Alumni Spotlight: Kellie Walters, professor and founder of health focused organizations for girls and women
Meet Kellie Walters, a 2017 Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management alumna who earned her doctorate and has traveled across the country to teach– her dream job. She’s not only a teacher, but a steward to her community. She has started two organizations: a non-profit program that improves adolescent girls’ physical and emotional health called Smart Fit Girls, and a wellness coaching company geared towards helping adult women become the best version of themselves called Smart Fit Womxn. We caught up with her to learn more about how Clemson prepared her for her career and what inspired her on that path.
Q: What is your job? What is a typical day or week like?
I am an assistant professor in the Kinesiology Department at California State University, Long Beach. I teach mostly hybrid courses, where lectures are recorded online, and labs taught in person. The rest of the days are filled with student meetings, service requirements and research activities. I love how flexible my job is and that every day looks a bit different.
Q: What is the most rewarding part about your job?
Feeling like I’m helping my community, whether that be the student community on campus or members of our local community in Long Beach.
Q: Describe your career path since graduation?
I started my current job immediately after graduation and plan on staying here for the anticipated future. This really is my dream job, and I can’t imagine doing anything else that makes me this happy.
Q: What inspired you to take your career path?
As an undergraduate student at San Diego State University, I had a professor tell me that I could have my doctorate by the time I was 30 (barely made it!) and that was the first person who ever put that idea in my head. I quickly realized that my love for school, education and mentoring worked perfectly with the job of a professor, so that’s the route I took. So, I went to get my Master’s in Health and Exercise Science from Colorado State University and then pursed my doctorate at Clemson. I wanted to go back to teach in my home state because I wanted to work alongside a diverse community and live closer to my family.
ince she started Smart Fit Girls (SFG) in 2014, more than 1,000 girls have gone through the programNationwide, including at Riverside Middle School in Pendleton, where the flagship program still operates.
Q: Are you involved in any community organizations?
I am the co-founder of a non-profit organization, Smart Fit Girls (SFG). SFG is a girl’s empowerment program that helps adolescent girls improve their physical and emotional health. The flagship site is still up and running at Riverside Middle School in Pendleton, South Carolina, and since we started in 2014, more than 1,000 girls have gone through the program.
I am also the co-founder of a wellness coaching company, Smart Fit Womxn, that works with adult women on creating sustained, meaningful health changes in their life. Since we coach our clients virtually, I have clients from all over the country. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the changes my clients, and the girls who go through SFG, experience.
I started these organizations because I believe in the collective power of girls and women. I truly believe that empowering girls and women can change the world in a variety of positive ways. Given my background, contributing towards the advancement of girls’ and womens’ health is the best way I can do this.
Q: How did Clemson prepare you for your career?
I had a great experience at Clemson. My department was incredibly supportive of my research and teaching interests and there were many opportunities, within and outside the department, for me as a graduate student to learn and grow. I competed in and won multiple research contests, including the 3-minute thesis.
Q: What’s your favorite Clemson memory?
Walking across the stage to receive my diploma with my closest family and friends there to watch – that was one of the proudest moments of my life so far.
Q: Any Advice to students?
People tell you to take advantage of all the opportunities given to you on campus. This can actually be overwhelming and sometimes counterproductive. I suggest that students take time to learn about all the wonderful opportunities and experiences available to them, and then make an intentional decision of what things they say “yes” to. All experiences will help them grow, but certain ones will facilitate that process in a more purposeful direction.