Skip to main content

Love is an (Outdoor) Adventure

By Eliza Barsanti

The Department of Health and Exercise Studies (HES) at NC State offers programs and activities that are great opportunities to engage with the NC State community, meet new people with similar interests, and form lifelong friendships. This was especially true for Will Ericson ‘14 and Keela Kennedy ‘15, who met during their time at NC State in an outdoor leadership minor course and got engaged this September!

Ericson and Kennedy both had previous experience with outdoor programming before attending NC State. They saw the outdoor leadership minor program as an opportunity to advance those skills and dive deeper into the activities they enjoyed. 

Ericson explained, “As a freshman, I found a job working for University Recreation as a special events coordinator. I soon learned about the Outdoor Adventures program and immediately applied to work behind the rental desk. It wasn’t long before I heard about the outdoor leadership minor and signed up. I had done a bit of camping, whitewater rafting, and climbing before, and this seemed like a great opportunity to learn more and hone my skills.”

Kennedy noted, “I was lucky to have some awesome backpacking experiences in high school that inspired my interest in spending time outside. Once I got to NC State and realized I could further build those hard and soft skills, I was very intrigued and decided to pursue the minor.”

Ericson recalls meeting Kennedy during their final year in the program. 

“We met our senior year during HESM214 – Intro to Adventure Education, where we got placed into the same group for our first project. Somehow we’d never overlapped in classes until then. We hit it off!”

When asked how they’re continuing their outdoor leadership pursuits, Ericson and Kennedy explained how the skills and activities they explored in the minor are still important parts of their lives. 

“After graduating from NC State, I worked with the NC Outward Bound School for two years while spending the other seasons teaching science in Yosemite,” Ericson said. “In 2016, we decided to take a three-month backpacking trip to Patagonia before returning to Outward Bound for a season together. We moved to Colorado to pursue graduate school and have been here since.”

Since attending graduate school and building lives outside of the university, Ericson and Kennedy have been able to delve into new outdoor activities and put aside time for outdoor adventures regularly.

“While we still go on backpacking trips often, Will’s outdoor pursuits have shifted from climbing and paddling towards trail running, fishing, and upland bird hunting with our German shorthaired pointer,” Kennedy said. “We still get out for a climb with friends from time to time and try to squeeze an epic in once a year in addition to weekend adventures.”

Ericson and Kennedy got engaged in September, and are excited to continue adventuring together.

For more information about the HES outdoor leadership minor and all the classes it has to offer, visit the program’s website or check them out on Instagram @outdoorncstate!

This post was originally published in DASA.