The Statement Maker

Jonathon Stalls is starting a revolution at 3 mph.

By Brenda Gillen

Publish Date: January 30, 2014

In the four years since he graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Jonathon Stalls (B.A. individualized degree '09) has come a long way. Literally.

He’s walked 3,030 miles across the U.S. to generate more than $500,000 in loans to entrepreneurs through the international microlending nonprofit Kiva.org. He has trekked untold miles in Colorado. And he and his father, Dave Stalls, former president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado and now head of the charitable organization Street Fraternity, traveled 490 miles of the pilgrim’s path called the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.

In 2012, Jonathon Stalls founded Walk2Connect, a social enterprise that promotes “personal, social and communal wellness through walking.” Weekly walks take place in the Denver metro area, and events have included urban walks, an art walk and a family scavenger hunt.

“The biggest focus right now is getting people to connect with the idea that they can have transformative and healing experiences right from their front door,” Stalls says.

At MSU Denver, the Individualized Degree Program allowed Stalls to combine art and business courses to create a custom design and entrepreneurship degree. He says developing the degree program fueled his confidence in taking risks and trusting his instincts.

In many ways, he took the first steps of his professional life on March 1, 2010, when he and his dog, Kanoa, a blue heeler/husky, set out from the Delaware coast and headed for the West Coast. When he finished Nov. 13, 2010, he’d been gone for 242 days and had stayed with 120 strangers. He became a crusader for experiencing life at 3 mph.

“We are so conditioned to traveling at 50, 60, 70 miles per hour in our autos that our most inherent form of transit is just forgotten or it’s replaced. We haven’t given it a fair chance in terms of informing how we travel, and obviously there are so many effects in terms of our health — mental, emotional, physical — and how we understand communities,” Stalls says.

Kelly Felice, associate professor of human services, instructed Stalls in nonprofit courses. She recalls following his late-night blog posts during his walk for Kiva.org. Since his return, she says Stalls has become a social entrepreneur with a knack for picking up on the city’s vibe and for fostering connections through social media.

“He comes in every single semester and inspires students,” Felice says, noting that Stalls recently discussed crowdfunding for nonprofits with one of her classes.

At their first meeting, Angie Malpiede, vice president of the Stapleton Area Transportation Management Association, says Stalls took her on an eight-mile walk in the neighborhoods her association serves. She enlisted him to help create walking programs and to develop neighborhood walking maps scaled in minutes instead of miles. He also organized the inaugural NE Walk Fest in August 2013, which attracted approximately 650 participants.

“He has motivated me to celebrate what we do best, which is walk. It crosses all economic lines. You don’t have to own a bike, you don’t have to have a bus pass, and you don’t have to have a car. You just simply go out your door and walk,” Malpiede says. “He is going to be a national role model any second now.”

Stalls is already getting noticed. He spoke about “Life at 3 MPH” at TEDxYouth@MileHigh in April 2013, and he’s the 2014 recipient of the MSU Denver alumni STATEment Maker Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of recent graduates.

“I am beyond energized to be a part of encouraging more and more people to tap into the many benefits of trusting strangers, taking risks, tackling the unknown and living life at a slower pace,” Stalls says.

FOLLOW Jonathon Stalls on Twitter @jonathonstalls.

SEE more photos and WATCH videos about Stalls’ walk across America at kivawalk.com