Welcoming cohort 13 to the Institute family

I got the opportunity to meet our newest cohort of graduate students on their first day of class last month and was able to spend some time with them for the rest of the week. It was fun listening to the rounds of introductions and the sharing of their life stories, and remembering myself in that position a year ago. I watched as they started opening up to each other, talking in groups of two or three on our campus tour at Western Washington University, where they’ll spend some time this summer.
So why do I get to go play with the new grads? As part of my leadership track this summer I’m the Community Facilitator—I get to connect the new cohort of graduate students with my cohort (currently in residence at the Learning Center). I also have the task of creating and facilitating workshops and check-ins with the new cohort.

This is an interesting challenge and one that I’m excited about. It’s a way for me to think back to last summer when I was a new grad student and think about what would have been beneficial for my group, and also what I want to pass on to this new group.
My first thought was that we never created a Safe Space Agreement within our cohort. So off I went, to develop a Safe Space workshop. Effective communication and leadership styles are things I’m glad we did work on, so I’m adding those to the list as well. Other workshops will come from the specific needs of this cohort as they begin their year-long residency at the Learning Center.

c13Cohort 13 on their first field trip – among other places, they visited Padilla Bay, Mount Erie, and some amazing bakeries. Photo by Ryan Weisberg

Who chooses to join the ranks of this very small intentional community on the shores of Diablo Lake? We get people with varying backgrounds, college degrees, and experiences, so what draws them all here?
I knew that I wanted to have more of a background in natural history  and non-profit administration to help me go further in this field. Others in my cohort came here for similar reasons, as well as “to study hippies,” as one of them said. (I think she was probably joking…)
I also asked some of the new graduate students why they chose to come here:
“I chose the program for the science field study component.” – April Sakowski
“Last spring I was rolling the proverbial Google dice, when I started searching for a ‘career.’  Somehow I stumbled across the Chattermarks blog and spent an afternoon and evening reading through all of the posts.  Adventure, happiness, fulfillment, curiosity, and joy were all themes reiterated throughout the writings.  Who WOULDN’t want a career that amongst other things made you truly happy to be in your line of work?  It may have been simple naivety, but in applying to Grad school, I only sent in one application.  Half way through my first quarter as a C13’er I know I have made the right decision and can’t wait to see what lies in my future.” – Sam Hale
“It seemed like the Western Washington University/North Cascades Institute Masters in Environmental Education program was the best way to become a better teacher, learn how to manage a non-profit, earn a Masters, and explore a new ecosystem all in one fell swoop. And get to live in a national park? With cougars and over 300 glaciers? Done.” – Katherine Renz
“My goal is to one day build my own environmental education and conference center. The residential M.Ed. program and North Cascades Institute were highly recommended by a friend and program graduate, both as an academic program to inform my future goals and as a model for the type of learning center I envision.” – Elissa Kobrin

finger puppetsDuring some down time on Cohort 13’s first visit to the Learning Center – c13 student, Sarah Stephens, shows us ALL the finger puppets in the Learning Center shop. Photo by Ryan Weisberg

Last week, in their third week of school, they came to visit their future home. This three-day field trip is the first of several they will have up here this summer. On this trip they spent time exploring the area around the Learning Center, hiking at Thunder Creek, learning about mycorrhizal relationships from cohort 12 student Liza, and hanging out in the sun by Diablo Lake. Nice way to start grad school, eh?

Leading photo: Cohort 13 on top of Mount Erie in Anacortes, with instructors John Miles & Megan McGinty, and Institute friend (and cohort 4 graduate) Adam Lorio. (back row L-R: Adam Lorio, Catherine, James, Megan McGinty, John Miles. middle row L-R: April, Sarah, Katie, Elissa, Courtney. front row L-R: Annabel, Sam, Tyler, Kaci, David.) Photo by Stephanie Bennett

Ryan Weisberg is a graduate student in North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed. program. Ryan grew up here in Washington, exploring the natural areas around Bellingham and in the Cascades. Ryan is the Chattermarks editor this year during their residency at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.


  1. Christian

    A new summer and a new cohort of graduate students — hooray! Each round of new students brings new energy and ideas to the Institute and the Learning Center, adding new kinds of awesomeness to our community and our work. I am so looking forward to see how cohort 13 makes the most of their year in the North Cascades. Welcome!

  2. Ms Jerry Rutherford

    Makes me wish I was 70 years younger!!–physically that is.

  3. Elise

    Cohort 13 already!? Welcome c13 to the NCI family – enjoy this beautiful adventure!

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