ASU grad finds skills, 'home' in Sun Devil Fitness Complex

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

For Jaclyn Leake, a senior from Chicago graduating with a degree in exercise and wellness and a minor in kinesiology from the College of Health Solutions, classes and experience at a neurological rehabilitation facility helped her find her way to doctoral school after graduation. But it was her on-campus job at ASU that helped her learn other valuable skills for the workplace.

Leake, who was a member of the Sparky’s Service Dog Club and the Physical Therapy Club, worked as a coordinator for aquatics safety and education at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, where she said she spent time in and out of work.

“It was a very rewarding position where I got to lead a wonderful staff to success,” Leake said of her position. She said she learned valuable skills such as communication and networking with food vendors, organizations and suppliers to organize her events.

“I worked on my communication by leading the aquatics staff through difficult problems, conflict and inspiring the staff,” Leake said. “The biggest skill I took from the SDFC was dealing with conflict under stressful situations.”

She spoke with ASU Now about what she's learned as a Sun Devil and where she's going from here. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My aha moment to specialize in neurology was working at SWAN Rehab, a neurological rehabilitation center. I was informed about this facility by a friend who used to work at the SDFC.

While working there this semester I realized orthopedic physical therapy is not for me and that I need to be working in the neurology field. The patients at SWAN are so inspiring and a joy to be around. I cannot wait to start grad school in July and begin my career in the neurology field.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Dr. Christopher Berger taught me so much in EXW (exercise and wellness) 330. He inspired me to dig deeper into my field and really research everything that interested me.

A few times I went into his office hours just to discuss new techniques used in the physical therapy clinic to determine their true potential to improve an individual’s performance.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of its incredible resources. Being one of the biggest schools, it allowed me to have access to many different research opportunities that other schools would not have. I do admit a contributing factor was Arizona's warm weather and beautiful mountains!  

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I believe Professor Siddhartha Angadi taught me the most important lesson; he told me to look further into my field and discover everything physical therapy has to offer so you pick a job you truly love.

Also, Nicole Nolan really got me interested in kinesiology, and I spent many hours in her office discussing class material. She was also kind enough to write me a letter of recommendation to graduate school, which helped me get in.

Additionally, Mitch Tybroski and Courtney Smith, even though they aren't teachers, have been my bosses at the gym for two years now. They both have helped me grow so much as an individual and helped me through hard times. They are one of the largest factors that made the SDFC home.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don't procrastinate. If you stay on top of your workload, it makes life 10 times less stressful.  

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus was the SDFC! The Downtown SDFC was my home for four years. I met my closest friends there and spend almost every day there visiting or working out. It was my de-stress area and surprisingly a very good place to get your homework done.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am beginning the doctoral physical therapy program at one of my top choice physical therapy schools in July. I am very excited to dive into the physical therapy field and learn all the fine details of how to properly treat injuries and diseases.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would tackle Earth’s pollution. I would try to find a greener way to get electricity and new transportation that produces very little to no pollution. I want to fix this problem so the human race can live on. We need to have the Earth clean enough for us to survive here.

Written by Sun Devil Storyteller Bryan Pietsch, EOSS Marketing