Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

Reviewing Leadership Institute Applications

As many of you know, over the winter we wrapped up the application process for two of our upcoming Leadership Institutes, in August and December 2017. (Applications will open this fall for the next Institute in August 2018!)

First, a huge thank you from the entire BEETLES team to each of the many, many program leaders who have thoughtfully submitted applications to our Leadership Institutes. For every institute we’ve ever conducted, we’ve had at least twice as many applications than spots available and even more than that for our most recent batches of applications. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t been possible for us to accept all the deserving programs that have applied. We’ve needed many hours of reading, meeting, and discussing to make many difficult decisions.

Second, we want to share a little bit about our process to provide a little more insight both to the programs that have not yet been accepted as well as to those that might apply in the future. Each application is first read by at least 2 BEETLES staff and separately ranked on five distinct criterion. These criteria, explained below, help us do an initial sort of all the applications.

  • The strength of the team that will attend the Leadership Institute: We prefer teams that include someone with executive leadership along with someone primarily responsible for professional learning and curriculum. Other combinations of team members are possible depending on a variety of factors, but that’s what we’ve found to be most successful. We’re looking for two people who will be good thought partners and collaborators for one another during the Institute as well as respected thought leaders within their programs when they return. There’s a lot of turnover in this field, so we’re also looking for folks who are committed to their programs and to increasing the capacity of their programs in such a way as to make impacts sustainable, should they eventually decide to leave.
  • The openness of program leaders to re-think their approaches and to make changes and improvements to their programs: The Leadership Institute is designed to introduce leaders to new BEETLES resources that represent research-based practices for teaching and professional learning and to share effective practices among leaders from around the country. We’re looking for programs and leaders who are excited about sharing the things they do best-in-field and open to vulnerable conversations about the things that need improvement.
  • The different types of influence that programs have within the field: Some programs have “influence” by working in regional collaboratives, developing and sharing a particular expertise, pushing the field in some innovative way, operating many sites, publishing papers, conducting research or evaluation, partnering with nearby Universities or Colleges, conducting graduate programs or intern programs, or simply by reaching large numbers of instructors and/or students.
  • The commitment of the program and program leaders to equity and inclusion: Programs can demonstrate this through the composition of their staff and board, by reaching out to and serving under-represented audiences, by the focus of their curriculum, or other potential indicators.
  • The program’s focus on science and the outdoors: We’re looking for programs that dedicate some serious time (or want to dedicate time) to providing participants with opportunities to connect with nature through a scientific lens. Science doesn’t need to be the only focus of a program–we know other things are important to focus on, as well!– but it should be a primary focus and one that is reflected in the overall goals of the program.

After our programs are scored on these criteria, our whole team looks at the list of eligible programs, spends hours discussing and reviewing, and comes up with a preliminary list of programs to accept. Then, we comb through that list to make sure we also have a diversity of programs represented in several broad areas: geography, the size of the program, and the number of nature-focused contact hours (number of hours students spend outdoors looking at nature through a scientific lens). This final step allows us to have a dynamic mix of programs present in any given Leadership Institute, helping to stretch all of our thinking in new and productive ways.

As you can see, getting just the right mix of programs together for a week is quite a juggling act. We take the program selection process seriously because when we accept a program, we are committing to providing them with what we hope will be a deep and meaningful experience at our institute, as well as relationships with us and with others in the field that can go far beyond that.  We’re committing a lot of resources to participants, so we’re looking for programs that will make the most of those investments.

We are so fortunate to have so many programs applying to participate, and it has been so inspiring to read about the many great folks and programs out there doing such thoughtful and important work. Any program that is doing outdoor science is doing important work! They all attract great people, and they all deserve support and resources in doing the best work possible.  But even some programs that score high on all our criteria have not been accepted yet to one of our Leadership Institutes. There is good news though! We have three more National Science Foundation-supported Leadership Institutes scheduled over the next three years, so there will be more opportunities for programs to apply. If you have not been accepted to an institute you applied for, please don’t take that as a “no,” but as a “not yet.” We would truly love to accept every program that applies and we are constantly seeking out new funding that will let us do just that.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments below or reach out to us directly from the connect page.

10 Responses to “Reviewing Leadership Institute Applications”

suzanneJune 9th, 2017 at 6:04 pm

Thank you for this feedback! I have not applied yet mostly because my team is quite small and I wouldn’t be able to have an “executive” attend. I am responsible for the professional learning and curriculum and I have the power to create and direct programs. My supporting staff are 6-month seasonals plus outdoor educators from partner agencies. I am committed to my programs and want to evolve strategically. I hope to apply to the next Institute.

Jedda ForemanJune 22nd, 2017 at 7:24 pm

Hi, Suzanne,
We know that’s a challenge for smaller organizations. Occasionally, we’ve accepted two organizations that partner together and send two people between them. For that to work successfully, the two programs need a really strong plan for collaborating together, sharing professional learning among both staff, etc.

JakeOctober 18th, 2017 at 5:20 pm


My name is Jake Preston and I’m the Associate Program Director of Education for Camp Campbell OSS. I’m interested in registering for the leadership institute session for August 2018. Is the timeframe for applications still open? Please let me know the best way to move forward and I look forward to hearing back!


Brianna PatrickNovember 20th, 2017 at 7:13 pm

Hi There,

Is there a character/word limit for the narrative portions of the application?


Kimberly AdriaansenDecember 12th, 2017 at 12:15 am

The website states December 18, 2017 as a deadline, but the application pdf states January 12, 2018. Which is current? Thank you for your assistance. ~Kimberly @ Tifft Nature Preserve Buffalo, NY

Jedda ForemanDecember 12th, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Hi Kimberly, Thanks for noticing this discrepancy! The deadline is December 18th, 2017. The pdf also reflects that now.

Jedda ForemanMarch 5th, 2018 at 11:02 pm

Hi, Kathleen,
We haven’t confirmed a location yet, but it will likely be in Northern California.

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