CONFERENCE CORNER: SAY "HELLO" TO OLIVIA STEIMLE!
When did you first fall in love with nature?
Growing up, we always had a favorite outdoor spot we would visit––our family’s farm in central New York. Spanning 200 acres of land, I fondly remember running around the property as a kid and playing in all day long. I probably loved the large garden the most. My grandma would always take such good care of the plants. We could go up and down the endless rows of berries and vegetables, eating whatever we could get our hands on before she chased us away!
Why do you love the wilderness today?
The wilderness has taught me profound things about myself over the years. I hope to guide others and help them enjoy the same sort of self-discovery outdoors. Whether I am out on the ocean or deep in the backcountry, there is an aspect to each adventure that is unique, often ushering in a wealth of lessons to be learned. I find it fascinating to share in other people’s experiences and see how they view the same journey from a different lens. I love learning about perspectives that are unlike my own because it helps me to grow.
Tell us about your career path.
I graduated from Georgia College and State University with a B.S. in Outdoor Education. In that time, I was a Lead Facilitator for our Outdoor Center running the High and Low Challenge Course and Group Development programs. I also spent time with our Wellness and Recreation Center as an Operations Supervisor and Climbing Wall Supervisor. I have worked with summer camps as well and most recently was a Wilderness Logistics Coordinator for Eagle’s Nest Camp. I also led a trip with the camp in Austria as a part of their Hante program. Currently, I work for Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) in their retail stores as a Sales Lead and have aided in a couple of their new store openings. I have also served as an instructor for REI this past year.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I really enjoy mountain biking and playing with my puppy. I just moved from Chattanooga, TN to Greenville, SC, which makes me excited to explore the area and see what my new backyard has to offer. I also love to bake bread from scratch and play with different styles of baking, which makes for a delicious rainy day activity!
How did you first become involved in AORE?
I have been a professional member of AORE since 2017, having joined upon my graduation from college. So, I’ve been involved for going on three years now. I attended my first AORE annual conference in Roanoke that same year. I’d originally heard about the experience during a seminar course and then on a video chat I was able to hear from AORE Executive Director Jeannette Stawski about the benefits of going to the conference. I remember that I unfortunately had to work the day right before the conference started. I also had to work the second and third day of the conference. So, I only had a short window of time to attend on the first day. The whole thing seemed full of hurdles and I was debating whether the long drive and work schedule conflict might prevent me from going to the event that year. But Dr. Will Hobbs took time to speak with me about the annual conference and helped to convince me that the trip’s positive impact would well outweigh the struggles of getting there (and it ultimately was). I was living out in Alpharetta, GA so I had to get up early on the morning of the conference kick-off and drive all the way to Roanoke so I could be a part of the event and then I had to get up bright and early again the next day to head home and make my afternoon work shift. Whew! What a commitment right? It definitely was a long couple of days juggling everything, but it was also completely worth every minute.
How have you been involved with AORE over the years?
After attending the annual conference in 2017, I continued my relationship with AORE Executive Director Jeannette Stawski through the Women’s Mentorship Leadership Institute (WMLI) in 2018. Now, in 2019, I am stepping into my first official volunteer role with the association as the AORE Conference Chair. It has been an amazing journey so far. I really enjoy bringing people together to plan every aspect of this conference. All of the different viewpoints, skillsets, types of creativity, and backgrounds are helping to the make this year’s event the best one we’ve ever done.
Why did you decide to volunteer as the AORE Conference Chair this year?
It was an easy decision. I am really excited about how the future of AORE will play into the growth of member programs and the individuals who look to this professional network for support and connection. Volunteering as AORE’s Conference Chair provides an awesome opportunity for me to learn and grow while meeting new people that work throughout the larger outdoor recreation and education industry. This year is special too because of our partnership with the Association of Experiential Education (AEE) to put on the conference. Pairing up with this organization has increased my own understanding of the vast reach of our collective work and the many avenues there are in which to make a difference. As a young professional, I look forward to continuing my volunteer presence at AORE and know that along the way I will meet a lot of wonderful people who also wish to better our industry, our association, and our respective local programs and projects.
Can you talk about your experiences planning the joint annual conference with the AORE and AEE teams?
I joined the team in January 2019 and it has been a whirlwind to say the least. Right now, we are working on some awesome ideas to enhance the conference experience for AORE and AEE members and ensure that the event feels unified and designed with all attendees in mind. My role as the Conference Chair is to guide and support each of the action team leads as they work towards creating a successful joint conference. I am looking forward to celebrating the hard work that each of these volunteers dedicate to planning such a large and important event. Spokane has also been a fantastic city to work with and I know that attendees will appreciate the local flair of the region and the numerous nature adventures that are available to check out.
What is the part of the conference you enjoy the most?
Oh goodness, my favorite part of the conference is probably the career advancement offerings. This is mostly because it pertains so deeply to where I am currently in my professional life and what goals I have for the future. I love CareerHQ, for example, because it allows you to get candid feedback on your resume from real professionals out in the industry. You can also practice your interviewing skills and meet with prospective employers. Networking plays into this too. You never know who you might meet at a learning session or social function, maybe you could even make a connection that later leads to a job or valuable mentoring relationship.
What is your favorite conference memory from past years?
Meeting AORE Executive Director Jeannette Stawski at my first annual conference in Roanoke and being a total fan girl in that moment. I remember her fondly saying at the time: “I’m just a person and we are simply having a conversation.” She was approachable and easy to talk to, which made me feel like I could ask the sort of questions that lead to true learning, without worrying about how I might be perceived. It was a wonderful experience to connect with a strong woman leader and gain valuable insights and advice in such a relaxed setting. Truly, there have been so many impactful memories from past annual conferences that I don’t think I can pick one that stands out as a favorite.
Why do you think people should attend the AORE-AEE annual conference?
It is an investment for yourself personally. There are countless opportunities to meet like-minded people and exchange ideas for the betterment of our organizations and for our industry. The conference will be exhausting, but you end up walking away with three days of learning and growth in your profession / student life as well as personal connections and insights that will last you years down the road. Who knows, maybe you will even enjoy it so much that you’ll want to volunteer to help out next year with the planning process, which is a valuable experience in and of itself and one that I highly recommend!
Find out more about the annual conference, including how to register and book your stay in Spokane, by visiting AORE's online conference hub!