Wherever her career takes her, Kali McKenzie simply has to spend time in the outdoors. As a Wilderness Ranger for Zion National Park, she gets plenty of opportunities to do just that.
McKenzie fell in love with the outdoors after spending a summer at a scout camp in California while she was in high school. Seeing potential for a career spent in the wilderness, she decided to dive into the Outdoor Recreation program at Southern Utah University with an emphasis in natural resources management. McKenzie is now in her senior year.
Through the Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative, McKenzie completed a summer internship following her sophomore year in the volunteer services department at Zion National Park. Her summer consisted of working with volunteers on service projects for the park. The following summer, McKenzie worked for visitor services. The responsibilities for this position included helping run programs for junior rangers, working at the visitor's center desk, and conducting trail surveys for many of the trails in the park to ensure that they were being properly taken care of.
The internship was supposed to be only for the summer, but they allowed McKenzie to work through the fall and winter of her junior year. With notable experience in the park under her belt, Mckenzie applied to be a full-fledged wilderness ranger and was accepted.
“Many classes have prepared me for my internships and my current job,” said McKenzie. “I would not have had the knowledge base that I needed to be a ranger in a National Park without the guidance of my Outdoor Recreation professors, the classes I have taken, and the help of the people who work for the IIC at SUU.”
Dr. Kelly Goonan, director of outdoor recreation, and Jake Manning, lecturer in outdoor recreation, were particularly inspiring for McKenzie who credits her drive to learn and discover her interests to their courses and mentoring.
As a Wilderness Ranger, McKenzie gets to spend half her time indoors and half outdoors. Her indoor responsibilities involve giving out permits to visitors wanting to camp in the wilderness and for permitted hikes. In the field, Mckenzie monitors the wilderness by checking on resources and ensuring the visitors in the park are complying with their permits and staying within the confines of the law. She is also a part of the search and rescue team for visitors who are lost or injured in the park, a role she hopes to expand on once she acquires her EMT certification.
“My dream for the future is to continue to find new passions and to continue to work hard to achieve my goals,” said McKenzie. “For now, I want to work for the National Park Service and hopefully that will lead to a full time position. The internships and now my work as a wilderness ranger have made me more confident in myself and my abilities and given me a future to look forward to.”