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Jerry Isaak

Jerry Isaak’s degree and subsequent career have taken him to remote and challenging wilderness environments, but working with people has been the key to his success as he learns from the experiences of mentors, and passes on knowledge as an alumni volunteer.

Name Jerry Isaak
Degree Course MSc Outdoor Education
Year of Graduation 2012
Jerry Isaak

Your time at the University

I chose the University of Edinburgh for its world-class MSc programme in Outdoor Education and the opportunity to integrate rigorous academic study with field-based leadership opportunities. I also knew that I was likely to return to North America (I’m Canadian and my wife is American) for my professional career and I wanted to pursue a different perspective on the field of outdoor education.

During my one year in Scotland I had the pleasure of studying at the university campus in Edinburgh as well as at locations throughout the U.K. and abroad. One of the wonderful aspects of the field of outdoor education is that my ‘classrooms’ included: rapids on the River Spey during a 5-day canoe descent from the highlands to the North Sea, a stone bothy perched above a shingle beach on the Isle of Rum, a Berber tent in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco, and a basecamp next to a glacier-ringed fjord in Arctic Svalbard.

My co-curricular experiences were no less memorable. As a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship recipient I spoke at Rotary Clubs throughout Scotland and participated in a 3-Peaks Challenge fundraiser for the charity Shelter Box with several other Ambassadorial Scholars. We climbed the three highest peaks in Scotland (Ben Nevis), England (Scafell), and Wales (Snowdon) in 24-hours while carrying an empty Shelter Box (83cm x 60cm x 60cm). My host Rotarian, John Burnett, and his wife Nan, welcomed me and my wife and our two young boys to stay many weekends and holidays at their sheep farm in the Scottish Borders near Peebles. John and Nan became Scottish grandparents to our boys and we have now had the privilege of hosting them at our home in America.

The faculty in the MSc programme at the University of Edinburgh were instrumental in my career development. They challenged me to think more critically about our field and my own practice. I frequently refer back to the lessons I learned at Edinburgh as I plan and facilitate my own courses.

Jerry Isaak

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

Immediately after leaving the Edinburgh I took a job at Eastern Oregon University where I served for three years before moving to my current position at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh. I am an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Expeditionary Studies. My role is multi-faceted, challenging and quite unique. Like professors at most universities I engage in teaching, scholarship and institutional service, however unlike most professors my classes not only take place on campus but also on the mountains, rivers and lakes around campus and throughout the country. In addition to local and regional classes I am currently planning international expeditions to Kyrgyzstan and Nepal and a study-abroad programme in the Austrian Alps.

The faculty in the MSc programme at the University of Edinburgh were instrumental in my career development. They challenged me to think more critically about our field and my own practice. I frequently refer back to the lessons I learned at Edinburgh as I plan and facilitate my own courses. Perhaps the highest praise I can offer is to say that the education I received continues daily as I integrate past lessons into present practice.

Alumni wisdom

Find a mentor, or better yet mentors, who are willing and able to support and challenge you personally and professionally. Regardless of your field of study or future career, the relationships you build will be key to your success and continued development.