Getting To Know Our Staff: 12 Questions with Ian Brown

There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into planning your favorite outdoor adventures! Our staff questionnaire series allows you to learn about those who work inside to get you outside.This week we’ve interviewed Ian Brown, our new Program Director.

1. Briefly tell us about your background: where did you grow up, where did you go to school, and what brought you to Venture Outdoors? 

Ian Brown Blog 1I grew up in Chillicothe, Ohio, located in the foothills of Southern Ohio. For those who don’t know, Chillicothe is home to the outdoor drama Tecumseh and was Ohio’s First Capital.   I attended Muskingum College and studied Conservation Science. I also attended The State University of New York: Albany receiving my Masters of Public Policy and Affairs.  I was drawn to Venture Outdoors because of the great work they are doing getting residents of Southwestern PA outside.  It is crucial to provide everyone the opportunity to experience the outdoors.   

2. Describe your role at Venture Outdoors in 10 words or less. 

Make sure all programs are running smoothly. 

3. What does “getting outside” mean to you? 

Getting outside is so important to me, whether it be a planned trip or just a walk around the neighborhood.  I use that time to think, clear my head and take in the natural surroundings.  I also try to take my kids outside wherever possible for them to explore, create and take risks outside. 

Ian Blog 24. If you had to pick only one recreational activity to practice for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? 

Since I was little, I played soccer, I plan to continue to play as long as possible.  When I lived in Seattle, I picked up running and have run a half-marathon a year since.   I also plan to hike and be outside for as long as I’m able to. 

5. What is the craziest thing you have done? 

After I received my undergraduate degree, I took a job with the US Forest Service looking at Pre-Post fire regions in the West.  Our crew was tasked with looking for woodpecker species and to determine how many fledglings were produced at each nest. For a more in-depth analysis of the research, take a look at this link.  Essentially, the Forest Service paid me to hike for 10 hours a day.  This job took me all over the West, giving me the opportunity to car-camp, explore and meet some amazing people.  In more than one instance, random strangers offered me and the crew I worked with a place to stay while they were away on trips, instilling in me an amazing sense of the good-heartedness of people.

6. What are your top five favorite outdoors/travel destinations?  

  1. Hocking Hills, Ohio
  2. Adirondacks, NY
  3. Olympic Peninsula, WA
  4. Puerto Rico
  5. Hawaii 

7. What is your favorite forest/camping snack?

Nothing beats a good Peanut Butter (Sun Butter) and jelly or honey sandwich after a day outside.

8. Name three people in history (dead or alive) with whom you would want to take on a Venture Outdoors program of your choice. 

My Grandfather, who I have fond memories of taking my brother and I fishing when we were little, Rachel Carson who inspired me to think critically about environmental issues and, Dr. Antwi Akom.  Dr. Akom has an extensive background in building collaborative, community-facing technology projects and new models of urban innovation that help cities become smarter, more equitable, just and sustainable.  

9. What is your favorite Venture Outdoors memory? (or newbies: What are you looking forward to most?) 

Working with the Adaptive Paddling Program and helping grow our participation in urban communities while strengthening our community presence. 

10. Describe your dream Venture Outdoors program/outing.

A reoccurring cultural tour of Pittsburgh’s Neighborhoods, ending as a block party to celebrate the residents and businesses of that neighborhood.  Each tour would utilize community residents to co-lead the tours and would end with a community block party.

11. What is the earliest memory you have of being outside? 

I have always had a connection to being outside.  I remember going to my grandparents’ lake in Southern Ohio to fish and play in the woods when I was young. 

12. What is your biggest challenge nowadays?  

Having three small children under 5 years old keeps me on my toes.  


Posted in Staff


  • Restorative Practices in an Outdoor Setting

    April 24, 2018

    By: Beth Zabiegalski   

    As an organization, Venture Outdoors does some really awesome and exciting things with local youth in after-school and summer programs, getting them outside for the first time or teaching them something new to do in nature. Most of our outings are a couple hours or less, but when we build meaningful relationships with our students, we create formative outdoor experiences with memories that last more than just that afternoon. 

    Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a two-day Restorative Practices Training through Venture Outdoors’ partnership with Pittsburgh Public Schools. I’ll admit I had next to no idea what to expect,

     » Read more about: Restorative Practices in an Outdoor Setting  »

  • Spring Inside

    April 17, 2018

    A Day a Phipps 
    By: Sara Cardamone 

    Now that Spring is finally here, so is the rain! In Pittsburgh, sometimes it can be hard to find ways to be in nature when it is rainy and muddy. However, there are tons of fun alternatives if you look hard enough! Since I’m a student at Pitt, I pass Phipps Conservatory all the time but I always felt like I never had enough time to stop in. Fast forward to now, the first big rainy day of Spring was upon us and I was struggling to find a calming activity to take my mind off of school and then it hit me.

     » Read more about: Spring Inside  »

  • My Mirror is the Outdoors

    April 10, 2018

    By Stephanie Capilongo

    “Go Outside… amidst the simple beauty of nature… and know that as long as places like this exist, there will be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.” -Anne Frank.

    The outdoors, it appears, is complicated. But it’s not. It can free your mind and give you a new appreciation for beauty. It brings things and people together, whether it’s your best friend, significant other or your cat. The people you go with mean everything. And no matter who you are or what you do, you can find joy.

     » Read more about: My Mirror is the Outdoors  »

  • When Youth Find their Voices

    April 3, 2018

    By: Lo Hutelmyer, Ryan Singleton and Ty’Shay Thorton

    To an educator, few things are more rewarding than witnessing a student discover his or her own passion. More rewarding still is when they show their first glimpses of leadership by taking charge to teach others about their passion.

    For those of you who may know me, it’s sometimes a challenge for me to stay quiet. But when I had the opportunity to watch Ty’Shay and Ryan present at last month’s conference, I was speechless. Ty’Shay and Ryan, 7th graders from Manchester Academic Charter School, have been participating regularly on Venture Outdoors trips for two years.

     » Read more about: When Youth Find their Voices  »

  • Mount Ararat Community Activity Center takes on GASP!

    March 27, 2018

    By: La’Nell Pennington, Trip Leader SpecialistGASP

    Last October, youth group members at Mount Ararat Community Activity Center in East Liberty participated in an after-school workshop with Pittsburgh’s own Group Against Smog and Pollution. (GASP).

    What is air pollution? We started out by asking the children if they knew what air pollution was. All the kids raised their hands excited to give answers. After a short hike to the Larimer Community Garden, we took turns giving examples of different types of air pollution and where it comes from. The children identified pollution sources such as cars,

     » Read more about: Mount Ararat Community Activity Center takes on GASP!  »

Kayak Pittsburgh

Sunset Paddle

Thank you for another great season!
We’ll see you on the water in 2018!


Featured Outing

Geocaching - CD

Cultural District Geocaching
Thursday, April 26
6:30 – 8:30 PM

Join us for a fun intro to the world of geocaching in the Cultural District. We will learn the basics of using a GPS (Global Positioning System) device to navigate between waypoints throughout downtown.