Students attend the Minnesota State, Mankato Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology graduate program from all over the region, nation, and world. Current and past students have hailed from Florida, California, Idaho, Utah, Ohio, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and many other states. Internationally, students have joined the program from Mexico, Canada, Israel, South Africa, Ireland, Sweden, Italy, Latvia, and the Czech Republic. Students bring a range of perspectives and sport and performance experiences that make the classroom an exciting space to learn, grow, and develop as sport and exercise psychology professionals.
Below are our current first and second-year graduate students and profiles about their backgrounds and career interests.
Second Year Cohort
My name is Baily Chell. I am from a town just south of the metro, Northfield. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities in Psychology and a minor in health and wellness promotion. I discovered sport psychology from one of my professors at the University of Minnesota and ever since fell in love. The concept of helping performers strive for their absolute best hooked me. I have seen firsthand the impact that mental skills training can have on athletes as individuals and in their team setting. I plan to apply to work for the military after I get certified and become a Master Resiliency Trainer for our armed forces. Just a small piece of advice ~ stay curious ~ because you never know when your dream job is one question away.
My name is Sabine Baltaisbrence. I was born and raised in Riga, Latvia and moved to the United States in 2015 to pursue education. I completed my undergraduate studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato in Psychology with a minor in Human Resources. Before moving to the United States, I was a dancer for about 10 years and had the opportunity to perform at numerous sporting and cultural events and to compete at a national and international levels. I believe that every human being is a performer in life and our performance, whether that would be athletic, business or life in general, is greatly impacted by our mindset. In the future I hope to use my skills and knowledge to help athletes and high performers with their personal and professional development and to help them achieve their goals. I am also hoping to be an advocate for the field of sport and exercise psychology in my home country.
My name is Mackenzie Briskie. I'm from Ripon, WI. I completed my undergraduate studies of Kinesiology with an emphasis on Strength & Conditioning at the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh. I have always been drawn to training; I noticed early on that we trained 100% of the time for physical performance and never mental performance, even though my coaches always stressed its importance. As I move forward in my career, I hope to use my knowledge of strength and conditioning alongside that of sport psychology to help athletes perform at their highest level in and out of competition.
My name is Holly Wolle. I live in St. James, Minnesota with my husband, Matt, and our three kids, Betsy (8), Henry (6), and Johnny (4). I graduated from Iowa State University in 2003 where I was a four-year-letter-winner on the Cyclones' Women's Basketball team and have been coaching high school girls' basketball at various levels ever since. I am pursing my Maste’rs degrees in both Sport Psychology and Mental Health Counseling because I believe support for athletes should focus on performance and mental health. I love the idea of cultivating better sport through mental health and better mental health through sport. As I look to the future, I am hoping to spark positive change at the youth level through work with athletes, and their coaches, caregivers, and supporters.
My name is Brittany Hawthorne and I am a 2nd year in the Sport and Exercise Psychology Master's program. I am from Aurora, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. I studied at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where I obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and French. I learned about sport psychology during a freshman seminar class; I knew that this was the path I wanted to take going forward through undergraduate and graduate school, as I was able to combine my love of sports to my interest in psychology and the mind. I believe that having the knowledge involved in sport psychology would have enhanced my own experience as an athlete, and I am hoping to do the same for upcoming athletes. In the future, I would love to gain certification as a mental performance consultant and work with college athletes alongside coaches to bring awareness to the mental side of sport, and help them develop the mental skills needed to perform at their best.
My name is Rachel Domingue. I’m originally from Ottawa, Canada where I did my undergraduate degree in Music Performance. I graduated with my masters in Music Performance in May 2019 from the University of Texas at Austin. During my music performance studies, I noticed the lack of psychological training in education. I have chosen sport psychology since my goal is to work with students and performers (mainly artists but sports are growing on me!) at the college level to give them tools for performance enhancement. I also hope to incorporate mental training in music education and maybe someday teach a class of my own on the benefits of performance psychology in music education and performance.
My name is Alex Johnson. I was born and raised in St. Paul, MN where my passion for being inside a hockey rink flourished in the great State of Hockey. I have had the privilege to coach all levels ranging from beginner to Varsity High School hockey – and I continue to find one constant in athletes that succeed – emotional intelligence. I am a coach by nature and aspire to lead the next movement in youth coaching through mental health awareness and positive psychology principles. I believe that the coach that exemplifies a growth mindset will have a profound impact on many lives.
My name is Craig Frea. I am from Kewaunee, Wisconsin - a small town 30 minutes east of Green Bay. Go Pack Go! I completed my undergrad at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, where I majored in psychology and minored in human development. I started to gravitate toward sport psychology as I trained for long-distance running events. The more I pushed my body, the more important my mind became. Upon graduation, I will seek certification as a mental performance consultant. From there, sky is the limit!
Hello, my name is Zachary Biehn. I was born and raised in a small southeastern Wisconsin town called Burlington. I attend the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse for my undergraduate studies. Where I double majored in Psychology and Exercise sports science with a concentration in coaching competitive athletics. Unfortunately, concussions kept me to just one year of college football, but it was what got me interested in the mind and its role in sports. I started to show interest in sport psychology research and conducted my own research my Senior year. For my future aspirations, I want to work with people face to face and apply my knowledge. I love the application of sport psychology, which can assist not only athletes but performers and individuals in high-stress occupations. My dream job would be the head Mental Performace Consultant at a University. I love my time working with the college population, as I can see their passion for the sport and drive to get better.
My name is Harley Ruiz. I am from Waconia, Minnesota. I started my undergraduate studies in Colorado but transferred back to Minnesota and finished up my undergraduate at University of Minnesota State, Mankato. While I was in Colorado, I had the opportunity to swim collegiately for two years. After transferring to MNSU I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and two minors in Psychology and Sports Medicine. I am interested in sports and exercise psychology because of my own experiences as an athlete. I want to provide opportunities for not only athletes but everyday fitness goers to improve their performance not only physically but also mentally in ways that I was never given the opportunity. At this time, I am still trying to figure out what my future may hold but I do hope to be involved in and around sports and fitness.
Hello! My name is Jyllian Stewart. I grew up in Olathe, Kansas and was always near Kansas City (Go Chiefs!). I received my Bachelors in Psychology with a minor in Fitness & Wellness at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO. During my time at UCM I was also a student-athlete running Track & Field all four years. I became interested in sport psychology when I had a difficult time transitioning from high school athletic to the collegiate level. After talking with multiple of my coaches, I decided to see someone who specialized in Sport & Performance Psychology and I was instantly hooked. As a future career I am hoping to work on the high school or collegiate level with all sports as the CMPC for their district/university. Some topics that I love within sport psychology is transitions during sport, and injury rehabilitation. A fun fact about me is I am trying to go to as many different state/national parks as I can!
My name is Josh Fischer. I am from a small town in central Minnesota called Sauk Centre. I did my undergrad at Gustavus Adolphus College where I majored in psychology and minored in coaching. The field of sport psychology interests me because it brings awareness to the mental side of sport and performance which is not talked about enough. The impact we can make on athletes’ mindsets and helping them reach their full potential as competitors creates a feeling that is indescribable. In the future, I hope to operate my own practice where I can help athletes of different backgrounds find their purpose in sport and eventually work at the professional level.
My name is Jordan Johnson. I was born and raised in a small Minnesota town – Stewartville. I completed by undergraduate studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul Minnesota. I had the opportunity to compete as a decathlete for the varsity track team, while I completed my studies in psychology and exercise science. I believe that sport psychology is the next frontier of sport performance; I have witnessed and experienced the effects of mindset on performance. As I look forward to the future, I am hoping to leverage my knowledge of performance psychology principles to help athletes, business professionals, and high performers be more effective. I am also hoping to combine my knowledge of sport psychology with the principles of strength and conditioning.
My name is Madison Whitver and I'm from Glidden, IA. I went to Northwest Missouri State University to get my bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in sports psychology. I'm in this field because I was involved in every sport under the sun growing up. I saw athletes become who they were meant to be, and some athletes fall short. Through this experience, I saw a spot where guidance could help lead people to their greatest potential. As well, I've always had a thing for the influence our mind plays in our daily lives. Therefore, I've found a field that combines guidance and our mind! I am hoping to work as an Athletic Counselor within a college setting. Working with student-athletes not only on SEP, but on mental health concerns as well! Something important to share is that choosing to grow or accept help can be hard, but it doesn't make you weak. It takes you one step closer to who you're supposed to be.
My name is Ryan Kucera. I was born and raised in Creston, Iowa. I completed my undergraduate degree at Grand View University, where I majored in Psychology and I was captain of the intercollegiate tennis team. As Head Women’s Tennis Coach here at Minnesota State, I believe it is extremely important to always be learning and growing for the betterment of my incredible student-athletes. Sport psychology is incredibly instrumental in high-level athletics of all kinds, but especially in tennis because of the mental strain and demands that are consistently put on the athletes who participate. Continuing to grow and gain new skills in this field allows me to better coach and serve my athletes in all aspects of their athletic performance, and continue to grow the positive and healthy culture that we prioritize within our program.
First Year Cohort
My name is Carson Fields. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. My interest in mental health and human behavior, coupled with my experiences as a Division I track and field athlete, has inspired me to pursue a career in sport and exercise psychology. I look forward to helping individuals better themselves, their wellness, and their performance. I also hope to help normalize mental health struggles and end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
My name is Taylor Elliott, and I was born and raised in Eagle, Idaho, a small town just north of Boise. I completed by undergraduate education at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, majoring in Psychology and double minoring in Child, Youth & Family Studies and Community and Public Health. During my undergraduate studies I also was a full-time student athlete on the track and field team competing in the high jump and am currently completing my last year of track here at MNSU. One of my greatest goals is to engage in an exciting career where I can interact with athletes and help them improve their performance and mental health each and every day. I strongly believe that the mental pressures and challenges that exist for athletes are unique and should be treated by professionals with a comprehensive understanding of the psychological factors related to human performance. I hope to someday become a professional in the world of sport and exercise psychology and utilize my passions for health, fitness and strong mental health advocacy to treat athletes with any mental health needs along with improved performance in their specific sports field.
My name is Brodie Vieweg. I grew up in Rancho Palos Verdes, California-- a suburb of Los Angeles. I received my undergraduate degree from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa where I majored in kinesiology with a concentration in exercise science, minored in psychology, and played on the men's lacrosse team. I am drawn to sports psychology because I am interested in helping people train their minds like they would train their bodies. I hope to be a resource for those struggling with mental health problems, as well. In the future, I hope to gain CMPC certification and work with athletes and those working in high-risk occupations as a sport psychologist. In my free time, I like to spend time outdoors, exercise, and read a good book!
My name is Via. I was raised in the small tourist town of Munising, Michigan. It is one end of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore--if you've ever heard of it! I completed my undergrad at Michigan Technological University. I received a bachelor's degree in Psychology with a focus in Ceramics. In my senior year, I worked closely with the Human Factors department and that was where I found my love for Sport and Performance Psychology. My professional goal is to work with pro athletes of adventure/extreme sports.
My name is Taylor Holewa, and I am from St. Anthony, Minnesota which is just outside of Minneapolis. I did my undergraduate studies at the University of St. Thomas majoring in psychology with a minor in family studies. I love being a part of athletics and am a big advocate for mental health wellbeing. I believe it is so important for any type of athlete to take care of their mind as well as their bodies. In the future, I would love to work with college or high school athletes as a sports psychologist.
My name is Abigail Mattson. I grew up in a small Minnesota town – Saint Peter. I completed my undergraduate studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota. At Gustavus Adolphus College, I majored in psychological studies and minored in business management. I became interested in sports psychology through my experience as a swimmer and undergraduate studies. My hope is to work as a sports psychologist for high schoolers to master level athletes at a sports psychology center. I also have an interest in working with coaches/parents on mental practices to help their athlete/s excel in their performance.
My name is Thomas Carlson. I was born and raised a Badger boy as I was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised in Onalaska, Wisconsin. I obtained my undergraduate degree from Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota. I graduated with honors as I received my degree in psychology coupled with a minor in statistics. As a result of my passion for sport and psychology, my passion has grown for a career in sport psychology. Playing sports growing up, I have developed a fondness to work with athletes in all areas of their life. I hope to combine my interests in sport and psychology into a career that helps those I work with live the best life they can. I wish to work with collegiate and professional athletes as a sport psychologist. Additionally, I have an idea of opening up my private CMPC business to help athletes and non-athletes of all ages.
My name is Gabriele Simonti. I was born in Florence, Italy. I moved to the United Stated to complete my undergraduate studies first at Orange Coast College, California then at The George Washington University, Washington DC. I competed as a NCAA Division 1 water polo player for the varsity team, while I completed my studies in psychology. I chose sport psychology because it embodies both my passions: sport and psychology. I love to learn how impactful mental skills and health can be for an athlete's performance. Looking at the future, I would like to work with professional teams, but I also have different projects to improve mental health for athletes and military personnel that I would like to bring to life. I was awarded Student-Athlete of the Year both at Orange Coast College and at The George Washington University.
My name is Brandt Nye, and I'm from Fruit Heights, Utah. I previously studied at Weber State University, where I completed my undergraduate work and earned a bachelor's degree in Psychology. I am passionate about Sport Psychology because I love the idea of improving performance - not only in sport, but in all areas of life. The most exciting times that I have experienced are times of improvement, progress, growth, learning, stretching, striving, etc. In the future, I hope to help others take full advantage of performance opportunities and maximize their potential by applying the principles of Sport Psychology. Specifically, I would like to work with athletes and other performers as a certified mental performance consultant.
My name is Robert Cizek. I was born in Prague, Czech Republic which is also where I spent most of my life. I started my undergrad at Charles University in Prague and eventually decided to transfer to Georgia and play tennis for Valdosta State. In Valdosta I majored in psychology and earned a minor in sociology and anthropology.
I have been into sports throughout my whole life with experience at several different levels - playing pro junior tournaments, international leagues and NCAA competitions. I have learned how important the mental aspect of sport is and how little attention it often receives. I started to educate myself and realized that I want to get involved in this field and pursue a career in it.
My plan so far is to gain more experience with athletes as a coach and eventually become a consultant with focus on elite performance, coach/parent education and diversity & inclusion. Sports I would like to focus on include martial arts, bodybuilding, soccer and tennis. If I get the chance, I would like to stay in touch with the academic environment by teaching courses and doing research.
My name is Justine Schultz, and I am from a town in southeastern Minnesota called Winona. In Winona, I completed my undergraduate studies at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota with a major in psychology and a minor in leadership. I also had the opportunity to compete on the softball team. I am passionate about sport psychology because I believe that every day, we can become mentally healthier, and oftentimes our biggest opponent is hidden within ourselves. Therefore, I want to create a space for individuals to develop an understanding of themselves, increase awareness, and help others bridge the gap between mental and physical well-being. I am hoping to combine my knowledge and experiences to open my own mental performance consulting business.
My name is Edwin Perry, and I was born and raised in Dellwood, Minnesota. For my undergraduate years, I left Minnesota and made my way to Chicago where I completed my studies at DePaul University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Public Relations and Advertising. At DePaul University, I had the opportunity to compete on the DePaul Men’s Soccer Team while earning my degree and gratefully learned many valuable life skills from living the student-athlete college experience. For the past four years, I have also been a member of the USA Deaf Men’s Soccer National Team and will compete with the team in the Deaf Olympics in Brazil in May 2022. My collegiate athletic experience, coupled with my current involvement as a member of the USA Deaf Men’s Soccer National Team and my lifelong love for sports, have all contributed to my interest in sports and performance psychology. As I look to my future, I plan to work with athletes in top sports programs on the mental perspective of training, development, and performance, including applying sports and performance psychology training to team building, group cohesion, and achieving team goals. Additionally, as an athlete with hearing loss, I plan to incorporate working athletes with disabilities to achieve their sporting goals as part of my future career. Currently, I serve on the Board of Northern Voices Oral School for the Deaf and a part of the USSF ADAPTandTHRIVE Working Group. Both of these ongoing opportunities have heightened my interest and desire to make a difference for the athletes in disability sports.
My name is Kayla Evans and I am from Seattle, Washington. As an undergraduate, I attended the University of Washington, where I studied biology and education. I also competed in cross country and track & field for the Huskies. Following graduation, I taught and coached for several years. While mentoring young athletes, I realized the need for coaching that incorporates mental health awareness and psychological skills. I intend to utilize sport psychology to integrate a whole-athlete focus with high performance running training. When not in the classroom, you can find me coaching with the MNSU Maverick cross country and track & field teams.
My name is Yovanny Maldonado. I was born in Santiago, Chile. Then since I was about 4 years old, I lived in San Antonio, Texas. I finished my undergraduate studies in BYU-Idaho in psychology. I am interested in studying sport psychology because, not only my love for different sports, but because of the wide application that this field can have with different types of professionals. Going forward in my career, I hope to work with high level athletes, and/or high-risk professionals such as the military. Eventually I would like to continue on my education with either a PhD or a PsyD.
My name is Ryanne Klabunde, and I was born and raised in Blue Earth, Minnesota. I completed my undergraduate studies at Missouri State University where I earned by bachelor’s degree in psychology and minor in coaching. After being involved in sports most of my life, I wanted to be able to be able give something back to athletes in an advisory role, but not as a coach which led me to sport psychology. I love that I can continue to stay in the sport world while being an aid to athletes. After earning my masters, I hope to work with the military doing resistance training work and later work with a professional sports team as a mental performance consultant.