NCOAE Garners Prestigious ‘Organizational Member of the Year’ Award from AEE

NCOAE Headquarters

November 10, 2023

In the world of outdoor education and adventure-based recreation, there are shining stars that not only inspire peers with their reputation but also for setting the bar high for industry best practices. And here at NCOAE, we operate as if we’re one of those shining stars — not at the exclusion of anyone else, but to push ourselves to be the best we can be. 

As a result of our, The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) has been named the 2023 Organizational Member of the Year by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE).

Zac Adair with the 2023 Organization Member of the Year award from Association for Experiential Education

This prestigious honor comes as a result of developing and maintaining innovative programming at continuously high levels, including high ethical standards in our operations and programming, and being a supportive association member.

AEE the Organization

If you’re unfamiliar with AEE, it’s a well-respected and influential organization in our sector of the outdoor industry, that has been honoring organizations for their contributions for nearly a half century. NCOAE now joins the ranks of renowned organizations such as Deer Hill Expeditions, Thompson Island Outward Bound, Prescott College, and Project Adventure — all previously recipients of this accolade.

The St. Petersburg, Florida-based association, which was previously headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 membership-based organization that’s dedicated to building an inclusive and accessible community for experiential education professionals across the globe. Founded in the early 1970s, AEE is viewed as the leading voice for best practices in adventure-based programming and experiential outdoor education.

In addition to organizing and hosting regional and international conferences, AEE maintains the most comprehensive standards for common practices in the industry, resulting in the nation’s first recognized accreditation process focusing on experiential adventure programming. And we’re proud to say that NCOAE is one of only 14 wilderness/adventure programs in the United States that’s accredited by AEE (a designation we’ve held since 2015).

Why NCOAE Was Named AEE’s Organizational Member of the Year

“NCOAE has built and sustained a phenomenal experiential educational program,” says Sherry Bagley, AEE’s Executive Director. “As AEE’s Organizational Member of the Year, NCOAE is recognized as a leader in maintaining innovative programming at continuously high standards, demonstrating commitment to and support for the work of AEE, and has exemplified high ethical standards in its operations and programming.”

NCOAE was founded by Zac and Celine Adair in 2009 — both of whom graduated from Prescott College’s graduate program in adventure programming and outdoor education. In just 14 years, we’ve evolved into a global leader in the development and delivery of outdoor education and urban and wilderness medical training. What started as a modest initiative with courses in Pisgah National Forest has now expanded to encompass the delivery of world-class outdoor education in Alaska, North Carolina, the Pacific Northwest, Ecuador, Patagonia, as well as custom outdoor education courses across the globe.

We view our recognition as AEE’s Organizational Member of the Year as more than just a victory for us — it’s a celebration of the power of the dedication to operational excellence experiential education and a reminder of the incredible impact that hands-on outdoor education and adventure-based learning can have on individuals and communities worldwide. We hope that this award serves as an inspiration for all interested in outdoor education and human-powered adventure-based recreation, reminding us that the pursuit of operational excellence and a commitment to best practices can lead to remarkable achievements in the field.

NCOAE and other award winners were recognized at AEE’s 51st Annual International Conference, held Nov. 2 to 5, 2023, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, Wis.

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