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HES Alumni Spotlight: Kristen Keane

Kristen Keane '13 talks about the impact of the Department of Health and Exercise Studies program's outdoor leadership minor on her student experience and her current job as a course director and lead instructor at North Carolina Outward Bound School.

Kristen Keane in hiking gear
Kristen Keane

By Eliza Barsanti

From the beginning of her time at NC State, Kristen Keane ‘13 knew she wanted her future to include wilderness adventures. Keane added the Department of Health and Exercise Studies’ outdoor leadership minor in order to delve further into the outdoor industry and all it had to offer. It’s clear that since making this choice, Keane has been uniquely prepared for her extraordinary journey. 

The outdoor leadership minor is a 16 credit hour minor program that is designed to engage students interested in outdoor adventure careers or personal development through outdoor programming. 

Keane explained how for her, the OL minor helped to launch her career in the outdoor industry. She noted, “The OL minor also allowed me to establish a network of professionals who could help me get where I wanted to be.”

Keane currently works as a course director and lead instructor at North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS). NCOBS aims to provide individuals of all ages with outdoor experiences that challenge them to step out of their comfort zones and learn valuable life lessons. NCOB programs are designed to facilitate group and team building as well as deep personal development. Participants overcome challenges over the course of their NCOBS experiences that help them discover they are capable of accomplishing anything.

Keane noted that the outdoor leadership minor gave her the practical skills she needed to excel in her wilderness career. 

“The combination of theory study and practical applications of curriculum development, expedition planning, and risk management set me up to meet with a lot of success early on in my career and ultimately set me on the path I am on now, helping to shape the future of a major outdoor education and leadership school.”

When asked about advice she’d give to current students considering an outdoor leadership minor, Keane didn’t miss a beat. 

“You are hard-core enough,” she said. “This industry can seem intimidating in the beginning. The media around it usually includes photos and stories from people climbing a massive rock face or dropping a huge rapid on a river. You’ll get there, but remember that all those people in the photos were beginners once too.”

She explained that one of the most valuable assets you can have when diving into outdoor activities is openness, and a willingness to learn and try new things. 

“Trainability is so much more important than possessing the most perfect technical skills,” she said. “Be honest about where you are with those skills and show enthusiasm for seeking more training in areas that are new to you. This industry is constantly evolving, so the attitude of being a lifelong student will serve you well.”