John Willard

“It’s a cool perspective from up high,” John says of climbing. Now splitting his time as a mountain guide in the Pacific Northwest in the summer and the Northeast in the winter, John hadn’t climbed before starting the Outdoor Education, Leadership, and Tourism program. Encouraged to try, he found the experience nerve-racking — and then got hooked, changing his OELT concentration right then. 

John received an admissions packet from when he was 18 but decided to get his associate degree at a community college near his home in Massachusetts. When he got the second admissions packet in the mail a year later, he took it seriously. John enrolled in OELT with the Mountain Resort Management concentration but switched to Adventure Education and added a minor in photography driven by his interest in capturing the beautiful sights from “up high.” 

Of climbing, John said, “It’s a lot mental — telling yourself you can do it and putting a lot of trust in the equipment, in yourself, and in those you’re with.” The program is structured so everyone really gets to know each other and trust each other, he said, forming relationships that lead to friendships that last. 

John gained a lot of experience working in the field during college, too. He designed his own Learning and Working experience with Cathedral Mountain Guides in New Hampshire, worked as a TA for all of the skills classes — and put all of that hands-on experience right to work after graduation. In the summer, John guides with Mountain Madness in the Pacific Northwest, the second-largest guide service in the country, and in the winter is an ice climbing and mountaineering guide with Cathedral Mountain Guides. He is also a co-instructor for the fundamentals of ice course. 

“The mentorship and community are tight-knit, and the OELT program really shaped me,” John said. “The networking is phenomenal, too — the faculty help you get to where you want to go. Every professor knows you here, and it’s really great to get to know them, too.”