Leadership Expedition to Gila National Forest, New Mexico Event Logo

Leadership Expedition to Gila National Forest, New Mexico

by Leadership Programs


Sat, Apr 2, 2022 8:00 AM –

Sun, Apr 10, 2022 9:00 AM EDT (GMT-4)

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Gila National Forest

3005 E. Camino del Bosque, Silver City, NM 88061, United States

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Leadership Expedition to the Gila National Forest

Leadership Programs is excited to announce its first Johnson Leadership Expedition through the Gila National Forest. Students will be traveling through the Gila National Forest, which is home to the United States' first official wilderness area and is one of the largest National Forests in the lower 48 states. The Gila is located on Mogollon and Chiricahua Apache ancestral lands and is known for significant human history that dates back thousands of years. You can still see signs of some of its early civilizations in the form of potsherds and rock art. Duringyour trip you may have the opportunity to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Students can expect to:

  • experience ambiguity and adversity;
  • be forced to make decisions with incomplete, inconclusive, and/or conflicting information;
  • take turns assuming full responsibility for the entire group; and,
  • receive real-time feedback and coaching on their leadership efforts.

In short, this is a chance to practice, rather than just talk about, real leadership.

Students will also be expected to support each other’s leadership development and will be guided, in real-time, on how to give effective feedback and coaching to the rest of the team.

Expedition Agenda


Travel to Tucson, Arizona arriving by 2pm on April 2nd for a course orientation at the Comfort Suites Hotel at Sabino Canyon.


April 3

Meet your coursemates and instructors in the morning. Travel to NOLS Southwest campus. There, you will roll through outfitting and rations, personal equipment check, pack packing, load vehicles, and travel to the trailhead before you begin backpacking. Initial discussion of goals, map and route review, and basic leadership and teamwork concepts. Instructors teach and role model “leader of the day” responsibilities: decision-making, hiking/mountain travel curriculum, mountain camping, Leave No Trace techniques, debriefing, and next day planning.


April 4-8

Leadership and decision-making responsibilities transition to expedition participants. Instructors play a coaching role for participants and provide structure for reflective learning, debriefing, and feedback. Depending on the length of travel days in the participants’ plan, there may be the opportunity for a layover day, day hiking, a peak ascent, and further route exploration.


April 9

Meet at trailhead, travel back to the NOLS Southwest campus, shower, and then have a celebratory dinner together. Drop off at Comfort Suites Airport hotel.


April 10

Depart for home from Tucson airport.


National Outdoor Leadership School
For the eighth year in a row, Johnson is partnering with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to plan and execute this expedition. NOLS is an internationally-renowned leadership training institute with 50 years of wilderness training experience. NOLS believes that "what [it] teaches cannot be learned in a traditional classroom or on a city street. It takes...time to develop leadership. The backcountry provides the ideal setting for this unique, experiential education—NOLS classrooms are some of the world’s wildest and most awe-inspiring locations."

Leadership Expeditions
Leadership Expeditions are a chance to leave Ithaca and dig in, full-time, to your leadership development. Expeditions are designed to give students the opportunity to go through the Johnson leadership learning cycle of instruction, experience, and review multiple times in an intensive, condensed timeframe.

Dates: April 2-10, 2022, inclusive of travel time. The expedition dates are April 3-9, but students must arrive in Tuscan, AZ no later than 2pm on April 2nd for course orientation. Students will be able to depart Arizona on April 10.

Eligibility: The expedition is open to all Johnson residential 1st years, 2nd years and AMBAs. We're sorry, but this expedition is not currently open to Cornell Tech or Exchange Students.

Academic Credit: Participation in the Gila National Forest Leadership Expedition will count as 1.5 academic credits on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. Please note: You must be available for our pre-departure retreats in February and March; and the post-expedition session in April in order to participate.

Program Fees: The cost of the expedition includes a program fee to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) of approximately $2,535, plus round-trip airfare to Tuscan, AZ, lodging Comfort Suites Hotel at Sabino Canyon (one night each at the start and end of the expedition), and a few miscellaneous meals and incidentals in Arizona. Students are also responsible for preparing personal gear for the expedition (such as good hiking boots, rain gear, etc.). The amount students will have to spend on gear will vary depending on what students already own; this will be discussed in detail at our information sessions. Please note that all meals during the expedition, as well as all group gear (such as tents, cooking stoves, etc.) are covered by the program fee. Leadership Programs recommends that students budget approximately $3,000-$4,000 in total to participate, as airfare can vary widely from year to year and is difficult to predict. Some students might qualify for student loans to help cover the costs of the expedition since this is an academic class, but you must make an appointment with the financial aid officer, to find out if you qualify.

Important Note about Physical Conditioning: The Gila National Forest Leadership Expedition is an intense, 7-day physical experience that involves hiking all day, every day, with no trails. If you are considering participating, it is essential that you begin to prepare physically. Please carefully review the attached "NOLS-How to Prepare Physically" document so you can begin your planning.

How to Apply

The application will close on Wednesday, December 1st at 11:59pm. 
For more details, please see the Info Session Deck

Please reach out to Laura Georgianna.


Gila National Forest

3005 E. Camino del Bosque, Silver City, NM 88061, United States

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