Kennesaw State program offers community, adventure in the great outdoors

KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 8, 2023

Luke Hardaway
Luke Hardaway, center, and students on a Nature Bound trip.
Luke Hardaway had always loved the outdoors, but he found his happy place when he joined a community of nature lovers at Kennesaw State University.

“I learned to kayak in October with Nature Bound, and I’ve already spent over 120 days in a kayak,” said Hardaway, a senior and finance major. “I wouldn’t have had that without Nature Bound.”

Hardaway joined Nature Bound, an outdoor recreation program offered to students through the Department of Sports and Recreation and Outdoor Adventures, in 2022 and said it provided him a close-knit community of people with similar interests within his college community. He’s gone on to serve as a guide on whitewater kayak trips for the program, as well as for whitewater rafting trips with area businesses.

For a budding freshman, someone curious about the outdoors or a student just looking to make friends, joining the group is a no-brainer, Hardaway said.

“Nature Bound trips are great because they give you an opportunity to try a new experience and meet people you wouldn't have otherwise,” Hardaway said.

Nature Bound offers various activities, including rock climbing, backpacking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and kayaking, snowboarding, caving and even hang gliding. The organization began as a club in the 1977-78 academic year and has grown to a capacity of more than 500 registrants per year, with hopes to continue growing.

Nature Bound
Nature Bound
Billy Pownall, senior coordinator for Outdoor Adventures, said Nature Bound is founded on principles of experiential learning, leadership and community and has offerings for every skill level. He said it’s been a joy to watch new members come out of their shells as they explore the outdoors with new friends. He recalled one student who grew from a shy, nervous new member to an outstanding leader.

“She would try to avoid answering questions in group settings. Since then, I have seen her lead presentations very confidently, instruct our staff in our leadership courses, and she's also shared stories with me about her giving very difficult feedback to roommates,” Pownall said. “Seeing students open up and stretch their comfort zone is a very common and gratifying occurrence for me, and I think the practice contributes to comfort in using these skills in everyday life.”

Beyond making friends, building life skills and seeking adventure, Hardaway said Nature Bound provides an opportunity to do something that seems rare these days – enjoying nature without distractions.

“It's okay to put down your phone for two hours and enjoy nature as it was intended: screenless — except for a sick picture every now and then,” he said

Any KSU student, faculty, staff or alum with an Outdoor Adventures membership has access to sign up for a Nature Bound trip, and on-campus students are automatically included in that group through their student fees.

Trips are subsidized through that fee, and mid-semester trips often range from $10 to $45, while longer trips or more costly activities, like hang gliding or multi-day trips over breaks, can be more expensive. Most trips have a maximum of 10 participants and two trip leaders. Nature Bound also provides students on-campus benefits, like equipment rentals and bike checkouts and repairs.

–  By Thomas Hartwell

Photos submitted

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit