Student sitting at table outside

Building a career beyond the classroom

Sydney Stacey

As a two-time alum of North Central, Sydney shared her reflections with us on being both an undergraduate student in exercise science and graduate student in occupational therapy. This double Cardinal didn't just stay for the atmosphere; she knew North Central was the best place for her to grow into the successful professional she's become.

Why did you choose to attend North Central College?

I transferred to North Central from a community college because I felt North Central was interested in me as an individual and was going to support me from the very beginning. Interactions with North Central faculty and staff encouraged me to take initiative in my learning experience. Their support helped me realize where I was and where I wanted to go.

Students exercising

How did the exercise science program prepare you for your current job?

The exercise science program at North Central helped me create a foundation of knowledge and gain the confidence necessary to excel in my field. As a strength and fitness coach, I regularly reflect and rely on the lessons I learned at North Central. The equipment and facilities accessible to students within the program prepare them for real-world healthcare programming and assessments.


What are the professors like at North Central?

The professors create space for learning, encourage conversations, and make you feel safe exploring new concepts and ideas. They are supportive through every step of the learning process. This support carries beyond the classroom. My favorite professor in undergrad helped me identify my path to become an occupational therapist. She was committed to helping me succeed.


It sounds like you were very dedicated to your academics. Did you have time for student clubs or activities?

Absolutely! I was involved in the Health and Exercise Science Association (HEXA), a student-run organization. One of my biggest accomplishments was helping students attend the American College of Sports Medicine’s Summit. I also organized luncheons where students could learn about different training techniques and talk with industry professionals.

How did North Central’s location impact your educational experience?

The College has many partners in and around the Naperville area. As an undergraduate student, I worked for Athletico and volunteered at Hesed House, a local homeless shelter. I also completed an internship at the Hinsdale Wellness House, working with individuals in cancer remission. As a graduate student, I completed clinicals at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, Edward-Elmhurst Hospital and Ann Reid Early Childhood Center. North Central has so many incredible partners in the local and regional communities.

Students in exercise science lab

When did you know that you wanted to go to graduate school? 

When I was in 8th grade, I wrote in a time capsule that I wanted to be a physical therapist. I’m not sure how I understood what that was, but I knew I wanted to be involved in the health and wellness of others. Asan athlete, I always wanted to be strong, healthy and able to perform. I wanted to dedicate my career to ensuring others could do the same. North Central’s graduate program made that possible.


What makes North Central’s Occupational Therapy program so great?

The Occupational Therapy program provides so many opportunities for growth. From the experienced faculty to the state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, you are constantly sharing ideas and sharpening your skills. The environment is dynamic, which is exactly how it is in the real world.

As an alum with both an undergraduate and graduate degree from North Central, what is your advice for students just starting their college search process?

Use your voice; don’t be afraid to ask for the help or resources you need. Share your ideas and goals with others—you never know what connections can help you along the way. Be willing to feel uncomfortable at times; that when personal and professional growth happens. Also, plans change, so remember to remain flexible and optimistic about the future.

Students in exercise science lab