Spotlight Chris Lukas
Q&A with Chris Lukas, Assistant Director of Outdoor Adventure, Department of Recreational Services, Kent State University
- Kent State 2009 alumnus B.S. in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Management
- M.S. Recreation Studies
- ACCT Level II Practitioner
- Wilderness First Responder
- AMGA Instructor
What sparked your interest in outdoor adventure, recreation, parks and tourism management?
One of my favorite memories as a kid is hanging out with my grandpa at local river parks growing up in northeast Ohio. We would bring old milk cartons and coffee cans down to the river and spend time under the sun finding crayfish, salamanders, snakes, turtles, and minnows. I think my grandpa’s enthusiasm for the outdoors (and life in general) rubbed off on me from a young age. When I got older, I started camping and always felt a sense of peace being outside. As an undergraduate student at Kent State, I chose the Recreation, Parks and Tourism Management major so I could make a career out of doing what I love. I also got a job as a student employee at the Adventure Center, where I started rock climbing and backpacking more. I now get to work for the Adventure Center full time and have the opportunity to spark that interest in the outdoors for others every day.
What is your favorite part of your position?
I am always amazed to see how many students at Kent State have never been on a hike or been kayaking, or camping, or rock climbing. The most amazing part is that I get to help them have their first experiences/connections with the outdoors. The Adventure Center is a community that is created by the shared bond of people recreating in the outdoors. The social, physical, and emotional benefits that come with that experience are great. The Adventure Center really brings all types of people together and creates a community of healthy, happy outdoor adventurers! It helps students unwind during busy college semesters. It helps people make new friends. It helps people stay fit when lifting weights or playing sports might not be their thing. It helps people disconnect from technology and social media. I get to see these things happen every time we run a trip, clinic, or program. It is wonderfully rewarding for me and my amazing student employees.
How does sustainability manifest itself in what you do at Kent State University?
We have five foundational pillars that guide everything we do at the Adventure Center. Sustainability is one of them. From an organizational perspective, we want the Adventure Center to stay relevant and engaging for years to come so that the KSU community continues to have opportunities to spend time outdoors and try new things. We know that the more people recreate outdoors, the more of an impact we have on the environment. Especially now, with more people getting outside than ever during the pandemic, we want to make sure we are preserving natural spaces so they can be used by future generations for years to come. We do this in a lot of different ways. We work with the Office of Sustainability on many initiatives around campus, we teach Leave No Trace principles during our programs, we host river clean ups every year, we have worked with USG to ensure the recycling/waste systems at Recreational Services are effective, and much more. Sustainability is a responsibility for the Adventure Center.
Where is one of your favorite spots to visit on campus? And what makes it your favorite? (If you had to pick just one or two).
This probably seems very biased, but the climbing wall at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center is probably my favorite spot on campus for many reasons. First, it is the hub of everything we do at the Adventure Center. People can come meet our staff, ask questions, and even register for programs at the wall. The biggest thing for me is that when people come, they are made to feel welcome at the climbing wall. A lot of people come to our programs/facilities with some apprehension. It is a new experience for many and that can be scary. With the wall in particular, there is the very real fear of being tied to a rope 35 feet above the ground. Our staff understand this and try to connect with each person who comes to the wall to try to get to know them first. We build relationships with our participants to help them feel welcomed, comfortable, and confident to take on the adventures we offer. I love to see our community grow at the wall every semester because people feel like they belong. I have heard many students say that the wall is their second home at Kent State University. It’s just a fun, inviting atmosphere that you can feel when you are there. Climbing is also one of my main forms of exercise, so I enjoy getting to burn some calories while figuring out the puzzle of climbing routes on our wall.
Can you tell us more about the Outdoor Adventure Center and your role as assistant director?
Many people know about the climbing wall, but the Adventure Center is so much more. We offer trips like backpacking, camping, kayaking, and outdoor climbing to get people outdoors. We offer instructional clinics like Introduction to Climbing, Archery, Campfire Cooking, Astronomy, Packing a Backpack, and more where you can learn to safely recreate outdoors. We offer inexpensive outdoor gear rentals so if you are ready to go on an outdoor adventure, but just need an extra tent or a sleeping bag, we have you covered! We also offer teambuilding on our high or low ropes course or we can even bring our teambuilding program to your location. Those are just a few of the things the Adventure Center offers. Please reach out (contact information below) to me with any questions you have.
What would people be surprised to learn or know?
I just returned from a trip to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. Bison are my favorite animal (check out the excitement on my face in the picture!) and we got to see huge herds of them as well as some bears, towering mountains, erupting geysers, wildflowers in full bloom, and cold mountain streams Yellowstone has been on my bucket list for some time. Even with having to spend twelve hours on one plane because of weather, having to sleep in the airport, ending up having to rent a car and drive home from Chicago, and doing it all with a crabby (rightfully so) three year old, it was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it… just make sure to start planning a year in advance 😉.