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SEARCHING FOR MY NICHE …

I was a kid who was pretty clear about what I wanted to do in life. I had lots of different dreams and never considered they were unattainable.

As a young adult needing to support myself, I found myself in unchartered territory because I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my livelihood. It felt quite foreign to be uncertain about what it was I wanted to do with my life. I tried the traditional path of college—not me. I tried numerous jobs that I considered would be an acceptable career path—also not me. Finally, I was asked the question “what do you want to do most when you wake up in the morning?” My response was “go skiing.” So I did that.

I became a ski instructor and because I wanted to be doing just that, I excelled and was able to support myself doing what I love to do. Each morning I woke up I was happy to give my all because I was doing something that mattered to me.

I found it unacceptable that there were some people who wanted to ski but believed they were not able to because of a disability and so I jumped on the up and coming path of adaptive skiing.

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a professional skier and founder of an adaptive ski school at a time when the American’s with Disabilities Act was being written. It was an exciting time to be an advocate and to be starting something new.

What then happened at my first adaptive training was the misfortune of tearing a ligament in my knee early in the ski season. This then turned into a fortune of insight into the life of a person experiencing a disability.

Two weeks after surgery, as I was hobbling through the lodge, trying to make myself feel useful, two of the program’s first participants, one with Cerebral Palsy effecting his legs and the other with an-above-the-knee amputation said “if we can do it so can you.” So I begged my knee doctor to come ski with me while I was on one leg and he did and even provided me with a full-length brace to protect my leg. I skied on one leg for the entire season and that was the real beginning of me leading the adaptive movement at Loon Mountain.

  • Created organizational, training and operating structure of program.
  • Recruited, trained and managed 150 volunteers.
  • Responsible for fundraising, event coordination, and donor development.
  • Advocated for and implemented Americans with Disabilities Act compliance at Loon Mountain.

During the ten years growing professionally as a nonprofit leader and advocate for our mission, I had other successes through Professional Ski Instructors of America.

 

  • Currently enjoying membership;

Previously:

  • Level III Certified Alpine
  • Level III Certified Adaptive
  • Level I Nordic Certified
  • Adaptive Examiner Alaska and Eastern Division
  • Alpine Examiner, Alaska Division
  • Eastern Development Team member for three seasons.
  • National adaptive committee member establishing certification standards and education materials for snow sports instructors to be used as core components of instructor training.
  • Lead for examiner training in Alaska.
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It was now time to move on and pursue the bigger mountains across the country. It was time to explore beyond the business I started when I was 23 years old. My travels connected me to many interesting people doing interesting things. This then led me work with Spokes and Motion. One of my contracts through Spokes and Motion was six weeks with Challenge Alaska adaptive ski school. I stayed for seven years in different capacities but mostly as the ski school director. I am still there 17 years later as a board member. Challenge Alaska was the beginning of my move to Alaska year round.

Technical Advisor; Spokes N’ Motion (Denver, Colorado 1998-2000)

  • Nonprofit development and training support for adaptive snow sports for ski areas nationwide.
  • Train the Trainer series on newly developed adaptive equipment at ski areas nationwide.

 

Ski School Director/Technical Director; Challenge Alaska (Girdwood, Alaska 2000-2007)

  • Supervised and trained four staff and over 150 volunteers.
  • Managed daily operations of programs and ski shop; maintained 4,000 sq. ft. facility.
  • Developed outreach program to rural villages and Anchorage School District.
  • Responsible for fundraising, donor cultivation and special events.
  • Created volunteer manual and training curriculum; implemented certification program.
  • Improved and maintained relations with Alyeska Resort management and broader community.
  • Implemented race program for paralympic athletes.
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3. ALASKA…

Being in the ski industry afforded me six months off a year to train and condition for next season as well as pursue some interesting jobs and dream fulfillment. One of these dreams was to live like Little House on the Prairie where I could build my house myself and live off the land and have a life that was simple but hard work out in nature. I had no skills in camping or building or even gardening but the desire was there, calling me. Through friends I met through skiing who lived in Alaska, I contacted a lodge deep in the Wrangell Mountains and took a job as a waitress. This was my strategy for being able to build my skills in bush living—to just go there, meet people, and just do it.

After three weeks at the lodge waitressing, which really wasn’t me, one of the guiding company owners offered me a position as a glacier guide with his company. This is a guy who was on TV as a mountain guide. He was the first man to ever walk across the arctic. I was very intimidated. I was completely honest with him that I had no skills surviving in the wilderness and that he would have a lot to teach me. His logic was that if I could guide all different types of people on resort mountains all day, with some glacier training, I could guide them on the glacier. He was right. It was very similar and all those skills transferred. I went back and worked as a glacier guide for the next six summers. I lived in my tent by the river and I went to work each morning guiding people from all over the world, with all levels of experience. It was coaching in its truest, rawest form. It was helping people to realize their dreams of walking on a glacier in the middle of Alaska.

The town I landed in was very remote in my opinion but I learned that was a relevant term. I kept hearing people talk about “backcountry” and I thought I was there but apparently not. I had learned the basics of setting up a tent and using a camping stove and some other safety things and was ready to go check out the backcountry.

I became friends with a gold miner who wanted a road built for his 4-wheeler so he could get to a spot he believed would be lucrative for him. I offered to go and do the job. I had never built a road before but I figured, how complicated can it be if all it requires is using a pick and shovel? Not knowing his flying record, I got into a tiny little bush plane that held just my gear and us. It was a 15-minute flight over spectacular ground and to a very remote backcountry place. He walked me a mile up the creek and carried my large backpack over a log that acted as the bridge to where I would camp. It scared me terribly but I hid that because I was going to have to cross it daily.

We dropped the pack in clearing about the size of the tent and then he walked me to the worksite. It was back over the log, up an embankment, through a tunnel in a mountainside of rock (I assume made with dynamite) and to the top of another bank about 50 feet above a river. Here is where I would work on the hillside using a pick and shovel to build a five-foot wide road for a 4-wheeler to pass. I was to be paid by the foot. He left me there and said he would be back in seven days to check on me. Now that was living remotely. (There are plenty of stories to tell here about dealing with wild animals but that is for another time.)

When I Landed back on the gravel strip airport in the town I was living, it felt heavily populated and I understood—the back country is a relative term.

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  1. BUILDING A HOME AND A FAMILY…

My fourth summer in Alaska I bought property. It took me three years to slowly clear a house site and a quarter mile long driveway. I missed one summer because there was a moose kill on the property and the grizzly wouldn’t let anyone near for about a month. Just as the house site was prepped for building and the lumber was being delivered, the man of my dreams entered the picture.

Before I knew there was a word for it, I dreamed of being able to give money away to people who needed it or wanted to use it to make the world a better place. This was interesting because I never really liked money. I liked the idea of the barter system, the simple life of sharing what you have and getting what you need. Having no money to give away, I had the bright idea of becoming a grant writer as a vehicle for being a philanthropist. I started this journey by volunteering my time to anyone who would let me write a grant for them. A friend and experienced grant writer offered to mentor me. I took her up on it and it led me to the following experiences:

Nonprofit development and program support for Alaska nonprofits (2005-2012)

  • Variety of Nonprofit leadership trainings.
  • Managed volunteer program and database; recruitment, training and placement of volunteers.
  • Interdisciplinary team member assessing direct client and family in-home volunteer placements.

~Marketing and Development Associate; Camp Fire USA, Alaska Council (Statewide 2007-2008)

  • Grant writing, donor cultivation and capital campaign support.
  • Special event coordination and bi-annual newsletter; maintained donor database.

~Fundraising Specialist; Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (Statewide 2006-2007)

  • Developed and implemented annual campaign strategy; obtained funding for programs.
  • Researched, implemented and maintained new donor database. Coordinated special events and projects.

~Grant Writing Consultant; Emily M. Bass Consulting (Statewide in Alaska 2005-2007)

  • Research and grant writing for various nonprofits statewide.

I liked it, but it didn’t give me the direct work with clients I enjoyed. I enjoyed working with the nonprofits but our family needed more stability and financial security.

5. LOOKING FOR A NEW NICHE…

This put us in the city of Anchorage. My husband’s business was mostly there and so that is where we would raise our son. I wasn’t thrilled about my life being consumed with city living; it is just what happened. So I figured, well, if I’m going to live in a city and do the Monday through Friday thing with my family I might as well find something to do that mattered to me and would contribute to the family. This provided me the opportunity to act on another desire that was present as a child—to be a philanthropist.

He honored my dreams and helped me build the house as I had drawn it in my childhood journal. We married two years later. After multiple miscarriages we adopted our son. It is an open adoption and it is the greatest arrangement ever! There were a number of processes and life experiences that came out of that experience that add to my ability to know true empathy. The loss and grief process, the adoption process and the foster care process to name a few. This is another story for another time; in fact it is such a good story I told it to an audience at a tall tales competition and won first place. I am close to my son’s biological mother and foster mother and he is a lucky kid to have the love of three moms. The outcome of that experience had me leaving the ski industry and rethinking my niche and what my purpose was in life. Being single and living as a professional skier traveling around the country was one thing but being a life partner and a mom made me see the world differently. Our son was very social and it was clear from the start he was not going to excel by living in the woods being home schooled with his old mom and dad, so we did what parents do and we changed our life.

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6. THE NON-TRADITIONAL STUDENT…

So I went to college and got the degrees and credentials I needed to do what mattered to me in the way I wanted to as well as in a way that would be good for my family. Usually people get the degree and then gain the experience. I got the experience and then went to school to get the degrees.

At 48 and 49 years old, my internships provided me good connections into the world of philanthropy. READ MORE…

I had such great serendipitous things happen to me such as being at the airport and running into the president of the largest foundation in the state. For some reason she asked me about myself then referred me to her VP so I could do my internship there. That was the beginning of my work in philanthropy and the realization of yet another dream.

 

Bachelor’s in Social Work (University of Alaska, Fairbanks 2012)

  • Internship: Rasmuson Foundation; Grant-making and work with nonprofit applicants. Assessment of organization’s community impact. Research and support on various statewide collaborative efforts.

Master’s in Social Work (University of Alaska, Anchorage 2013)

  • Internship: Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority; focus on policy, advocacy and social change. Social policy analyst and research practice. Grant review and program evaluation. Worked directly with legislature and grantees.
  • Research: “What do LCSW’s in Alaska know about identifying and treating complicated grief?”

Just as graduation was upon me and I was looking for what I would now do with my education and experience, I was offered a position as an interim executive director for a small but long standing nonprofit in my very town of McCarthy, Alaska in the backcountry where I built my house. I was able to ride my bike to work and bring my dogs and live in the house we built in the woods. I could have stayed there forever but I did not want to lose sight of my desire to work in philanthropy and besides the kid was still in school in the city and my husband’s business was there.

Interim Executive Director; Wrangell Mountain Center (McCarthy, Alaska 2013)

  • Oversaw operations, staff, fundraising and events for a rural based educational institution promoting learning through experiential interdisciplinary wilderness exploration.
  • Provided organizational direction change through strategic planning and board training.
  1. THE PHILANTHROPIST…

Then it happened. I got a call from the foundation where I did my first internship and they offered me a ten-month contract working on a statewide initiative called Recover Alaska to reduce the negative impact of excessive alcohol consumption in the state. READ MORE…

The job was amazing. The work was phenomenal. Sitting with judges and commissioners and Native leaders and clinicians and supporting them to do their work was outstanding. The team at the foundation was one of the best fits I’ve ever worked with—smart and warm with high standards and the ability to bring about real change. I felt I had arrived. Following the 10 months it would be summer again and I could go back to McCarthy when school was out. The timing was perfect.

 

Program Associate; Rasmuson Foundation (Anchorage, Alaska 2013-2014)

  • Support of statewide initiative to reduce negative impacts of excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Lead staff for initiative’s evaluation planning.
  • Worked with funders nationwide to manage partnerships around initiative funding.
  • Grantmaking within small capital grant program, worked directly with grantees.
  • Research and staff support to President and CEO in her role as Chair of the Alaska Children’s Trust.
  • Proficient in GIFTS database.

The summer following the foundation contract, a position for a program officer opened up at the statewide community foundation. It was the very role I wanted. I applied and got it! It was my dream job. I loved the work. I liked the community foundation model so much and again I believed this job could be the one in the corporate city life I could wake up and love going to everyday. I was working with community groups and nonprofits through grantmaking programs. I was connecting donors to things they cared about and finding funding that would make a difference in the state that I lived.

 

Program Officer of Grants and Programs; The Alaska Community Foundation (Anchorage, Alaska 2014-2015)

  • Oversaw strategic, competitive and donor advised grant-making. Management of policy, programming and budgets for grant programs. Supervision of program staff.
  • Proposal review and recommendation to committees and board of directors.
  • Worked closely with grantees to assist with their success in achieving key objectives.
  • Managed portfolio of fiscal sponsorships, working closely with community partners through various

program focus areas including suicide prevention, prevention of child abuse and capacity building.

  • Managed national, local and state grants supporting Foundation’s initiatives.
  • Represented Foundation through presentations to nonprofits and prospective funders.
  • Proficient in FIMS database and Foundant online grant-making system.
  1. REESTABLISHING MY ROOTS…

It had been more than a decade now of living in the city and spending less time with family back east or time in my house in the woods. I was expressing my lost feeling to a friend back east and my love of my work but my desire to be more connected to place and roots. Three days later I got a call from the new president of my old ski school saying, “Are you really considering coming back home?” READ MORE…

I hadn’t really considered it. Moving a family across the country is a huge undertaking. I realized I was losing my footing because I actually heard myself say it was unattainable and remember I was a kid who never considered something I wanted as unattainable. I broached the subject with my boys and to my surprise they weren’t against it at all. We started exploring the options and things started falling into place—as they often do when things are as hey are meant to be.

Coincidentally, my current organization was entering a state of transition and it was a good time to make the change from that angle. I started exploring work in philanthropy in the northeast. Something wasn’t sitting right with me as I applied and interviewed for different jobs. Nothing was sparking me like I need to be sparked. I then recalled my wise mother—the one who asked me what I want to do when I get up in the morning—saying you should be a professional coach. I also recalled the professional coach I had when at my last job telling me I was a natural coach. I called him and we talked about what that might look like.

In the meantime, and just to be sure I wasn’t missing my calling as a clinical social worker, I tried my hand at therapy.

Interim Clinical Therapist; North Star Behavioral Health Hospital (Anchorage, Alaska 2016)

  • Oversaw residential care unit for at-risk teen girls providing individual, group and family therapy.
  • Performed psychological-social assessments and created treatment plans that drove overall care.

I liked it a lot. I loved the clients and the families I worked with but the for-profit, regulated environment was not for me. I learned a lot about a different form of helping people and I know the therapeutic skills I learned will transfer, as will each of the skills I’ve gained over the years, to my new niche. I made some great friends and I clarified for myself that I needed to find my own niche again. I started to feel it—coaching was calling me. After all, my roots are as a coach, on skis.

  1. Coming Full Circle

After being fortunate to realize my dreams again and again in all these ways, I recognized I was heading off balance from my core needs of simplicity and openness. If I was going to be honest with myself I had to admit that the full time city business world was not allowing me to be true to myself and be exactly who I am. One of my mentors told me if I feel off balance it’s because I may be in an environment where I am not able to be myself. The call from my old ski school and the connection to being a coach really started to stir me and I was starting to feel that spark rekindle. READ MORE…

I never could have learned what I did without the experiences but I couldn’t succeed as me if I didn’t find the environment that worked for me.

I knew a few things about myself for certain: I like being a generalist and continuing to learn about new things; I am really good at assessing a situation and providing feedback; and I am good at leading. I decided to start my own business and tailor my services to the things I enjoy doing the most because those are the ones I am best at. Using each of the skills, training and experiences I have gained over the years, I combined my nonprofit, business and clinical skills with my coaching skills and personal experiences and signed up for a certification in best executive coaching services. The entire coarse I was saying, “this is it!”

 

Certified Executive Coach (Center for Coaching Certification March 2016)

  • Professional coach certification in whole person perspective and area specific such as career, finances, relationships and other areas as identified by the client.

I plan to continue on to the Master coach level and get accredited with the International Coaching Federation as soon as the house is sold and we move and settle in. In the mean time, I have started my own business

 

Emily Bass Strategies

Organizational Development and Executive Coaching

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So here I am, back where I began. I have the same values and dreams as I always have and am motivated by the same things. The only difference is, I am officially qualified and have twenty more years’ of experience under my belt to help an organization such as my old ski school do more of what it wants to do and do it well. I can go back to being the coach I always have been but now I will do it in the business word where people need to be reminded to stay true to themselves.

Following my gut seems to be bringing me closer to family as they get married, have babies, age and need company. It is a great opportunity for my son to expand beyond Alaska and find his niche and experience the larger world as he embarks on his high school journey. It allows my husband to reach beyond his comfort zone and discover new passions or revive old ones as well. We will have our home in the woods in Alaska anytime we want it and I do believe we will be able to combine our lives and our work between Alaska and New Hampshire for the ultimate dream come true. Why not?

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