Transfer to St. Thomas for Exercise Science – Newsroom

After attending Johns Hopkins University, her “dream school,” for a year, Allie Starks ’25 decided a change of pace was in order. Burnt, a native of Bloomington, Minnesota, she took a year off to focus on her mental health and practice volleyball. She went from studying pre-medical molecular and cellular biology at Johns Hopkins to majoring in pre-physical therapy exercise science at Morrison Family College of Health. Starks experienced the seamless way the University of St. Thomas welcomes transfer students.

What drew you to St. Thomas?

I wanted to stay in the field of sports and health, so I decided on physical therapy. I tore both my ACLs (fun fact!) so I have extensive experience with physical therapy.

My mom went here and absolutely adored it, so I thought my first step would be to look at St. Thomas. On Tommie Transfer Day I sat in Dr. [Brett] Bruininks human physiology class and I thought, “This is exactly what I want.”

How is studying exercise science at Morrison Family College of Health going?

I just love everything about it so far. My professors are amazing. I have a fantastic relationship with each of them. They really helped me with this transition and I also work at the Sports Science Institute that I started this summer. So it was a really great transition to campus. I have worked with Dr. [Paul] Melik up close; he and Dr. Bruininks were really my anchors here. I go to them with everything. They helped me tremendously. It’s been an amazing start to the year.

Tell me about the Institute of Sports Sciences.

Allie Starks ’25 poses for a portrait in a science classroom at the Anderson Sports and Recreation Complex. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

We work directly with the athletes here. We currently specifically work with women’s and men’s basketball, as well as men’s hockey. We did pre-season testing, things like VO2 max testing, putting them on a treadmill with a mask on, taking physiological measurements to get a benchmark. We participate in their practices; players wear sensors that track things like their heart rate, how many times they sprint, how many calories they burn, what percentage of time they are in each heart rate zone. And coaches can then use that information.

I run the tests and monitor the sensors.

What are your career aspirations?

I want to be a sports physiotherapist and as much as possible I want to work with female athletes.

What do you think about what it takes to be a successful physical therapist?

I think what is needed is a commitment to the athletes, to the individual. Each individual patient that comes in the door will be unique, so tailoring workouts and ways to approach problems will be different for each person. And being committed to that, learning from your patients, your colleagues, always striving to be the most knowledgeable, that’s how you can give back to patients.

You worked as a barista for a while. What’s your caffeinated drink?

It has to be a chai latte, without water, with whipped cream. This is absolutely the best drink at Starbucks. I can drink it over and over again.

What did it take to be successful as the head coach of the Bloomington Volleyball Club?

I coached for them for three years and this year I have a new coaching job at M1 Volleyball, a different club (still in Bloomington). I am the head coach of the 15-3 team. I think energy is the most important thing when it comes to coaching. Find out what it takes to get your team energized and you energized; I will make wheels on the side.

I am the most excited person when it comes to my athletes. I think it’s so important to be connected to your girls, not only as a coach-player, but as a mentor. I think just fostering relationships is the most important part of what it takes. If you’re just a terrible coach, how much respect will your athletes have for you?

You have a free Saturday afternoon – no homework or schoolwork. What does that look like to you?

My roommates are my best friends, so I probably go out with them. You go to a hockey or football game. I like to make soup, so I eat soup and then watch my favorite show at the moment, which is “Jujutsu Kaisen”, an anime.

If you could have dinner with one famous person, who would it be and why?

Agatha Christie; I have read so many of her books and love every single one of them. Her brain must be so much fun to take apart. You can never guess where [the books] will. I’m a big fan of mysteries. I can usually feel the twist coming, but I’ll never be able to predict where her books will take you.

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