(Edmonton) Hockey player and engineer Riley Kieser had the opportunity to pursue both of his passions in university—and he excelled at both, winning two national championship titles and holding Academic All-Canadian standing for five years in a row.
Choosing to study engineering at the University of Alberta was possibly the easiest decision the Sherwood Park native had to make.
“I’m a local kid and I grew up watching the Golden Bears succeed and wanting to continue my hockey career,” said Kieser, who graduated this week with a degree in environmental engineering. “I knew the U of A would be my best choice to get both high-end education and to play for one of the top hockey organizations in the country.”
Before joining the Bears, Kieser finished his junior hockey career with the Edmonton Oil Kings, winning a Memorial Cup championship in 2014.
Throughout Kieser’s five years with the Bears, the team won four Canada West titles, making four national championship appearances and bringing home two national titles. Kieser served as captain of the Bears for one of those national-championship seasons, as well as this past season.
At the same time, he excelled academically.
Kieser went five-for-five as an Academic All-Canadian, earning this standing in each of his five years in engineering for his above-80 average.
“To see the reward for all your hard work and achieve an All-Canadian status is pretty special and to do it in all five years shows how hard I worked during my university career.”
Kieser always wanted to pursue engineering as it suited his strengths: problem solving, math and the sciences.
“It’s a well-respected career, and I figured I would fit right in and I could do some good there,” he said.
Now, Kieser is ready to make a positive impact in the world. Going into environmental engineering gave him the opportunity to make an impact and protect one of his values: the environment.
“I’m a big fan of being outdoors and I love nature,” he said. “I just wanted to do my part to preserve it and make sure that it’s around for all the next generations.”
Kieser had to learn how to balance academics with his athletics and was able to do so with the support of his parents, coaches and teammates.
In his first few years, Kieser was the only engineering student on the hockey team, and his teammates still had a positive influence on his academic life.
They had a shared value of education and helped him stay on top of his work and organize himself around his hockey schedule. Learning from the experiences of his teammates helped Kieser succeed as they were role models for him.
Kieser’s coaches also helped him manage his time.
“The coaches know the schedule of practices and the demanding timelines. They realize it’s midterms and you need an extra day off or it’s a big test that you have to get ready for. They help you balance the stress of both academic and hockey life.”
Kieser’s game-day routine was different than that of most athletes, as he had to work academics into it.
“I would have class all day and wouldn’t be able to go home some days, so I would have to make the mental mind switch from school to hockey an hour before I headed to the rink.
“It’s easy to play the game and enjoy hockey when it's a Friday night and there’s a nice crowd to play in front of. But it's tough when it's the Monday practice and you've already had six hours of school and you're ready just to go home and go to bed.”
Despite the challenges of being a student-athlete, Kieser remained driven.
“There were times when it was tough and I was kind of down on myself, but just the enjoyment and seeing the reward on both sides was the pushing factor and helped drive me to continue and succeed on both ends.”
Kieser’s success goes beyond the rink and the classroom. He’s involved with the Edmonton and Capital Region Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and is on the University of Alberta Athletic Board, participating in its BEAR HUGS program.
All of which earned him this season’s Canada West Student-Athlete Community Service award.
“To be involved in the community is an important thing to do and just having the connection to my society, I was able to help and have an impact on that end.”