Alumni - Where Are They Now?

Sam Reffsin, MS '16 | Director of Performance, Turkish Women’s National Basketball Team

Sam ReffsinAfter not being seriously considered for positions I sincerely wanted, I knew the time was right to pursue a graduate degree. I put together an extensive detailed list of universities in the northeast with a strong exercise science graduate program. Sacred Heart University was a finalist, but I knew it was necessary to learn more about the program. After speaking with Dr. Greer on the phone for nearly an hour, my mind was made up to apply and eventually enroll in the graduate program of exercise science & nutrition. 

During my two years in the program, I was exposed to advanced concepts of training methods that were easy to apply in any setting. I gained a strong appreciation for understanding research and the incredibly dedicated professors convinced me that evidence based practice must be a pillar of my philosophy as a performance coach.

Soon after receiving my degree, I accepted a position at the University of Louisville as a Sports Performance Coach. My education at Sacred Heart University allowed me to apply my knowledge in an evidenced based, assessment driven model with high level college student-athletes.

In my current role as the Director of Performance for the Turkish Women’s National Basketball team, I oversee all aspects of athletic performance for elite level athletes. My experience at Sacred Heart University has qualified me for this position and equipped me with the tools to successfully implement and execute a high performance model.

I will be forever grateful to all of my professors during my time as a student at Sacred Heart University. They were always willing to sacrifice their time to meet with me individually to review material and allow for a deeper understanding. I highly recommend this program to anybody interested in human performance and the desire to be challenged professionally and personally.  

Lauren Ventrella, MS ’16 | Director of Health and Wellness, Fitscript

Alumni Lauren Ventrella, MS ’16, Director of Health and Wellness at FitscriptAfter graduating with my master’s from Sacred Heart University I pursued a career as an Exercise Physiologist with Fitscript, the only digital exercise solution for people with diabetes.  Our GlucoseZone program gives people with diabetes a specifically guided exercise programs based on their blood glucose levels.  Fitscript has identified six key variables that help predict blood glucose fluctuations throughout an exercise routine.  By using our GlucoseZone app people with type 2 diabetes have been able to lower their A1C and lose weight, while lowering the amount of diabetes medications that they require for treatment.

As the Director of Health and Wellness I work to collaborate with employee wellness platforms, companies, insurance, and wellness providers to incorporate Fitscript programming into their current or new wellness programs.  In addition, I train people with diabetes in-person and all over the world through our GlucoseZone app and livestream.  I guide people through each exercise routine while explaining how their diabetes and blood glucose levels will be impacted by the exercises that they are performing.

Having gone through the clinical track at Sacred Heart I was equipped with the broad range of knowledge to prescribe exercise to special populations, including diabetes, and to evaluate the needs of wellness programs.  My internship experience helped me create relationships and enhance my clinical skills that have assisted in my current position and will in the future if I decide to go into a more traditional clinical setting.  I am currently studying to take the ACSM RCEP exam to further my experience and become a Certified Diabetes Educator.  The education from SHU has given me the opportunity to work at this innovative digital health company where I am able to expand my professional resume and become the unique combination of Exercise Physiologist and Certified Diabetes Educator.  I am looking forward to seeing what other opportunities will come in my future. 

Dana Killefer, MS ’16 | Clinical Exercise Physiologist, Touro Infirmary Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab

Dana KilleferAfter graduating with my masters in Exercise Science and Nutrition from Sacred Heart University, I moved to New Orleans and accepted a position as an Exercise Physiologist (EP) at a local hospital. I work between three departments which consist of cardiac rehab, pulmonary rehab, and a wellness center. I work alongside a multidisciplinary team of nurses, respiratory therapists, exercise physiologists, and cardiologists. As an EP, I am responsible for everything from sending rehab prescriptions to doctors and verifying patient’s insurance coverage, to conducting thorough intake assessments, creating individualized treatment plans, and running rehab which requires live interpretation of EKGs and the application of various clinical skills. I also offer nutritional counseling to patients who seek advice.

My schooling at SHU prepared me for my career as an Exercise Physiologist. Between my time in the classroom and my internships, I obtained invaluable skills that continue to advance me in my daily practice. The faculty offers a breadth of knowledge and expertise while remaining supportive and accessible. My goal when I started the program was to eventually become an ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP). Shortly after graduation from SHU, I sat for and passed the RCEP. I can honestly say that I would not have done so if it weren’t for the clinical-track masters program at SHU. Having taken time to study on my own, it was my time spent in the classroom that proved to offer the most benefit. 

I am currently applying for my Louisiana state license as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist. I also plan to apply for the Level 3 Exercise is Medicine Certification. This certification will allow me to market myself to local doctors and health care facilities as a clinical exercise professional who specializes in exercise prescription for patient populations with various chronic diseases. While I am not sure if I will work in cardiac and pulmonary rehab for the duration of my career as an EP, I do know that I am qualified for my current position and that my education and experience will allow me to pursue an array of opportunities as an exercise specialist within the health-care field.  

Shaun James, MS '16 | PhD Student, University of Connecticut

Shaun JamesCurrently I am pursuing a PhD in Physiology and Neurobiology at the University of Connecticut. The lab that I work in uses patch-clamp electrophysiology to study the chemosensitivity of neurons in the retrotrapezoid nucleus of the brain stem. Essentially we are investigating one of the mechanisms the body uses to sense increased blood concentrations of carbon dioxide and how changes to that mechanism play a part in problems such as sleep apnea or sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP).

I was in the clinical track at Sacred Heart, and chose to complete a thesis as my final project. Completing a research project, with the aid of my advisor, was challenging and immensely rewarding. I was given the autonomy to pursue and test my own questions, and treated as a professional throughout the process. Having already defended and submitted a paper for publication played a pivotal role during my admission interviews at UConn because it showed them that I was capable of contributing to the field and able to conduct myself as a researcher.

My plan is to end up working as a professor while also conducting clinical research investigating the neurological aspects of cardiac arrhthymias. Having a MS in exercise science and nutrition has brought me significantly closer to attaining my goal. Now knowing the clinical significance of physiological diseases and disorders, I can investigate the underlying mechanisms and seek strategies to hopefully improve the lives of people dealing with those burdens.

Julia Fuller, MS '15 | Chief Health Officer, Med-Fit Medical Weight Loss

Julia FullerI am the Chief Health Officer for Med-Fit Medical Weight Loss in Denver, CO. Under the direction of Dr. Angela Tran, D.O., we help busy, "on the go" professionals lose weight. We have designed 6 month and 1 year comprehensive weight loss programs that provide a structured diet, fitness routine, behavioral counseling and supervision with a weight loss physician all under one roof. The clinic at Med-Fit is unique in that it has a fitness training center, and I oversee all the programs providing one on one fitness and nutrition sessions, as well as leading a team to help patients achieve an average weight loss of 50 pounds or more in less than 6 months.

In addition to my responsibilities as the nutrition director and fitness trainer, I also direct the marketing department connecting the Med-Fit brand with all of its patients. I handle the social media marketing, weekly newsletter of weight loss tips and fitness techniques, and manage the customer relations software.

My education at Sacred Heart University gave me the foundation and skill set that helped me confidently transition into a position that continues to provide many new challenges. My time at SHU provided me with challenging coursework that helped me to learn to think outside of the box and prepare for the various patients that I see on a weekly basis. The faculty not only challenged me as a student, but helped me to grow by connecting me with internships that helped me to build my resume and prepare for entering the growing health and fitness industry. I enjoy the creativity, innovation, and room for growth that Med-Fit provided me, and am looking forward to help further the growth of the company, potentially to a national level.

Paul Brown, MS ‘14 | Senior Manager, National Institute for Fitness and Sport (NIFS)

I am currently a Senior Manager for NIFS currently working in Connecticut. NIFS is a non-profit organization which provides services in Athletics Performance, Corporate Fitness Management, and educational services. NIFS is known for providing Active Aging services for retirement communities nationwide. As a Senior Manager, I supervise a Fitness Center, group exercise program, and wellness program for a community. I instruct resistance training, balance, stretching and aquatic classes. The wellness program offers Qi Gong, Yoga, Tai Chi, and quarterly health promotion programs. Retirement communities contract NIFS to provide safe programs for a community of individuals who often have osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s, COPD, and/or cardiovascular diseases.

Additional responsibilities include supervising and overseeing operations of NIFS active aging northeast locations. Duties include training new staff members, training managers on supervisory responsibilities, producing monthly reports and arranging intermittent site visits to each location.

Obtaining my MS in Exercise and Nutrition at SHU has proved to be an important step to excel in the workforce. SHU faculty assisted me in obtaining internships as well as jobs in the Exercise Science field. Taking national certifications was easier with the help of faculty who are experts in the field. Learning to be a professional in the business world by emphasizing presentation, professionalism, and accountability at SHU has proved to be extremely valuable on a daily basis. SHU’s attention to detail, experienced faculty, and an MS program always reflecting current best practices has given me the determination necessary to be a professional and leader in the industry.

Kathleen Edsall, MS '13 | Director of Community Wellness, The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital

I attained both BS and MS degrees (Clinical track) from Sacred Heart University in Exercise Science. I am currently the Director of Community Wellness at The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, NY. Burke is well known throughout the U.S. for its outstanding rehabilitative care and has been growing its Community Wellness program for the past 14 years. 

As Director, I oversee the Burke Adult Fitness Center and its associated programs. The Burke Fitness Center is designed for adults 40 and older to provide a comfortable and safe environment for exercise. Within the wellness program, Burke also offers massage therapy, Tai Chi, Yoga, Zumba and Pilates as well as specialty classes oriented for clients with MS, Parkinson's, stroke, and/or pulmonary diseases. For a number of reasons, it is crucial that individuals have a safe environment where they can participate in an exercise regimen specifically tailored to their needs. I am ecstatic to be able to grow and develop these offerings in years to come. 

I am responsible for growing the Community Wellness program and designing new programs for the facility. I also chair the employee wellness committee at Burke and am challenged to develop and offer programs meant to improve employee health outcomes. During my time spent at SHU, I was motivated by my interest in the field of clinical exercise physiology and the professors in the Exercise Science and Nutrition program. With the help of program faculty, I was able to attain several internships and jobs that grew my resume and experience within the field. My education at SHU gave me the confidence to interview for my current position and knowledge to perform as a successful leader within our field.

Scott Godfrey, MS '14 | Assistant Director of Athletic Performance, Canisius College

I recently graduated from Sacred Heart University with a Master of Exercise Science and Nutrition with a concentration of Human Performance. I am now the Assistant Director of Athletic Performance at Canisius College in Buffalo NY. I directly oversee nine Division I teams and assist with all 16 programs. 

My job duties include:

  • Design and implement training programs to enhance strength and conditioning/performance  
  • Work directly with medical staff in the care and prevention of injuries as well as modification of workouts based on individual needs and/or limitations and assisting in the rehabilitation process 
  • Work directly with the sports coaching staff to compliment/enhance player development
  • Educate student-athletes and the community regarding all aspects of performance enhancement including, but not limited to: training, recovery, nutrition, and psychology
  • Centralize strength & conditioning, sports medicine, and sports coaching staff in order to optimize the well-being of student-athletes
  • Create a positive training environment for all student-athletes where a common goal of improving themselves, their teams, and their school can be achieved.

The MS in Exercise Science and Nutrition at SHU has given me the tools and resources to be successful in my career.  The program provided me with internships and hands-on coaching experience to gain experience in the strength and conditioning field. I had opportunities to attend weekend seminars and other continuing education opportunities through the program, furthering my knowledge and providing greater chances to learn outside the classroom. The program provided me with mentors which helped me along the way guiding my ideas and answering any questions I had regardless of whether they involved classwork or not. The professors at SHU continue to help me as an Alumnus by providing feedback and guidance as I gain experience in the collegiate strength and conditioning field.

Sarana Hyatt, MS '11 | Assistant Track and Field Coach, Columbia University

I am an Assistant Track and Field Coach at Columbia University in New York City. My concentrations are sprints, jumps, hurdles, and multi events. I am also an alumnus of Sacred Heart University's Masters in Exercise Science and Nutrition. I take a lot of pride in the degree I procured, and most of all, where I received it.

My Masters degree puts me at a higher advantage than my colleagues in the field. Not only am I capable of making diverse training plans for high caliber Division I speed and power athletes, I consider myself a knowledgeable biomechanist. Being able to cater to each athlete's individual needs for their event, analyze gait patterns, highlight their strengths, and identify their weaknesses, skills I obtained thanks to my degree, has helped set me apart in my field.

As for furthering my education, I have earned four coaching certifications through USA Track and Field and the US Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Academy. In my certification classes, where some struggled with periodization, physiology, and training theory, I excelled.

Being able to work with the competent, knowledgeable, and experienced faculty at Sacred Heart University was a memorable and amazing experience. The majority of the staff in the Exercise Science program have experience in the NCAA as former athletes and coaches. My professors were able to answer questions I had as a current athlete, and develop a training philosophy as an aspiring Division I track and field coach. They helped prepare me for what to expect when in the field based on their personal experiences. I still use their advice and find it applicable years later.

‌Charlie Thompson, MS '11 | Business Analyst, 3M

I’m currently working as a business analyst for 3M’s Consumer Healthcare Division. On a day to day basis, I collect, analyze, and interpret data regarding performance of our products in the retail world. That data is then used to help gain distribution of products, determine effective promotions, and guide our business strategically. One of my favorite things about my current role is the fact that I get to both work with data to build our selling stories, but I also get to present that data to our customers and work closely in growing our business.  

While not a traditional role one might expect coming from an Exercise Science background, my time in the SHU Exercise Science and Nutrition MS program was invaluable in helping me get to where I am today. First, a Masters was all but required for entry into my field. Looking at the current job landscape, a graduate degree is becoming less of a guarantee of a good job and more of a pre-requisite for entry. I entered my field through a Management Training Program that required a Masters, regardless of the field of study. Beyond this however, I apply skills learned at SHU on a daily basis. In my division, we sell athletic braces and supports and the understanding of the benefits of these has been invaluable in giving me a leg up on the competition. In addition, some of the broader concepts we worked on are benefiting me now. One of the focuses of the program was to be able to read, understand, and interpret research studies and then apply those skills in preparation of our thesis. I still use the same skills in collecting, understanding, and applying data I gather now. While the data is different, the foundation is the same. Analytical thinking is a skill I apply every day at work and one which I was able to practice and improve in my time at SHU. Additionally, one of the other major functions of my job is sales. While we weren’t working to improve sales skills directly in MS program, our practice of presentation skills, group work, and thesis defense provided valuable experience in a professional setting.

I may not have entered the Exercise Science program with the intention of ending up where I am today, but I am extremely grateful for all that the program taught me. The program not only taught me the intricacies of Exercise Science, it also helped me learn how to think, how to work, and how to be a professional. Those are skills that can be applied anywhere.