Leave of absence doesn’t deter successful health and exercise science grad

Alden Erickson smiling in profile picture in CSU oval.

Outstanding health and exercise student Alden Erickson’s love of learning and service to people stands out in his many activities and jobs during his time at Colorado State University.  Erickson, who grew up in Littleton, Colorado, transferred to CSU after one semester of playing lacrosse at another university out-of-state.

“When I decided to transfer, I was drawn to CSU because of the HES major,” Erickson said. “At this point in time I wanted to become a strength and conditioning coach and this major fit perfectly. I was also attracted to the location and attitude of the people who I interacted with there.”

Postponing school

With one semester left to finish his degree, Erickson made the decision to take the Spring 2019 semester off because of some family health issues and personal reasons.

“I was disappointed because I was so close to graduation, and it was hard to watch my peers graduating, finding internships, or becoming employed,” Erickson said.

Research study

While away from school, Erickson worked as the building manager at the CSU Recreation Center and was a personal caregiver to a man with spinal muscular atrophy. He helped with bathing, dressing, housework, and all aspects of daily activities. Alden’s involvement and assistance helped him to live his life with as few restrictions as possible due to his disability.

To help stay involved in his major and education, Erickson volunteered with his graduate teaching assistant, Ph.D. candidate Kayla Nuss, in the Lab for the Assessment and Promotion for Physical Activity and Health. Alongside Nuss, Erickson co-authored a study that has been submitted for publication.

“I helped conduct and run studies, consented subjects, monitored subject EKGs and indirect calorimetry, and made contributions to the manuscript of the study,” Erickson said. “Kayla was a wonderful mentor and I am extremely grateful that she allowed me to help with her research. Not only is she a great educational resource, but also a wonderful person and a great friend. I am also grateful to Kiagang Li, the HES faculty member who oversees the APPAH Lab.”

“These jobs and activities took 80 to 90 hours a week,” he said. “I was able to return to my education the following summer semester.”

Cardiac rehab internship

During the fall semester, Erickson completed an internship at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado, in the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program. He helped provide patients with education and resources, and help them progress through a clinical exercise program.

“It was deeply fulfilling to watch patients improve their quality of life and health while working with them,” Erickson said.

Erickson says he will miss the CSU Recreation Center when he leaves CSU. He will also miss the friends he has made, and members of the CSU faculty and staff

“I will miss the HES department, from the instructors to the facilities, and even the feeling of simply being there,” Erickson said. “I will miss the excitement of learning and pursuing something new within the health and exercise science field each day.”

Erickson credits faculty member Wendy DeYoung from the Department of Health and Exercise Science as being his biggest supporter.

“When I unexpectedly had to take a semester off, Wendy was supportive and helped me every step of the way,” Erickson said. “Without her guidance, support, and friendship, I would not be where I am today. Her kindness and desire to see her students succeed in every aspect of their lives in unmatched.”

After graduation

Erickson has accepted a position as a sales rep in Wyoming with Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company.

“I am looking forward to continuing to have an impact on patient outcomes in my new role, as well as developing relationships with physicians and providing education while working in the diabetes division,” Erickson said.

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

Read about more of the outstanding graduates in the College of Health and Human Sciences.