Marie Vaine

One mile from a paved road, with a group of children riding bikes on Vermont’s Kingdom Trails, Marie Vaine was the only adult on hand when a young girl crashed and broke her ankle. 

Marie handled the situation thanks to what she learned preparing for her wilderness first responder certification — an opportunity made possible through the Lyndon campus outdoor education, leadership, and tourism (OELT program). She checked the girl for other injuries, determined the emergency level, and arranged an evacuation. “The biggest thing was that I knew how to stay calm, and I knew it was going to be OK,” she said. 

NVU Helps Students Prepare for National Certifications 

Many OELT students like Marie take advantage of the ability to earn national certifications in their field through classes and programs that focus on preparing for the certification exams. 

“The cool thing about our program is that when most students graduate, they have some sort of certification in the industry,” said Marie, who is pursuing a concentration in adventure leadership with a geology minor. Through the University, she is certified by the American Mountain Guides Association as a climbing wall instructor and got a job at the campus Gravity Well Climbing Center because of the certification. She plans to prepare for avalanche certification from the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education through another course. 

Immersion Semester Provides Leadership and Hand-On Opportunities 

The OELT program provides students with real-world experience from the start — and we’re in a location that’s ideal for outdoor recreation. 

Marie points to how close the Lyndon campus is to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, Kingdom Trails, and Burke Mountain ski resort. “It’s a playground. The location is part of what has made me want to stay here,” said Marie of Winchester, New Hampshire. “And if you’re a mountain biker, this is the place to be in New England by far.” 

An important part of OELT is the immersion program, a semester-long, hands-on course that includes multi-day backpacking and canoeing/kayaking adventures. Students plan meals, logistics, and other trip details and take turns leading activities. 

“You get so much experience outside,” Marie said. “It’s hard to learn how to be a leader outside unless you’re doing it and learning how to make decisions under adverse conditions.” 

For one immersion program, Marie had a paid internship as an assistant backpacking instructor. “It was a really great experience being able to step into the instructor role and see what goes on behind the scenes,” she said. 

From the immersion trips and other experiences outdoors, students form tight bonds with faculty and peers. People in the OELT program are like a family to Marie. “You are outside spending time with them backpacking and kayaking,” she said. “You get to know them on a different level than if you were just seeing them in the classroom.” 

Faculty Have Broad Experience, Great Connections in the Field 

“My instructors are so supportive and very understanding of where students are at,” she said. “They do a great job of making sure students are engaged and learning relevant things we’ll need.” 

Students also benefit from our faculty’s extensive experience and valuable connections in the outdoor recreation field. “Professor Ben Mirkin will tell you exactly what you need to do to get your dream job. If you’re willing to work hard,” Marie said, “the professors can help you find a job after college that you’ll really like, and they have the connections to help you get that job.” 

Professor Mirkin encouraged Marie to check out a seasonal mountain bike guide position at Kingdom Cycling & Experiences in East Burke, Vermont, where she now has worked for several summers. “It’s my dream job,” she said.