Humans of Flagstaff: Kate Ellis

NAU Communications sat down with Kate Ellis the Faculty Senate president and professor of costume design in the Theatre Department. Read our questions and her Ellisanswers below.

Tell me about a significant childhood memory and how it has impacted your life today.  

When I was in eighth grade, I went on a class camping trip and camping got into my bones. I do not come from a family who camps or hikes, but I connected with being outside on a visceral level. I remember wandering away on my own into the forest, sitting by a snowmelt stream. In 2010, I took a monthlong solo road and camping trip—a kind of walkabout. I started in Utah, went through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, southern British Columbia to Vancouver, then down the pacific coast to San Francisco, over to Yosemite and then home. I had one reservation for the whole trip, for two nights in Vancouver. I’d always been so planned, reservations for everything, with the goal of getting to the next place, and I just wandered and explored where I was and moved on when I was done. It was the kind of trip I’d always wanted to do and waited for someone to do it with. I finally just did it. It was life changing to spend that much time alone, camping and hiking. I’d heard that every woman should take a trip alone and I’d travelled alone before, but never like that. I visited an aunt along the way and she asked me where on earth the trip had come from, as it was not something I’d learned from my family. And I told her about that camping trip when I was in eighth grade.   

What have you been most proud of this week?

I’ve (almost, as it’s Thursday when I’m writing this) gotten through the week without falling down, literally or figuratively, and I’ve managed to keep all the tasks I’m juggling in the air. That’s a good week. 

What is your favorite way to spend a day off?

I love to hike. I don’t have as much time as I would like to go hiking anymore, but when I can get out on a trail, I feel like I can breathe, relax and just be. My second date with my husband was hiking up Schultz Pass, and one of our traditions is to find a new place to go hiking to celebrate the New Year. Getting away from the sounds of civilization, so I can really hear the wind in the trees, a stream, birds and animals, feel a cool breeze and the sun on my face is the most restoring experience.   

What are three things on your bucket list and why?

I want to stand in front of the Taj Mahal, Shakespeare’s grave and Michelangelo’s “David.”  If I’m standing in front of them, that means I’m there and that I’ve travelled to India, England and Italy. In the case of the Taj Mahal and the “David”, I’d be seeing two of the most culturally and artistically revered buildings and statues in the world. As to Shakespeare’s grave, I work in theatre, and he’s Shakespeare. 

What is your philosophy in life? 

Show up. All of the most amazing and best experiences of my life have been because I showed up, I took the opportunities that came my way and made the best of them I could. I worked hard, I said yes (sometimes too much), but I’ve showed up in my life. 

If you could pick one piece of advice to give someone, what would it be?

Learn to say no. While showing up to my life and saying yes a lot, I’ve learned to set boundaries and say no. It’s one of the hardest but most important and most powerful things I’ve done and has enabled me to both show up and step back and away. When I say no, it means I don’t have something else I don’t necessarily have time for added to my plate, and someone else gets the opportunity.   


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