In Its 27th Year, Wilderness Risk Management Conference Introduces Inaugural Online Event, October 19 - 23, 2020

Early bird registration now available, prices increase on September 18th
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Lander, Wyo—September 7, 2020—NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School), in partnership with Outward Bound and the Student Conservation Association (SCA), announced that the 27th annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) will pivot to an online offering. This industry-leading event is scheduled for October 19 to 23, 2020, and registration is available online for individuals and organizations.

In the midst of the global pandemic, the conference steering committee determined that topics of risk management in wilderness education remain a top priority for the outdoor and experiential education sector. They identified that a way to host the multi-day event online would be a worthy endeavor and formally announced the conference earlier this summer. Event organizers hope to attract attendees from around the world, given the accessibility of an online offering and intentionally set the conference registration rates at over a 50% savings from past years to encourage attendance in a critical time of uncertainty and demanding risk management needs.

Conference registration is open and available online. Early bird rates for the three-day online conference are $295 per person or $950 for an organization and up to five of its employees. Early bird registration ends on September 18 when rates increase to $345.

“We’ve all faced a huge number of challenges already, and my guess is we have a number in front of us before the year is out. Given these challenges, I believe the WRMC is coming at a good time for our industry. We have some great content planned, including new and traditional risk management topics” says Mike Pigg, Director of Risk at Outward Bound USA and WRMC Steering Committee Chair.”

The conference inspires and provides professionals in the outdoor industry to connect with the power of nature, develop leadership skills, and gain practical risk management skills that impact guided, facilitated, and structured outdoor programming. The conference is also known for creating networking opportunities with industry leaders and influencing risk management standards for wilderness education. With hands-on experiences from operators in pandemic times, conference organizers have intentionally included topical discussions to provide shared learnings around COVID-19 field and classroom practices.

Following the positive feedback from last year’s attendees to opening speaker Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin of the Avarna Group and given current national conversations on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, conference attendees will have the opportunity to engage on topics accounting for risk management not just between the individual and the physical environment, but also the social and cultural environment and the socio-emotional wellness of participants who come to these spaces with different lived experiences, expectations, and value-add to what programs offer.

Event organizers announced José Gonazález as the keynote speaker who will open the conference with a session entitled “Holding Space for Equitable Sociocultural Risk Management.” Founder and director emeritus of Latino Outdoors, José is an experienced educator, having spent time in K-12 public schools, as an environmental education advisor, outdoor education instructor and coordinator, and university adjunct faculty. He is currently a partner in the Avarna Group and through his own consulting. His work has focused on equity & inclusion frameworks and practices in the environmental, outdoor, and conservation fields.

This year’s conference programming will feature new topics focused on wilderness risk management in the time of emerging COVID-19 issues and will also hold space for equitable sociocultural risk management. With the online format, attendees will be able to participate in all workshops increasing learning opportunities.

The conference schedule includes an “Equity in the Outdoors” panel discussion and is structured to offer time and virtual space for attendees to gather, connect, and further build community early in the conference, with specific focus on identity. Affinity spaces will be held for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and the Queer/Trans communities to connect with each other, and for white individuals to unpack privilege and power dynamics in service of unlearning and relearning the role white folks play in dismantling systemic inequity.

The WRMC will also provide pre-conference workshops between October 12 and 16, networking opportunities, as well as on-demand content in the form of “short talks” and workshop recordings available for a limited time post-conference.

With nearly 30 presentations and workshops in the conference agenda, attendees can expect a comprehensive range of topics spanning administrative risk management training and psychological first aid to holistic crisis management and international incident response.

In its 27-year history, the WRMC has brought together representatives from over 1,000 organizations representing outdoor and adventure education providers, guide services, conservations corps, field science researchers, university programs, secondary schools, and summer camps.

For Outward Bound Canada’s director of learning and adventure, Brendan Madden, the conference provides valuable perspective: “As a busy adventure education administrator, the WRMC is the cornerstone of my year. It is a place where colleagues and competitors gather to compare notes and ask the hard questions. By coming together, we make everyone stronger.”

Close to three decades ago, NOLS recognized the need for collaboration across the outdoor industry to share, expand, and refine risk management practices. The inaugural conference took place in September 1994, and soon afterward, Outward Bound and SCA joined as partners in hosting the annual event. Since its inception, the WRMC has offered a forum for learning and sharing common practices in wilderness risk management, helping to establish an industry-wide culture of open dialogue.

About the WRMC

The Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) unites hundreds of organizations annually to educate wilderness practitioners on practical risk management skills. Hosted by NOLS, in collaboration with legacy partners Outward Bound and the Student Conservation Association, its core objective is to offer an outstanding educational experience that helps mitigate the risks inherent in exploring, working, teaching, and recreating in wild places. To learn more, visit www.nols.edu/wrmc

About NOLS

NOLS is the world’s leading wilderness school. A nonprofit based in Lander, WY, the school provides students the opportunity to step forward—whether on an expedition, wilderness medicine or custom course. Students of all ages graduate from their courses prepared to step forward and lead their communities in a changing world. Graduates have a lifelong desire for leadership, commitment to continued skills development, and ongoing education. Since 1965, NOLS has embraced and explored the unknown through outdoor and classroom-based experiences. To learn more about NOLS, call 800.710.6657 or visit www.nols.edu.

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