Legacy student making most of her LU experience
As Alicia Thone was nearing her college selection as a high school senior, she narrowed her list to Lakeland University and its exercise science program and the nursing program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
A standout student and athlete at Saint Mary Catholic High School in Neenah, Wis., the Muskies were recruiting her to play basketball. Her parents, Dave and Becky (VanSluys) Thone, are both 1992 Lakeland graduates … but that wasn’t helping. “Lakeland wasn’t really in my mind for that reason, to be honest,” Alicia said.
Her mother encouraged her to apply to Lakeland’s competition for a full tuition scholarship to the Schilcutt School of Science, Technology & Education. “We’ll buy you a new car if you get a full scholarship,” her mother told her.
Alicia won the scholarship. “I did not get a new car,” she said, smiling.
Thone enters her senior year exceling in one of Lakeland’s most challenging academic programs and is well on her way to achieving her career goal of becoming a physical therapist.
Along with her coursework and a spot on Lakeland’s women’s basketball team, Thone worked this past year as a therapy services aid at Holy Family Memorial Hospital and its outpatient clinic in Manitowoc, assisting therapists with patient activities and pre-treatment modalities.
She also worked an internship at Aurora Sports Health in Manitowoc where she observed patient sessions and asked/answered lots of questions.
Her schedule and Lakeland’s exercise science program, led by Associate Professor of Exercise Science Bill Ebben, is demanding, but Thone’s approach to life is a good match for the challenge.
“I’m pretty intense, and I tend to go all in on everything I do,” Thone said. “I’m a competitive person, but I’m also my own biggest critic, which I think is better to be critical of yourself when you’re competitive.
“I’m better at balancing my time than I used to be. Being blessed with people who trust you to take on something means you have to learn how to do it. That’s part of maturing and coming into your own person, finding your career path and also the other things in life you need to make time for.”
She takes advantage of the experiential learning opportunities available in Lakeland’s Exercise Science Lab. She is an author on nine completed research studies, most of them centered on physical therapy and occupational therapy jobs. This is new industry research examining job responsibilities, job satisfaction and issues like gender pay discrepancies.
“We’re delving into the occupations, and for prospective students, this is information on what they do,” Thone said. “We’re trying to find things that aren’t talked about when students look at these careers, but are still a big part of them. This is research that could drive changes in the industry.”
She presented research posters at the Wisconsin Occupational Therapy event and at the National Strength and Conditioning Association virtual event, and she has more work ready for presentation. As a freshman, she interned at Generations Intergenerational Coalition in Plymouth, Wis., providing strength and conditioning services for clients.
“Most of my retention comes from writing it down, studying later and doing hands-on things, and there are no shortage of those opportunities here,” Thone said.
Ebben said Thone’s focus on her academic and career goals has her well positioned for long-term success.
“She knows what she wants and really goes after it,” Ebben said. “She is ambitious and has taken advantage of all the unique opportunities present in Lakeland’s exercise science program, including specialized rehabilitation-oriented coursework, substantial involvement in research and multiple physical therapy internships and work experiences.
“She will have outstanding credentials when she applies to professional schools to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. She is a ‘sure bet’ to be admitted to these highly competitive programs.”
Ebben is among the faculty members who have had a significant positive impact on Thone, along with biology faculty members Greg Smith and Andrew Karls.
“Dr. Ebben is one of the most qualified people in the world to teach these courses and research opportunities,” she said. “He invests a lot into his students. I feel so lucky to be part of this program.”
Attending Lakeland allowed Thone to continue playing basketball, and she said Head Women’s Basketball Coach Amber Peterson is another invaluable mentor. “Having her as an ally to work through things has been so beneficial,” Thone said.
Thone also picked up a best friend and go-to study buddy in roommate and basketball teammate Hayley Walding, a biology major from Bradenton, Fla.
“My freshmen year, I spent so much time on school,” Thone said. “Hayley was that person to say ‘You can’t do school all the time,’ and someone to lean on. I didn’t fully understand I needed that when I got here. We’re very opposite, but very complimentary. She is a big part my life.”
Armed with a wealth of research experience and a quiet confidence, Thone will begin the graduate school application process this summer. She’s anxious to begin a career that will never have a shortage of learning opportunities.
“That’s why having the research foundation here at Lakeland is so important,” Thone said. “I’ll hear something and wonder what ‘this’ had to do with ‘that’ and pull up the research database. There is always research to be had and information you can look up to improve your approach. It’s such a natural part of how I learn now.”