Skip to content

Outdoor Action

Leadership Starts Here

Becoming a Leader Trainer


Leader Trainer Application Process

If you are interested in becoming an OA Leader Trainer, please read this page carefully so you understand the application process and our expectations for all applicants.

Leader Trainers carry the tremendous responsibility of training Princeton students to lead groups in a backcountry setting. As a result, we take the qualities and qualifications of a leader trainer applicant very seriously. A Leader Trainer applicant should be comfortable in an (outdoor) group leadership role and ready to take on the next level of leadership: teaching others how to lead.

You should approach the Leader Trainer Application Process like a professional job interview. There is a search committee made up of all the current Leader Trainers and the OA Director and Program Coordinator. The search committee reviews all of the candidates. The final selection is made by the OA Director with input from the search committee. The application process consists of four stages:

  1. Application - reviewed by the entire search committee
  2. Teaching & Debriefing Session - two short demonstrators of your teaching & debriefing with a group of 2-3 Leader Trainers
  3. Interview with search committee - each candidate has an interview with a group of 2-3 Leader Trainers
  4. Interview with Director or Program Coordinator - individual interview with one of the OA professional staff

Candidates are reviewed by the search committee and the OA professional staff at each stage of the process. At each stage of the process the OA Director makes the decision about whether a candidate is ready to move onto the next stage in the process. At the end of the entire process the committee submits all of their material to the OA Director, who makes the final selection. There is no specific number of Leader Trainers selected each year. On average 40-60% of the total applicants are accepted as Leader Trainers.

Becoming a Leader Trainer requires a significant commitment to OA throughout the year with weekly meetings and the expectation that possibly fall break for NOLS training and Intersession and/or Dead Week for LTTs are being committed to OA. If you will not be available to lead over Intersession and/or Dead Week, you should wait until next year to apply. 

Written Applications are due by email on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 by 5PM. Complete the attached Application and email it to OA (at) princeton (dot) edu

Applicants: If you apply, you must be available to lead a Leader Training Trip over  Dead Week. If you know now that you will not be able to lead a Leader Training Trip this year, then you should wait until next year to apply.


If you have questions feel free to contact any of the current Leader Trainers, Caroline Stone, the OA Program Coordinator or Rick Curtis, the OA Director:

Manasseh Alexander 2021
Ben Angarone 2021
Zach Bampton 2020
McKenna Brownell 2020
Caroline Castleman 2020
Kenji Cataldo 2020
Sarah Deneher* 2020
Mary DeVellis 2021
Maddy Dietrich 2020
Jeffers Guthrie 2020
Polly Hochman 2020
Meredith Hooper 2020
Hans Imhoff 2021
Akiva Jackson 2020
Juliana Jiranek 2020
Rachel Kim 2020
JJ Kim 2020
Curtis Leonard 2020
Danielle Newton* 2020
Kamila Radjabova 2021
Meghan Slattery 2020
Maria Stahl 2020
Grace Stempel 2021
Chris Wilks 2020
Annie Xie 2020

 *Indicates Leader Training Committee co-chair

Application Criteria

In addition to completing all of the standard leader training requirements, applicants must have at least two primary multi-day outdoor leadership experiences, at least one of which must be through OA. Primary leadership experiences are those where you are solely responsible, or equally share of responsibility with co-leaders, for the emotional and physical safety of a group. If your second trip leadership experience is not with OA, it must be clearly documented and must be the equivalent of leading a Frosh Trip (being completely responsible for a group of less experienced participants). Experiences like leading multi-day backcountry trips with 15-year olds in a summer camp program would be an equivalent experience, while going on a family backpacking trip would not.

To provide a clearer sense of the qualifications we are seeking in applicants, we have identified four major skill sets which someone applying to be a leader trainer should possess:

1. Teaching Ability

Excellent teaching skills are necessary in order to facilitate leadership workshops and to help LTT participants grow as leaders. Leader Trainers are expected to take their teaching commitments seriously and should demonstrate the following qualities: proficiency in subject matter (knots, stoves, LNT, etc.), competence in assessing trainees' comprehension, the ability to recognize and capitalize upon teachable moments, creativity in teaching style, and patience.

2. Ability to Evaluate & Give Feedback

We expect Leader Trainers to have the capacity to evaluate and provide feedback to their trainees. To this end, applicants must be comfortable evaluating their peers, and possess excellent observational and debriefing skills. We expect LTs to identify strengths and weaknesses in their trainees, provide a tailored environment for trainees to work on these identified areas, and effectively communicate feedback to them. We also expect a willingness to work closely with co-leader trainers to accomplish these goals. 

3. Leadership & Debriefing Skills

Leader Trainers must be able to role model effective leadership both through their own style and by demonstrating collaborative leadership with co-leaders. Debriefing is a primary tool that leader trainers employ to help trainees reflect and develop their own leadership styles, particularly on the LTT. Leader Trainers are expected to have solid debriefing skills, among which are active listening, an ability to ask probing questions, moderating skills, thoughtfulness, and an ability to identify and utilize teachable moments. A strong candidate possesses the necessary qualities to debrief well and an eagerness to consciously improve upon them.

4. Technical Skills

Technical wilderness skills are fundamental to all aspects of OA trips.  Technical skills include tarping and bear bagging; stove use and repair; first aid; pack care, fitting and repair; respect for the principles of LNT, etc.. Because we expect all OA leaders to possess baseline technical competency, we expect LTs to display expertise in all OA related technical skills to the point that they can can effectively teach these skills to trainees with comfort and ease, even in challenging wilderness conditions.

Leader Trainer Application Process

Applying to be an OA leader trainer is a multi-stage process designed to comprehensively evaluate leader training candidates. Please be aware that each step, including the written application, is a selective process.

Stage 1 - Written Application

The first step is a written application which consists of questions about outdoor experience and training, a self-evaluation portion, and an essay section. It can be found on the OA website on the OA Leader Homepage. The application will be reviewed to determine whether an applicant has the requisite experience to become a leader trainer. If the application is accepted, leader trainer candidates will be invited to participate in the second step—an evaluation of teaching skills. Applications are reviewed by the OA Director and the OA Program Coordinator, and may also be read by the current Leader Trainers.

What we expect: We expect a thorough and thoughtful application that both is an assessment of your skills and demonstrates thoughtful self-reflection on your previous leadership experiences (both within and outside of OA) and expresses your leadership style. This is an opportunity for you to share with the committee important aspects of your experience and philosophy. Please provide specific examples drawn from your primary leadership experiences and use them to reflect on your leadership philosophy.

Stage 2 - Teaching Lesson & Debriefing

During this portion of the process, a candidate will be asked to teach how to tie a bowline knot. Among the various teaching responsibilities of LTs is (re)teaching leaders-in-training technical skills on an LTT, and teaching a group how to tie a bowline is a very typical experience when leading an LTT. 

The second portion is a Debriefing section that mirrors another primary responsbility of Leader Trainers.  We will provide a prompt drawn from a real Frosh Trip or LTT scenario, and ask you to debrief the situation.  The 2-3 LTs will participate in the debrief as sim characters. Upon a satisfactory evaluation of requisite teaching and debriefing skills, an applicant will be invited to the interview process.

What we expect: You will also be asked to teach how to tie a bowline knot. You should assume that the people you are teaching are leaders-in-training and you want them to be able to proficiently tie a bowline on their own after your lesson.  You should cover why a bowline is useful (where should it be used) and how to tie one, with the end goal being that they can tie a bowline independently. You should actively assess the understanding and skills of the people you are teaching. Here are the specific things that we will be looking for in your teaching sessions:

  • Ability to assess the trainee’s level of understanding
  • Organization/class flow
  • Engages audience
  • Language and physical presence
  • Patience & Creativity
  • Assessing audience about their experience with the subject matter to be presented
  • Proficiency with skill/subject matter taught
  • Time awareness

We will provide more information about the debriefing criteria if you are invited to this stage.

Stage 3 - Leader Training Committee Interview & Interview with OA Director or Program Coordinator

The Leader Trainer interview is a short but comprehensive interview designed to solicit more information about outdoor skills and experience, technical and interpersonal skills, debriefing and evaluating abilities, as well as other qualifications necessary in becoming a Leader Trainer.  

What we expect: The interview is a chance to learn more about your specific leadership style, how you have handled different interpersonal situations and your debriefing skills. We will also ask some hypothetical questions relating to different scenarios that Leader Trainers might encounter. While there is no specific way to prepare, we expect that you will be thoughtful and reflective about your leadership.

Stage 4 -  Interview with OA Director or Program Coordinator

The final interview with the OA Director or Program Coordinator is similar to the interview with the Leader Training Committee. 

The OA Director reviews all of the information gathered on each candidate. The final selection is made by the OA Director.

Questions and Contact Information

If you have any questions concerning requisite criteria or qualifications, the application process, or any facet of being or becoming a leader trainer, please contact the Leader Trainer Committee Co-Chairs: Artemis Eyster and Eddie Lee.

Requirements of Leader Trainers

Leader Trainers play an essential role in the organizational structure of the Outdoor Action Program. Those who are accepted to become Leader Trainers are role models for all leaders within Outdoor Action and students at large on the campus. That means that the role and responsibilities of a Leader Trainer extend beyond activities within the OA Program.

Regular Responsibilities

Weekly Meetings: Leader Trainers meet weekly 1-2 hours per week.

Leadership Workshops: Leader Trainers help facilitate Leadership Workshops each semester.

Leader Training Trip: Leader Trainers are required to lead at least one Leader Training Trip each year (either Intersession or after final exams in May). All Junior applicants MUST be available to lead a Deadweek LTT.

Leader Trainer Retreat: There are 1-2 Leader Trainer Retreats each semester which are required. These are typically 5-8 hour events aimed and expanding teaching and other skills.

Leader Trainer Interviews: Leader Trainers are involved in the interview and selection process for new Leader Trainers. This is in addition to weekly meetings and includes reviewing written applications. running hour-long teaching sessions of candidates, hour-long interviews with candidates, and meetings to review and discuss applicants.

Other Responsibilities: Leader Trainers are periodically called upon for other duties that support the growth of the OA Program.