December 2021 Newsletter
Dear friends of WRFI,
With the end of the year quickly approaching, all of us at WRFI find ourselves feeling particularly grateful for your continued support. After taking the 2020 field season off due to the global pandemic, we were thrilled to get back into the field in 2021.
As a small nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of supporters like you to keep our course tuition reasonable and to provide scholarships for those in need. During this holiday season, please consider donating to the Wild Rockies Field Institute. Your gift will help to:

  • Establish a new scholarship fund for BIPOC students, increasing equity in access to outdoor education opportunities
  • Keep WRFI's operations afloat during our off-season, allowing us to continue working on updating and improving next season's courses
  • Support WRFI's ongoing legacy of place-based education in the Rocky Mountain West

In addition to asking for your help ensuring that WRFI courses continue for generations to come, I’m also writing today to let you know that at the end of the year I’ll be transitioning out of my position at WRFI. While I’m excited to help lead the gap year movement for the country in my next role as Executive Director of the Gap Year Association, it is definitely bittersweet leaving the organization that has held my heart for the last eight years. It has been a highlight of my career to serve as the Executive Director of the Wild Rockies Field Institute. We weathered a global pandemic and came out stronger as an organization, and now it feels like the right time to pass the torch on to new leadership.

WRFI's board of directors are working diligently to ensure a smooth transition. As they conduct a national search for WRFI's next Executive Director, we are thrilled that Gail Gutsche has agreed to serve as Interim Director upon my departure. Gail has been with WRFI since the organization’s inception in 1993, when her then-partner, Matt Thomas, co-founded WRFI with Dave Havlick and Tim Bechtold. I’m grateful to Gail, the WRFI board of directors, and our amazing instructor team and office staff for their commitment to WRFI’s vision of fostering the next generation of leaders and environmental stewards. WRFI’s future is bright and I’m excited for the opportunities ahead. 

Thank you again for your support and friendship over the years. Wishing you all the best in the new year ahead, 
Keri McWilliams
WRFI Executive Director
2021—WRFI's first time back in the field since our pre-pandemic season in 2019—was a testament to the widespread need for WRFI's model of experiential, place-based higher education. This field season, we welcomed:
67 students
representing 26 different colleges and universities
from 14 different states
into the field on 7 successful courses—including WRFI's first-ever high school course!
Though a global pandemic made many things pause, students' need for real connection and meaningful interactions with landscapes and communities was not one of them. We're looking forward to continuing this work into 2022 and beyond.
We have one more info session scheduled before fall semester wraps up! Info sessions are great opportunities to meet WRFI staff and alumni, hear stories from the field, and ask questions about how students can make WRFI a part of their college plan. Anyonefrom anywhere!is welcome to attend. We hope to see you there!
Register for a Zoom link below:

**Please note that times are listed in Mountain Time**
Desert Canyons & Cultures | Mar 22 - May 23, 2022

Energy & Climate Change in Montana | June 14 - July 11, 2022

Summer Semester | June 16 - July 27, 2022

In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem | June 20 - July 10, 2022

Climate Change & Visions of a Sustainable Future | July 20 - Aug 9, 2022

Human/Land Relations | Aug 24 - Oct 25, 2022

Desert Canyons & Cultures | Sept 13 - Nov 14, 2022
Job opportunities for WRFI alumni

WRFI HIRING AN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR! Individuals with a proven track record in fiscal and organization management, fundraising, and program development are encouraged to apply. Familiarity with environmental field education is a plus.

WRFI is also currently accepting field instructor applications for our 2022 field season! WRFI Instructors must have a master's degree or higher, Wilderness First Responder training, college-level teaching experience, and outdoor group management experience.

Support WRFI during your holiday shopping this year:

Check out the goodies available in the WRFI STORE!
This holiday season, find goodies for the WRFIphiles in your life from the WRFI shop! Our online store is now supplied with some new arrivals including Nalgenes and ceramic mugs, in addition to our classic stock of T-shirts, hats, and bandannas.

WRFI's 2022 wall calendars are also now available in our online store! Congratulations to WRFI Colorado Plateau alum Eliza Maleski for winning the top prize in our 2021 photo contest with her desert photo cover shot. Visit our photo contest webpage to take a look at the other winning photos featured alongside each month in our 2022 calendar. Photographers include alumni and instructors from nine different WRFI courses over the years.
After an eight-year tenure as WRFI’s Executive Director, Keri McWilliams will be moving on to the next phase in her professional career at the end of 2021. All of us here at WRFI are, of course, excited for Keri’s next adventure at the helm of the Gap Year Association. At the same time, we must acknowledge that her exceptional leadership, light, and laughter will be sorely missed. Read on for words from folks in the wide WRFI orbit who have been touched by Keri's remarkable guidance, care, and friendship over the years:

“Sure, Keri is strong in all the ways an ED needs to be strong: she's extremely organized, highly communicative, etc. etc. But what makes Keri unique is that she has always been fiercely dedicated to the health and safety of her staff and to delivering an unforgettable experience for all WRFI students. I know Keri spent many nights thinking about the classes in the field and especially about the wellbeing of instructors like myself trying to make difficult decisions in adverse conditions. I slept better in the field knowing that Keri would move heaven and earth if we required support. Gap Year's staff and clients have absolutely no idea how lucky they are to be bringing Keri aboard. We will miss Keri intensely but can't imagine a more exciting new direction for her.” -Mason Voehl, WRFI Instructor 
“I have a deep admiration for Keri’s approach to leadership. She is willing to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty with all aspects of WRFI. No task is too small! It is because of this approach that she has cultivated a very loyal and hardworking staff. The WRFI Board is going to miss Keri’s boundless energy. Sending her all the best on her next adventure!” -Libby Metcalf, WRFI Board President
“I was on the selection committee/board when Keri was hired. I remember how she stood out among the other candidates and how absolutely thrilled we were when she accepted. It didn’t take Keri long to figure out what a roller coaster ride the revenue stream at WRFI could be and I remember when she figured out what a difference one student made in the financial health of the organization. Keri brings energy wherever she goes, fights for what she believes is the right path, and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty in deep problem solving. I think she is a gem of a human and I’m so glad I know her!” -Sara Smith, former WRFI board member
“Keri’s contributions to the Wild Rockies Field Institute are deep and lasting. Her legacy includes stabilizing the organization’s financials, pivoting with curricular and geographic updates and revisions to courses, overseeing critical administrative updates including a new website, managing a rotating cast of field instructors and staff, and perhaps most importantly, maintaining her characteristically warm sense of humor! With Keri at the helm, WRFI grew up and stepped into a more mature and sophisticated version of itself. The organization is poised to continue its transformative work on solid footing and with ever increasing potential to expand its considerable horizons as a national leader in experiential field-based education." -Bethany Applegate, former WRFI Instructor/Outreach Manager
"Keri goes above and beyond, always. She's always thinking of what's best for students and instructors: I've seen her bend over backward to help a student get onto a course that she knows they'll benefit from, and drive hours to bring snacks or offer help to a group that's in a tight spot. Keri is the best advocate and support system we as instructors and also the students could wish for. WRFI has been so incredibly fortunate for the work Keri has put in—she will be missed!" -Kitty Galloway, WRFI Instructor
“If there was a Yelp for leaders, Keri would get 5 out of 5 stars. I consistently admire the way Keri keeps an even keel. That is, whatever comes up during a tumultuous field season, Keri directs, delegates, and empowers others to meet the challenges at hand. As a leader, I have never seen Keri falter. Of course, personally, she has her struggles, just like everyone. And I have always appreciated how she's willing to be personally vulnerable with her team. She sets a tone of caring and compassion, curiosity and interest. But when a decision needs to be made, when directions need to be given, Keri has always risen to the task. I couldn't be more grateful to learn from her example.” -Joe Loviska, WRFI Instructor
“When I first reached out to Keri about WRFI putting on their first ever WRFI high school program I was admittedly a bit nervous. I explained that I thought there was large potential in this market and could potentially open the door to higher education for many. Not batting an eye, she remained her cool, calm, collective, thoughtful diplomatic self and simply replied, “Let’s do it”. There’s no one really like Keri and her leadership is simply unparalleled. I am so grateful for our partnership over the time that I have known Keri and I know that The Gap Year Association is about to get their socks blown right off. Thank you Keri, for simply being you, for your hard work, dedication, friendship, down to earth nature, and for continuing to be genuinely curious and wanting to improve yourself, learn and grow. Your impact at WRFI has been outstanding and I wish you only the best. Cheers to you my friend.” -Grace Gardner, WRFI board member
"Keri has led WRFI with the utmost stewardship, in the same way the organization in-and-of-itself works to bring this value to the fore for its alumni. Perpetually equipped with information and critical thinking during complex situations; she always unlocked the staff, board, and organization's full potential. In a world full of ‘gate-keepers,’ Keri is a ‘key-maker.’ No doubt her leadership ethic will serve our world for the better in the years to come." -Molly White, former WRFI board member
“In all the time I've been at WRFI, Keri has been the even-keel of the organization—steadily building a highly effective board; organizing our books, permits and records; retaining highly skilled instructors; all the while empathetically supporting prospective students and their parents. Keri steered the organization through a pandemic that put our educational programming on hold for a year—turning it into an opportunity to focus on essential capacity building. Keri has managed to do all this while navigating the inevitable challenges that arise during backcountry travel—all with calm and thoughtfulness accented by a good sense of humor. Thank you, Keri and good luck!” -Katie Nelson, WRFI Instructor/former Field Education Coordinator
“It is a very special thing to work for someone who is simultaneously caring, enthusiastic, motivating, open-minded, funny, and exceptionally skilled at their work. WRFI is a better organization because of Keri’s leadership. I’m going to miss her a whole lot." -Mel Buzzard, WRFI Outreach Manager 

You'll always be a part of the WRFI family.
Wild Rockies Field Institute is a 501(c)3 organization. Your gift is fully tax deductible. Our Federal Identification Number is 81-0487425.