A note from Brendan Norman, Executive Director

by | Field Notes

After spending the past ten years as the Executive Director of the Mt. Adams Institute (MAI), I have decided to step away from the organization.. . .  AND that’s a good thing! Let me tell you why.

In the beginning, MAI was just an idea that stemmed from finding myself at the proverbial professional (and personal) crossroads. The organization that I had spent the previous decade with was shutting down and I was soon-to-be unemployed. As a father of two young kids, a partner to a returning-to-school spouse and a resident of rural America, the necessity to find a new job was high but the local options for work were limited.  It was a stressful time that was made easier thanks to a great support system of friends and family, as well as easy access to nature.

Starting MAI was both a response to my personal situation (I needed a paycheck!) and a recognition that many other people could benefit from programs that helped them connect with the natural world. And while I spare you the stories of the startup struggles, I will tell you that even in the beginning I was thinking about how we could build an purposeful business that thrives beyond the transition of its founders.  The short answer: Work with great people to develop good structure and a positive work culture.

But before I get too wonky about organization development, let me share some of the highlights of what we have accomplished since MAI began:

We’ve created some incredible programs that strengthen the connection between people and the natural world!

We started a nation-wide career development program for military veterans interested in public lands / natural resource management jobs. While I was certain that VetsWork was going to have a positive impact, I never imagined that it would operate on this scale. Its success (and by that I mean the success our VetsWork Interns generated for themselves through the program) led to the development of our other related programs: VetsWork GreenCorps and Public Lands Stewards. All told, these programs have launched careers for hundreds of people.

Through partnerships and our own staff’s creative efforts, we operate education programs (Outdoor School, Summer Camp and the Sense of Place Lecture Series) that serve thousands of people annually in the Columbia River Gorge region. I got my start in this work because I loved helping young people connect with the outdoors. It has been incredible to see this happen in a variety of ways over the years.

The commitment and dedication of our staff and board has always amazed me. Even in the most challenging times (the start-up years, government shutdowns, global pandemic, etc . . .), they have worked hard to ensure that MAI meets its mission. And they’ve done it through a relationship based approach that aligns with the core values of the organization.

We also built the capacity of the organization. MAI is stronger, more resilient and more structured than it was in our early years. In fact, it is these qualities that made me realize that we’re ready for a new leader that can continue our positive impact while also helping us engage with a broader audience, especially those communities that are underrepresented in the outdoor sector.

And this is where you can help us. Please share the job opening with your network. It is an incredible opportunity to work with great people, impactful programs and in a positive work culture.

So what’s next for me? Well, I’m not leaving right away. I’ll be here through the Spring of 2022 to help recruit and train a new Executive Director. After that, I’m still working on the plan. My partner and I are about to become “empty nesters” and we’re figuring out what that entails for us. I’m pretty excited to consider new ways to mix purposeful work with time for personal growth.

Before I end, I need to share my appreciation and gratitude to all those individuals and organizations that helped make MAI a reality. It would not have happened without that support. I wish you all my best.

Please share the job opening with your network!

Read the press release at: https://mtadamsinstitute.org/mt-adams-institute-seeks-a-new-leader/