Cindy Dillenschneider

Professor of Outdoor Education and Program Coordinator

Northland College Outdoor Education Professor, Cindy Dillenschneider, enjoying a rainy day on the water

B.S. in Physical Education with a Corrective Therapy specialization from Texas A&M University. College Station, TX.

M.S. in Experiential Education from Mankato State University. Mankato, MN.

My employment choices have allowed me to work as an instructor for Outward Bound, the National Outdoor Leadership School, Environmental Traveling Companions, the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, the Woodlands Institute, Appalachian Mental Health Center, and Northland College, as well as several other programs. I have worked with populations of all abilities and all ages in wilderness settings.

My personal and professional passions are fueled by finding ways that allow people of all abilities to access the wilderness and assisting them in discovering opportunities for learning and personal growth that exist in nature. I am committed to education as a journey rather than a destination and believe our classroom exists wherever we are impelled to stretch our understanding, awareness, and knowledge.

Learning takes place in small group dialog, when engaged with the larger community, in a library surrounded by literary works, and on the river in the midst of the rapid. College educated persons and persons pursuing a college education hold a privileged and powerful place in our society. In recognition that we exist within the context of the greater social, physical, and spiritual community, I believe it is our responsibility to share the benefits of our privilege. By taking education beyond the walls of the college and immersing ourselves and our students into solutions for sustainable and healthy communities–both human and non-human–we can use our position of power and privilege for creative, generative, and healing purposes rather than using our position in pursuit of advancement for our exclusive short-term benefit.

For the past 20 years, I have worked as an outdoor educator at Northland College. Our vision, “to be the leading environmental/ liberal arts college in the nation,” attracts students who wish to change the world. Some people see our students as idealistic and naïve.  I also see our students’ idealism and believe where idealism exists so exists the opportunity to make profound change. Idealism brings energy, enthusiasm, perseverance, and possibility thinking. Without the belief that we can make a difference, we become cynical and disheartened and ultimately give up.

The future that can be envisioned by our students is the future that can be realized. It becomes our job as educators to be the orchestrators, mentors, and midwives to our students’ efforts in becoming colleagues and fellow creators of environmental sustainability and human justice.

My interests outside of work are centered primarily outdoors, especially in wild places, through hiking, skiing, paddling, and climbing. Lake Superior and the surrounding forests have become my local refuge, but my history draws me to the mountains and deserts on regular pilgrimages. When I am not adventuring, I find treasure in books, music, and friends. I am also passionate about animals and love the role they play in my life. My best friends and most frequent companions are my husband and our dog. You may run into us in the woods someday if you are out wandering – just wandering.

My research is focused on Universal Design in Outdoor Education. Two Highlights are the development of a Canoe Paddle for One-Arm Use resulting in US Patent 7,311,573 and a chapter titled Integrating Persons with Impairments & Disabilities in Standard Outdoor Adventure Education Programs in Theory and Practice of Experiential Education 4th edition. Published in November, 2008 by the Association for Experiential Education. Boulder, CO. ISBN: 978-0-929361-17-8

View a demonstration of Cindy’s Adaptive paddle: