Outstanding health and exercise science grad paves her path to graduation with positivity

Lydia WydhamBefore arriving at Colorado State University, Lydia Widhalm, a native of Gypsum, Colorado, applied to four colleges – none of which were CSU. She was accepted to all four and visited each of them, but none felt quite like home. That was until her mother recommended CSU.

“My family and I took a quick glance through the website, liked what we saw, and I made the split-second decision to apply right then and there,” Widhalm recalls. “I barely made the late application deadline to apply. A few weeks later, we walked around campus and I loved it!” Since finding her state, Widhalm has found support, friendship, and inklings of her passion.

Creating connections

Whether in the classroom or during her volunteering and internship experiences, Widhalm’s time at CSU was rooted in relationships. Widhalm’s professors in the Department of Health and Exercise Science played an integral role in her success, helping her to achieve her goals inside and outside of the classroom.

“A special shoutout goes to Wendy DeYoung for putting so much of her time into helping me throughout my internship journey,” Widhalm said. “All of the professors within the department are very passionate about the fitness world and the topics that they teach.”

After witnessing the effort that her professors put into their work, Widhalm’s passion began to grow as well.

“When professors care about the content they teach, I think students are much more receptive to learning when enthusiastic to share the information. It certainly made all the difference for me,” she said.

This inspired Widhalm to make a difference of her own by volunteering with MyHeroes, an equine-based physical, occupational, and speech therapy service.

“I’ve grown up riding horses and have considered pursuing therapy as a career, so it was interesting to see the two combined,” Widhalm said. “The therapists were incredible, and the patients were so much fun to be around. Over the semester, I loved being able to see and celebrate the improvements the patients had!”

Persevering through the pandemic

Lydia WidhalmAs with many other class of 2020 graduates, Widhalm’s path to graduation was interrupted. In order to graduate with a concentration in health promotion, which Widhalm is in pursuit of, students are required to complete an internship.

“With COVID-related shutdowns, the process of securing an internship ended up being a bit delayed for me,” Widhalm said. “There was a moment where I had no clue how I was going to be able to even get one, but it all worked out in the end!”

Currently, she is completing her internship at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, where she received kudos from her direct supervisor and others as being bright and pleasant while learning the dynamics of working with a team of professionals to delivery rehabilitative services to patients in the program, said Deyoung.

Throughout the pandemic, Widhalm is grateful to have only sustained minor setbacks and delays. She will not only emerge from this time with her degree but also with a renewed perspective on life.

“The outbreak has shown me how quickly things can change. One minute everything is going fine, life is moving along in its fairly predictable pattern when suddenly everything becomes completely turned upside down. In a situation like this, it is so easy to get caught up in the panic,” Widhalm said. “However, I have learned that I can’t let that fear completely consume me. There are very few things that I can control, and I can take steps to control those things, but for the rest that I can’t control – I’m learning to put more faith in God.”

Reflecting, and looking ahead

Looking back on her time at CSU, Widhalm is especially grateful for the friends that she made and the support system she garnered. She cherishes the time she had with her professors and will especially miss the friendships she fostered. As for the future, Widhalm hopes to make the most out of exploring her options after graduation.

“Right now, I’m teaching group fitness classes at my local rec center and planning working as a rehab aide for Valley View Hospital. But who knows for sure? Maybe I’ll work in the local library and embrace the dark academia vibe for a while,” she said.

Whatever the future holds, Widhalm will remain inquisitive and passionate, seeking out answers for herself and helping others along the way.

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

Avery Martin contributed to this story.