Auburn University graduate leads Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Published 1:59 pm Wednesday, October 23, 2019

“My best days, though, are in the field with my fellow rangers, but those days are not typical. Being able to listen to them and provide them with what they need and make their jobs easier in whatever way we can, that’s what I live to do. That’s my favorite part of the job. I know what it’s like to be out all night cold and miserable and wet, and I know what it’s like to be scared on an incident where a drunk is giving you a hard time and is violent with you.”

But those rare cases don’t diminish the overall enjoyment of providing a place where park visitors can enjoy the outdoors. She also encourages others to pursue their dreams of working with the National Park Service.

“Be willing to start as a volunteer,” she said. “You can get a volunteer job with the NPS at, Student Conservation Association or Job Corp, or go to a local state park and volunteer. Just get out there and see what all those places have to offer.

“Then narrow down what you like to do. Big western parks are like small towns. They have their own roads crew, jail, school and post office. You can literally have a job in the NPS as an asphalt paver. So figure out what you like to do and then figure out what place offers it.”

As a student at Auburn, Hendy did a summer internship at Yosemite National Park in its Wilderness Office.

“I started [at Auburn] in criminal justice and realized eventually I did not want to be stuck in a city,” she said. “Dr. Bob Crabtree and I had a discussion one day and he recommended I look into the land management agencies. Once I did that, I changed my major to park and recreation management, and I took a lot of forestry classes and have used them much and throughout my career.”

In addition to her Auburn degree, Hendy earned a master’s degree in biomechanics and exercise physiology from Utah State. “I use the anatomy and physiology constantly as a paramedic, and the physics of biomechanics is the same physics of high-angle technical rescue and helicopter rescue.”

But it wasn’t all classrooms and studying while in school, said Hendy, as she reminisced about going to Auburn football games and being active in sports on the Plains.

“I went to every home game,” she said. “My first year I lived in Helen Keller Hall and it was right across from the eagle’s nest, and so when waking up in the morning, the vibe outside was all about the ballgame.