Elon University / Today at Elon / #ElonGrad 2022 spotlight: Hailey Jurgens, exercise science

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide array of disciplines.

Hailey Jurgens ’22 is an exercise science major who will pursue a master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Heath this fall.

Her research into exercise recovery with tart cherry juice led to several conference presentations, including at the 2022 Southeast American College of Sports Medicine Conference. In her junior year, she was awarded the Department of Exercise Science’s Trey Halker Memorial Scholarship in recognition of her achievements. He’s awarded to rising seniors annually in honor of Halker, a 1996 sports medicine graduate.

How did you choose exercise science as a major?

I have always had an interest in preventive medicine. I find the physical capability of our bodies and what we can do fascinating. I knew I wanted to major in exercise science, and after meeting with the department during admitted students weekend, I committed to Elon.

What was your undergraduate research experience like?

I completed a study on the effects of tart cherry juice on recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage. After seeking out an undergraduate research opportunity and meeting with multiple exercise science department faculty, Dr. Nepocatych and Dr. Madizma agreed to be my mentors during the fall of my sophomore year. From there we brainstormed our interests and performed a literature review and developed a research question and study proposal. And now I am a senior this spring semester graduating in 20 days, have completed my study and am finishing my manuscript to submit to peer-review journals.

I gave a poster presentation at the Southeast American College of Sports Medicine Conference in 2021; a student presentation at Carolinas’ Exercise Science and Kinesiology Research Symposium in both 2021 and 2022; an oral presentation at Elon’s Spring Undergraduate Research Forum in 2021 and 2022, and an oral presentation at Southeast ACSM in 2022.

How did the relationships with your mentors influence your Elon experience and education?

I am grateful enough to have gotten to work with Dr. Madzima and Dr. Nepocatych as my research mentors. Dr. Nepocatych is also my academic advisor and I have had the pleasure of being her exercise physiology lab TA for two semesters. I also work with Dr. Nepocatych as a teaching and learning assistant for the Exercise Testing and Prescription course.

Both of my mentors greatly enhanced my Elon experience. Not only have they helped me get to where I am today with experiences like research, internships, Elon alumni connections, and connections within the field of exercise science, they have supported me on a personal level. I completed the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience during the summer of 2020 and our research meetings were always the highlight of my day. The first thing they did was check in on me and my family. They both have continued to help me through some challenging times.

Dr. Madzima and Dr. Nepocatych have most importantly taught me how to think and expand my thought on the world beyond, how to develop opinions, and how to think through challenges that may not have answers attached.

Dr. Madzima specifically has taught me how to make professional connections that matter and how to appropriately reach out to others within the field. Dr. Nepocatych taught me how to be a better student. By becoming her TA and TLA, I learned how to study better, apply different concepts, and explain topics in different ways. Dr. Nepocatych also helped me find my passion for public health and helped me navigate the world of dietetics.

What are your plans after graduation?

I will be getting my master’s in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Michigan Graduate School of Public Heath with a dietetic concentration.

As you reflect on your time at Elon, what’s been most valuable to you?

The underlying theme uniting all of my accomplishments at Elon are the connections and the relationships that I made because of the experiences. Many of these connections have challenged me to grow and to push myself further into doing things I didn’t even know I was capable of. I am very proud of all I have accomplished here, from my undergraduate research experience, to my time advocating for students in our Student Government Association, my membership in Alpha Xi Delta and my abroad experiences.

What advice would you give to future Elon students?

I would recommend future Elon students get to know their professors and form mentor-mentee relationships. If there is a professor you really liked having in class, go grab a cup of coffee. If there is an administrator or staff member who you come into contact with and are curious about who they are and what they do, go grab a cup of coffee. The relationships we make in college shape our perspectives on the world and we are so lucky to be at a university like Elon that prides itself on community.

I would also recommend to enjoy each moment as it comes. Planning and preparing is important, but don’t get too caught up in the minor things that you probably won’t even remember senior year. So enjoy all of it, go to College Coffees, hang out by Lake Mary Nell, go to tailgates and sporting events and soak it all up.

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