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Portrait of Jerry Isaak

Jerry Isaak


Chair of Expeditionary Studies
Associate Professor of Expeditionary Studies

Academia and adventure merge in the Expeditionary Studies Department at SUNY Plattsburgh. The faculty of this unique department bridge these fields with high levels of accomplishment and practice in both. The department chair, Jerry Isaak, is an expedition leader, educator, interdisciplinary scholar, and the administrative director of the expeditionary studies program. His formal education and training began in the adventure studies program at Thompson Rivers University, in Isaak’s home province of British Columbia, Canada. He then completed graduate studies at the University of Edinburgh as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar in Outdoor Education in 2012. During this time, he also served as the chief mountain leader of a large arctic youth expedition with the British Exploring Society, with support from the University of Edinburgh’s highly competitive Innovation Initiative Grant.

Isaak continues the practice of adventure education scholarship and application through regularly publishing in peer reviewed and professional journals, such as the Journal of Experiential Education, the Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education and Leadership, and the American Avalanche Association’s The Avalanche Review. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and is a regular presenter at national and international conferences, including the Wilderness Risk Management Workshop and the International Snow Science Workshop. His presentations focus primarily in the areas of avalanche education, decision-making in extreme environments and the pedagogy of educational expeditions within higher education.

Jerry Isaak skis in Iceland with EXP students
Jerry Isaak skiing with EXP students in Iceland

In his teaching practice, Isaak merges on-campus courses with annual international expeditions and field courses, with a particular emphasis on backcountry skiing, avalanche education and cultural exchange. Recent expeditions with SUNY Plattsburgh include journeys in Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Japan, Scotland, and Iceland. Additionally, he has worked with expeditionary studies students, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, to plan and complete more than 90 student-led expeditions over the past five years. These credit-bearing expeditions range from weeklong journeys in New York’s Adirondack Mountains to month-long treks above the Arctic Circle in winter and remote whitewater packrafting descents in western Nepal. For his commitment to furthering student field learning and experiential education, Isaak received the inaugural SUNY Plattsburgh award for Outstanding Mentorship in Applied Learning in 2017.

  • Education & Certification
    • M.Sc., Outdoor Education, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland (2012)
    • Diploma, Adventure Studies, Thompson Rivers University, Canada (2007)
    • American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA)
      • Assistant Ski Guide
      • Apprentice Alpine Guide
      • Apprentice Rock Guide
    • Avalanche Training & Certification
      • Course Instructor, American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (2016)
      • Level 3, American Avalanche Institute (2012)
      • Avalanche Operations Level 1, Canadian Avalanche Association (2006)
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