What is a Leadership Track?

As a current graduate student in the M.Ed. residency program at North Cascades Institute, I and the rest of my cohort, will soon celebrate the end of our spring quarter here in the North Cascades. Our residency at NCI has engaged us deeply with the natural and cultural history of the area through place-based and experiential learning courses and quarterly field studies in the Methow Valley. We have had room to grow as educators, designing curriculum and instructing Mountain School to elementary, middle and high school students across the state. We have learned the inner workings of nonprofit administration under the guidance of Executive Director, Saul Weisberg, and various NCI staff members. With these four quarters completed, the final stage of our time here in the North Cascades is our Leadership Track.

What is a Leadership Track?
Leadership Tracks are the culminating residency experience, serving as an avenue for practicing leadership skills in a professional setting. These summer internships generally fall in a content area that students are interested in pursuing beyond the graduate program. Content areas currently include curriculum and/or program design and implementation, administrative duties, outdoor and environmental education, food sustainability, stewardship projects, and youth mentorship. A $2,500 leadership fellowship is awarded upon completion of the final quarter of the residency portion of the program.

Last year, the 15th graduate cohort filled Leadership Track positions all over the Cascade region. While most of our graduate work throughout the year focuses on programming here at NCI, our Leadership Track position offers us the opportunity to work with different agencies and organizations in the local area. They also allow graduate students to engage with diverse participant audiences or groups that they may wish to pursue working with in the future.

The following examples highlight the different types of work that last years cohort were involved with during their Leadership Track.

Past Leadership Track Positions

Annah Young working with Methow Valley youth on local food production. Photo by Lindsey MacDonald

Annah Young spent her summer in the Methow Valley, working with Classroom in Bloom and Red Shed Produce. Her Leadership Track focused on improving food access for local residents and planning classroom sessions in a community garden space.

Sasha Savoian and Zachary Lundgren working on mountain heather restoration projects at Maple Pass. Photos by Sasha Savoian

Sasha Savoian and Zachary Lundgren worked with the Methow Valley Ranger District to design, develop and lead ecological restoration work at Maple Loop and Blue Lake in the North Cascades.

Emily Baronich working with Concrete Elementary students. Photo by Lindsey MacDonald

Emily Baronich developed and led the Concrete Summer Learning Adventure (CSLA) in partnership with United General Hospital, the National Park Service, Concrete School District, Western Washington University and North Cascades Institute. CSLA is a four week long summer camp experience for Concrete students ages 5-12 that focuses on literacy, health and environmental education.

Holli Watne leading a naturalist hike geared specifically for our younger program participants. Photo by Lindsey MacDonald

Holli Watne spent the summer creating and leading programming for our Environmental Learning Center Family Getaways and Base Camp Programs. These programs run through the late spring and summer, providing families and adventurists a visit full of fun and educational activities that engage them with the natural and cultural history of the North Cascades.

Photos from the 2016 Youth Leadership Adventures. Photos by North Cascades Institute

Ginna Malley Campos, Adam Bates, Emma Ewert and Rob Healy spent their summer leading trips for the North Cascades Institute Youth Leadership Adventures program, partnering with the National Park Service and Forest Service. Working with high school students from across the state, they led groups into the backcountry for courses that focused on field science, backcountry travel, leadership and college readiness skills, sustainability and conservation of public lands.

Leadership Tracks 2017
This year, graduate students in the 16th cohort (C16) had fourteen Leadership Track positions from which they could apply. Leadership Track positions vary each year and graduate coordinators work to support students and ensure that they get the most out of their experience.

Graduate student, Alexei Desmarais, will be working as the Redfish School of Change Program Assistant. During this six week field based course, undergraduate students will kayak, cycle and hike through coastal communities in Washington state and British Columbia and explore strategies to create ecological sustainability and social equity in their communities.

Becky Moore will be in charge of developing and leading the Concrete Food and Farming Program & Confluence Garden programming. This position was created in partnership with United General Hospital, National Park Service, Concrete School District, Western Washington University and North Cascades Institute. Concrete Food and Farming is a summer camp experience for Concrete students in grades 6-8. This program will provide experiential learning in the school garden and Farm to School kitchen classroom with field trips all over the Skagit Valley.

Jihan Grettenberger will be working as the North Cascades National Park Youth Conservation Corps Coordinator. Her position will focus on mentoring and supervising high school age students, hired to work with the North Cascades Native Plant Restoration Program.

“Youth Conservation Corps is a National Park Service summer employment program for high school aged youth. I will be leading a crew of six local youth for the summer. With North Cascades Park Service employees, we will collaborate on work in the nursery, at campgrounds, in the pasture, and assist with educational programs. Specific work may be planting, propagating plants, removing invasive species, and counting dragonfly larvae. Once a week, I will have a more educational focused day to cover topics such as environmental stewardship, naturalist skills, leadership, and professional development skills. It should be a summer filled with opportunities for me to grow as a leader, develop place-based high school aged curriculum, and learn about communities close to the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center.” – Jihan Grettenberger

For myself, I will be working with our Conference and Retreats Coordinator, developing programming and curriculum for young adult groups visiting our Environmental Learning Center.  Like the rest of my cohort, I am eager to apply all that I have learned throughout the year into this position.

Stay tuned throughout the summer as we reflect on our Leadership Track positions here on Chattermarks.

Title photo of Ginna Malley Campos, as she leads students participating in Youth Leadership Adventures. Photo courtesy of North Cascades Institute


  1. Saul Weisberg

    Angela — great blog post on Leadership Tracks. Very helpful to have this history in one place. Wonderful way to blend the academic tracks with the summer leadership track too. Thanks!

    p.s. My last name is spelled Weisberg (“white mountain”) and not Weisburg (“white village”). 🙂

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