Caeley Grady

A Women’s History Month Spotlight

Sophomore Caeley Grady is an Outdoor Recreation major, and it’s easy to see why. As someone who hopes to be an outdoor guide after she graduates, with the ultimate goal of running an outdoor program and teaching outdoor recreation classes at a university, Grady seems to be right where she belongs.

You could say it all started with her dad, St. Francis alumnus Thomas ’91, and mom, Deborah, who have always been supportive and for whom Grady couldn’t be more thankful. Because her parents stayed in the Joliet area, USF ended up being her closest and most affordable college choice. It turned out being her best choice, too, as she decided to pursue the Recreation & Sport Management major and has absolutely loved the experiences the program has afforded her.

When Grady started taking classes from Assistant Professor and Recreation Club Advisor Jerome Gabriel, she felt extra-inspired to figure out what she wanted to do with her life after college. He was a true example to her of what was possible in the field.

“He is living my dream currently– his job is exactly what I want my job to be. I look up to him very much and think of him as my mentor,” she said.

“Another professor that inspires me is Willard Thomen,” Grady said, talking about her fine arts instructor. “When he teaches, you can tell that he loves what he is doing. He has this slight smile and glimmer in his eyes when he starts to talk about the arts and that is something I aspire to have while teaching outdoor recreation.”

Grady has taken three week-long trips since becoming a student at USF. The travel experiences have taught her the practical skills she’ll need to lead her own outdoor trips. She feels the program, overall, is preparing her for the future. She noted the RSTM 300 course, where she and her classmates guided every single freshman through the USF Challenge Center teams course. The Challenge Center, just a few blocks from USF’s Main Campus, provides a venue for new students to become better leaders and feel more comfortable in larger groups. It’s also a resource to the local community, in addition to students in the Recreation and Sport Management and Leadership Studies programs.

Only a sophomore, the future already looks bright for Grady. USF recently fared well in the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge, which logged student activity in an effort to get students “off the couch and into the wilderness.” After much hiking, biking, ascending and kayaking by USF’s team, the university placed first in regional and individual competitions and second in the national division for the 2017 competition. On the individual level, Gabriel won Faculty National Outsider of the Year, and Grady won National Outsider of the Year for Division 2.

“It was an amazing experience for me. I was one of our university’s student coordinators, so there was a lot of facilitating and teaching involved. This is another one of those experiences that the Recreation and Sport Management Department has offered to me. It helped me get out of my shell a bit and open up to other people,” Grady reflected.

When the campus challenge ended, the Outdoor Foundation (Outdoor Nation is a subset of the Outdoor Foundation) started seeking Outdoor Nation Campus Ambassadors for an elite ambassador program. Gabriel encouraged Grady to apply. Grady was chosen as one of only 18 students from around the country for the honor. She was flown to Washington DC to meet the other ambassadors and Outdoor Nation leaders. While there, the Outdoor Foundation and the Sierra Club taught Grady leadership skills, basic first aid and trip planning skills, and charged her iwth planning three outdoor events for the USF campus community.

Grady’s first scheduled event is a spring break backpacking trip to a section of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. She, Gabriel, and two others are guiding 11 students on the trek. Her second event will be a park cleanup through the Forest Preserve District of Will County in late April. Her last event will be a hike around a local forest preserve.

Grady’s favorite outdoor activities are canoeing, caving and hiking. She hasn’t had much free time recently, but when she gets it, she enjoys hiking, hammocking and painting.