For anyone looking for a story about a linear trajectory from college to a dream job, this is not it. Kacie Wallace’s career path includes some unpredictable moves but her strategy has consistently involved a sense of adventure and a commitment to being true to herself.
Shortly after graduating from Duke with a degree in art design, Kacie joined the Durham Police force. She was frequently dispatched to handle domestic disputes because of her ability to listen and diffuse tension. She was intrigued by the idea of creating peace, but not in the context of law enforcement, so she pursued a law degree at North Carolina Central University while working in the Office of Student Conduct at Duke.
After completing an advanced Master of Laws degree in dispute resolution at Pepperdine University, Kacie realized that she needed to make a professional change. She began the process of piecing together professional opportunities that gave her the flexibility to choose work that she loves. She started her own consulting company, Interplay Resolutions, and taught courses on peace, conflict resolution and negotiation at Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, and North Carolina Central.
While at Pepperdine, Kacie interned with the US Olympic Committee. When a position opened in Fall 2014, she was recruited to apply for her dream job as the Athlete Ombudsman for the USOC. In this role, Kacie advises Olympic and Paralympic athletes about their rights, negotiates disputes between athletes and their governing bodies, and advocates for athletes in policy development.
Her interest in athletics and fitness has been lifelong. Kacie has been a competitive swimmer since age 5, eventually moving from the pool to open water competitions. Kacie has also summited Mera Peak, a 21,500 foot mountain in the shadow of Everest, to raise money for The Little Sisters Fund, promoting girls’ education in Nepal.
One night in 2011, Kacie had a dream about paddle boarding. She called Jeff Archer, the owner of YOLOboard Standup Paddle Boards (whom she did not know), to tell him about her dream. She recalls, “I met him only once before he asked me to be part of the YOLO family and on the Race Team. When I asked the criteria, he had two requirements: 1) live your life on and off the water like you only live once and 2) always smile when you cross the finish line. I think about his words every day and believe that I engage with others and my environment in a different way because of them. He encourages us to find our own path and reach our own potential, all on our own terms.”
Within eighteen months of learning to paddle board, Kacie competed on the YOLOboard Race Team in the Molokai2Oahu World Championships. Since then, she completed a 300+ mile paddle from South Carolina to Virginia to raise awareness of plastics pollution.
She called Jeff Archer of YOLOboard for advice immediately after she was offered the USOC position. “Without hesitation, he said, ‘We love you. We believe in you. Go for it.’ The company, culture, and philosophy that Jeff has created within the YOLO family have changed the way I think about my work, relationships, health, and opportunities.”
Kacie encourages Duke women to get to know random people. “Reach out to students not like you, your professors, community members who have cool jobs, authors you admire. Offer a compliment, show interest in what they are doing, offer your help, ask about the path they found to get where they are, send a thank you note, etc. Everything starts with relationship.”