Jill (Griffis) Kubiesa ’10 grew up in a home that sat on a cul de sac in her small town of Sycamore, Ill., where there was plenty of room for play.
Her recreation involved more imagination than skill – tag and hide-and-go seek – but at Carroll she discovered a love of the outdoors that would later spark a career in outdoor education.
Today, as the outdoors call more people to gather and engage in new activities post-2020, Kubiesa is here to answer that call as a recreation supervisor for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, she advises one of the institution’s six Wisconsin Hoofers
clubs. Her specialty is mountaineering, a skill she developed after friends planted a seed of interest for rock climbing during her time at Carroll.
A trip with friends to Wisconsin’s picturesque Devil’s Lake State Park during her sophomore year pushed Kubiesa into rock climbing, an activity she at first declined.
“I was like, ‘No, that’s not for me’,” she said, instead opting for a hike. With the encouragement of her fellow Pioneers, though, she built up the courage to give it a try before the trip was over. She discovered she enjoyed it, but also found the benefits of how the activity provided a way “to socially connect and have a healthy lifestyle of moving.”
“Climbing, especially when you start it, you see huge gains in your skill level so it makes you want to keep coming back to it,” she said. “You do it once and then it’s so fun, and you do it again and think, ‘I could do better.’ It just keeps spiraling a bit and in a healthy way.”
The interest in climbing that her Carroll friends helped her to find at Devil’s Lake State Park grew as she joined the university’s outdoor activities club and took advantage of camping trips offered through the College Activities Board. By her senior year, she found herself traveling through a Carroll-sponsored activity to the Grand Canyon on a backpacking trip.
There, the guide that Carroll hired to help students on the trip asked her what she might want to do after college. She told him of her aspirations in outdoor education.
“He was like, ‘Oh, I can help you with that’,” and hired her to work for his company, Apex Adventure Alliance out of Madison, Wis., which did a lot of rock climbing with its customers at Devil’s Lake. She took more adventure and rock climbing classes post-Carroll, and later received her climbing instructor certification from the American Mountain Guide Association. Today, she is also a board member for the Wisconsin Climbers Association.
She studied organizational leadership as her major at Carroll, where she said she learned business strategies that helped give her the knowledge and confidence to buy her own business. Two years after starting with Apex, she bought the company with a partner. She was 23.
Kubiesa owned Apex for eight years through 2019. In the last three years of ownership, she transitioned to UW-Madison, first in the registrar’s office. When a job opened on campus for a climbing instructor, it was a natural career move, and she has been in her current position for five years. She now has the opportunity to work directly with students. Her memories of her own days as a student – when she found a passion for a career through student activities - is something Kubiesa appreciates as she shares her knowledge with students.
Kubiesa was involved in multiple organizations on Carroll's campus. She said the activities became the extra push she needed to supplement her classroom experience.
"It makes it so much richer and robust,” she said. “I met new people. I learned new skills. I tried new things. They were affordable. I got leadership opportunities. Organizational leadership was my major, and you got to learn about it in the classroom, but then being a part of these other opportunities, you got to practice it a bit more. That was a super important part of what I did and how I landed.”