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Blugold embraces every opportunity on campus and in the community

| Judy Berthiaume

Photo caption: As a student-athlete, Lili Shank has found countless opportunities on campus and in the Eau Claire community to prepare her for her future career in the health care field.

Given her passion for gymnastics, love for community and interest in health and human movement, Lili Shank knew the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire was the right place to pursue her athletic and academic dreams.

“Eau Claire reminded me of my hometown; I instantly fell in love with how interactive, positive and engaging the community is,” says Shank, of Elkhart, Indiana, who is pursuing an exercise science major, psychology minor and a certificate in gerontology.

Lili Shank

She fell even more in love after discovering the university’s many outreach programs, says Shank, who participated in the Cancer Recovery and Fitness, Homeschool Physical Education, and Physical Activity and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities in the Eau Claire area programs.

“We provide opportunities in the community that also help me, as a student, gain experiences in settings like what I’ll see in my future career,” Shank says.

Shank is a “top-notch” student with a “passion for serving the community,” says Dr. Matt Wiggins, professor of kinesiology. “She’s great at relating to the CRF clients, helping them physically and emotionally. She has a heart for the cancer survivors in our program.”

UW-Eau Claire’s collaborations with Mayo Clinic Health System offer additional opportunities, says Shank, an intern at the Mayo Clinic Rehabilitative Center.

“I’m using what I’ve learned in the classroom and applying it to a real-world, professional setting,” Shank says. “I’m making contacts, gaining knowledge and learning rehabilitative techniques.”

As a McNair Scholar, Shank did research with Dr. Saori Braun, associate professor of kinesiology; Dr. Marquell Johnson, professor of kinesiology; and Dr. Terri Nordin, a physician at Mayo Clinic Health System. The McNair program connects students from underrepresented populations with research mentors to help prepare them for graduate school.

Lili Shank

The research taught her many things, including how to apply for grants, gain Institutional Review Board approval and present her research.

After graduation, Shank will earn a doctorate in occupational therapy and then pursue her “dream job” in a children’s hospital.

“My passion is to help patients get back to their activities,” Shank says. “I hope to connect with my clients, impacting and changing their lives in more ways than just physical.”

Shank’s already impacting lives through her work with a local mentoring program, where she uses her kinesiology and psychology knowledge to support youth who have mental or health diagnoses. Earning money while gaining skills is “another great opportunity UW-Eau Claire gave me,” says Shank, who will graduate debt-free thanks to her job and scholarships.

Her gymnastics team is “one big family,” providing friendship and support, and she’s building lifelong skills as a student-athlete.

Blugold gymnastics team

“I’ve learned to manage my time between classes, practices, volunteering and working,” Shank says. “My head coach, Jessie DeZiel, keeps me accountable, so I can thrive in and out of the gym, while always putting academics first.”

Shank is “incredibly thankful” for UW-Eau Claire, her teammates and the city of Eau Claire. “I’ve met so many great professors, students and people in the community — UWEC will always have a place in my heart.”