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HES Alumna Never Stops Exploring

Alyssa Stroker '20 reflects on some of her favorite memories and adventures in NC State's Health and Exercise Studies program and its outdoor leadership minor.

Alyssa Stroker holds a pick axe during a mountain climb in the snow

By Eliza Barsanti

The Health and Exercise Studies Department’s outdoor leadership minor allows students who want to spend time outside learning new skills to receive credit for their adventures. With a goal of working in the outdoor industry, Alyssa Stroker ‘20 knew this was the program for her. Since adding the minor, she has been adventuring and building a base of knowledge that is fueling her “lifelong pursuit of always exploring.”

Stroker explained why she was excited to get involved in the minor. “I decided to minor in outdoor leadership once I realized I could take some amazing outdoor courses and get class credit for them,” she said.

As she worked through her courses in the minor, Stroker gained numerous new skills, from safety preparations to ice climbing to important leadership skills.

“I gained exposure to some very incredible and exciting outdoor adventures that I had not yet had the opportunity to experience,” Stroker said. “For example, I went on the Mountaineering trip to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and learned the basics of mountaineering, ice climbing and winter safety procedures (i.e., winter gear, hypothermia, avalanche protocol, etc). Aside from the personal enjoyment of the OL courses, I gained essential leadership skills necessary to lead an adventure-based program from start to finish, including the planning and development of a program, safety and risk management, and teaching skills in outdoor settings … The OL minor gave me the confidence and knowledge to continue to explore and adventure.”

On top of this, Stroker learned more about the role of advocacy in the outdoor industry. 

“Not only did I gain outdoor technical skills, but I was further exposed to the importance of advocacy for outdoor recreational opportunities and the promotion of preserving our natural world,” she said.

Along with a strong knowledge base, Stroker gained a host of new memories that she looks back on fondly. When asked about the most memorable course she’s taken, Stroker didn’t miss a beat. 

Alyssa Stroker holds up a paddle next to some canoes

“The most memorable course I took was the Introduction to Mountaineering,” she said. “That outdoor adventure will be hard to beat and stands as my most memorable outdoor trip for a number of reasons. We spent 10 days in the White Mountains of New Hampshire surrounded by heaps of snow and learning how to camp and backpack in those conditions. Postholing in snow up to my hip and learning to ice climb will always be one of my favorite outdoor adventures thanks to the outdoor leadership minor.”

Stroker also reflected on the people she met and learned from in the program. 

“Above all, I gained an incredible group of outdoor enthusiast friends and three amazing mentors that have pushed and encouraged me to pursue my outdoor dreams.”

Stroker has continued to plan and participate in outdoor adventures of her own beyond the minor. She talked about one particularly memorable trip when she sharpened her climbing skills.

“I spent seven weeks traveling around Wyoming and touched into Colorado exploring some iconic and well-loved climbing destinations,” she said. “In Wyoming, I climbed in Wild Iris, Ten Sleep, Jackson Hole, and Devil’s Tower, and headed to Colorado to climb in Rifle Mountain Park and Boulder Canyon. My trip originally was planned for 2.5 weeks with some climbing sprinkled in here and there, but I caught the climbing bug, skipped my flight and continued to climb and explore some beautiful rock formations. This trip was instrumental in my climbing adventures. Prior to Wyoming, I could count on one hand the number of times I had lead climbed, and by the end of my trip I had checked off my first 5.11a, a crimpy, runout, and a technical climb in The Temple crag of Ten Sleep.”

Stroker has a lot of advice for prospective students who are interested in pursuing the minor, even if they aren’t interested in pursuing a career path in the outdoor industry. She encourages any student who’s interested to dive in.

“Do it,” she encouraged. “Add the minor; you won’t regret it. I wish I would’ve known about the minor at the start of my college years because I would’ve taken all the courses offered. My outdoor leadership minor courses were always my favorite courses of the day and offered a much needed break from my major specific courses. I would highly recommend the minor to a prospective student because even if you’re not pursuing an outdoor recreation job, this minor will provide you with memories and adventures that will significantly enhance your time at NC State.”

From skill building to mentorship to memories, the outdoor leadership minor has a lot to offer students. For more information about the HES department’s five minors, visit hes.dasa.ncsu.edu. To learn more about the outdoor leadership minor and adventures that students like Stroker are taking on throughout the program, check out their Instagram account: @outdoorncstate.