I will bring that to the BOD. Lastly, my qualifications include being an SPI Provider. As an SPI Provider—and through my continued work with colleges—I have frequent contact with those looking to start in the guide-instructor world. I have a pulse on the challenges they perceive and I have a desire to assist them in meeting those challenges.
One of the things that I have always enjoyed about being a member of the AMGA and a member of the guide-instructor community is that it is a passionate and often opinionated community. I am no different. I am very passionate about my personal mountain recreation and my professional guiding and I have strong opinions related to both. One primary quality that I believe I bring to the table is that, while I have strong opinions, I consciously work to not cling to those opinions. And I am quite eager to have my opinions respectfully challenged and I do not let a fear of “inconsistency” keep me from modifying my opinions when it is clearly time to do so.
I realize that a person's opinions are largely a collection of their previous experiences. I find it quite unlikely that my set of life experiences are the perfect set of experiences that have resulted in the perfect set of opinions. Similarly, it is unlikely that anyone has the perfect set of opinions. With that in mind, I feel it is vital that opinions be challenged. And it is vital that this be done with respect. It's often—correctly—said that “Opinions are like #ssholes, everyone's got one”; to that I would add, “But I don't need to be an #sshole about my opinions.” I believe in the fundamental dignity and worth of a person, apart from their particular beliefs and I work to bring that to all my conversations, particularly the contentious ones. I look forward to bringing that belief to my work with the AMGA BOD, examining held opinions, evaluating new ones, adapting as necessary, building trust and respect, and forging productive paths forward for the entirety of the AMGA membership.
I appreciate you making the time to read this, reflective of your commitment to the future of the AMGA, and I welcome your input regarding the vision you have for the AMGA. I hope that the somewhat lengthy layout of the structure of my vision for my BOD candidacy/membership reflects my commitment to that future as well. I do hope to be an active part of that future as a BOD member and I appreciate your nomination and vote.