Embarking on a lifelong adventure to uplift women, protect the land

Kami Bakken with blooming tree


By John Anderson

Every day, she would walk from her family farm through forested countryside to grandma and grandpa’s house. She’d break open milkweed pods in the garden and watch the wispy seeds pour out. She found peace and solitude in the crisp air and rising trees of the southern Minnesota wild.

Kami Bakken has always loved and respected nature and her place in it.

She’d never been to Colorado before visiting Colorado State University. Ultimately, she chose to study here for CSU’s proximity to outdoor recreation. She quickly fell in love with the area, campus, and Warner College of Natural Resources. One of her life aspirations is to help people form deeper connections with nature, so she chose to study with the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources department to gain a greater understanding of the kinds of relationships people form with nature and what that means. Bakken is set to graduate this week with her bachelor’s degree.

Supporting women in the outdoors

Bakken was an outdoor recreation trip instructor for CSU’s Outdoor Program. In this role, she helped students learn new skills, take on personal challenges, and experience new outdoor spaces.

“People form a special relationship with land that they recreate on,” Bakken said. “And through this special relationship comes long-term admiration and a sense of responsibility.”

She was a founding member of CSU’s Environmental Policy Awareness Coalition, which is a bipartisan club to discuss environmental issues and foster an understanding of different opinions. Bakken also joined Warner College’s student council as a sophomore, served as outreach coordinator for an academic year, and remained an active member through graduation.

Bakken also brought the No Man’s Landfilm festival to CSU for two years in a row. The festival highlights women in the outdoor arena and encourages everyone to get outdoors and enjoy public spaces.

“There’s an imbalance in the outdoor industry, and I think it’s important to recognize that imbalance, but more importantly to understand why it’s there and how to change it,” Bakken said. “I wanted to bring this event to help encourage women to get outside and support each other. I want women to feel that they are bold and brave and to be proud of themselves.”

Telling the stories of people in nature

Bakken likes to live a life of healthy risk-taking. She skis, climbs, backpacks, and has many adventures on her mountain bike. She has great stories herself, but she’s most interested in learning about and helping others tell their outdoor adventure stories.

“In summer 2017, I worked as a bouldering intern for Rocky Mountain National Park. I was able to climb Lumpy Ridge with a couple climbing rangers as my first multi-pitch climb and first lead climb with traditional gear. That was an incredibly empowering and fortunate experience I was able to have with some amazing and influential people. I want to help people share feelings and experiences like that.”

And she does. She brings nature stories to life through The Life in Chacospodcast, a passion project she envisioned, directed, and produced to give a voice to the myriad views and experiences that exist at Warner College. Her work has highlighted the experiences of first-generation Warner students, the experiences of women outdoor adventurers, and many ambitious outdoor education projects started by CSU students.

Being an advocate and educator

Bakken wants to engage in the collaborative conservation process by creating space for stakeholders to express their interests and concerns. Her love for the outdoors has created more aspirations and passions than she expected. She intends to embark on multiple career paths inenvironmental policy – to advocate for the contentious issues surrounding natural resources and to educate the public – and the recreational side of the outdoor industry.

“I hope to be involved in the strides the outdoor industry is making,” said Bakken. “They have made a monumental impact lately when it comes to conservation and public land policy. Collaborating together to give voice to our accessible and wild spaces will be an important part of my generation’s future.”