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CLASS OF 2022

First Cohort Graduates from HNU’s Applied Sport and Performance Psychology Program

This year, HNU celebrates the first graduating class of the Applied Sport and Performance Psychology master’s program! Launched in Fall 2020, HNU’s ASPP master’s program trains students to help athletes and performers achieve their performance goals while prioritizing mental health awareness. 

The force behind HNU’s successful ASPP program is Dr. Alison Pope-Rhodius, an educator and practitioner with nearly thirty years of experience in the field. Dr. Pope-Rhodius was motivated to bring this one-of-a-kind program to HNU when she saw how well it would integrate with other programs on campus, both academic and athletic. 

Dr. Pope-Rhodius explains that the flexibility of the ASPP program format–online, in person, or a hybrid of the two–means that students can take the program from anywhere, which attracts students from all over the world. Students only need to be on campus once during the program for Intensive Placement, a 2-week training with peers and supervisors.

Students in the Applied Sport and Performance Psychology program have made a significant impact on the HNU community, by hosting HNU Athletics’ workshops, support services, and training with the student-athletes. “The opportunity to work with youth athletes–to help them learn new mental skills, like how to relax, set goals, and feel less nervous and more confident, is invaluable to both the students in the program and the larger community,” said Dr. Pope-Rhodius. 

Dr. Pope-Rhodius anticipates that the ASPP program will continue to flourish and grow in the years to come. She hopes that the future of the program will continue to instill the importance of a pay-it-forward mentality, and guide their trainees to be service-minded. “I am proud of the graduating class’ achievement, and they should be proud of themselves. We asked a lot of this first Intensive Track cohort, and these graduates have accomplished so much in the last two years.”

Meet the graduates:

Alyssa Lopez, MA ’22

Why drew you to the Master of Arts in Applied Sport and Performance Psychology program? 

All my life I knew I wanted to do something that made a difference in people’s lives, but I just couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I wanted to do. Throughout my own experiences with sports and mental health, I knew how tough it was to get through things alone. I wanted to be that person for my younger self and help people like me who didn’t know what they were going through or how to ask for help. Helping people is what I was meant to do, my own experiences in life drew me to this field. 

Why did you choose HNU? 

I chose HNU because this is the place where I got my undergrad when I graduated in 2020. During that time I was trying to figure out what was next for me, and this program was in the process of getting started. At that moment I knew this was the place for me and where I needed to be. 

What has your experience at HNU been like?

My experience at HNU has been one to remember. I have met so many amazing people who have truly made an impact on my life, and I couldn’t have asked for a better cohort to go through this program with. This experience has reminded me of my purpose in life, why I want to help people and help make a difference in this world. Through all the ups and downs I wouldn’t change it for the world. This is where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing. 

Who would you like to thank?

God first because I wouldn’t be where I am today without Him, and my family and friends for always supporting me and pushing me to be better. Especially my mom for always believing in me and being there when times get tough. 

What’s next for you?

I plan on getting my CMPC, and I want to eventually work with professional athletes. I hope to one day open up my own private practice to be able to reach all sports and ages. 

What advice would you give your past self (at the start of your academic journey)?

Take in every moment and enjoy all the experiences because life is short and you only have one life to experience it all. Above all else, do what makes you happy.

Aren Ulmer, MA ’22

Why drew you to the Master of Arts in Applied Sport and Performance Psychology program? 

As a student-athlete in undergrad, I experienced the struggles with mental health and performance, but never knew how to answer those questions or work through many concerns effectively. This program helps answer those questions. I wanted to learn how to help athletes/performers who are similar and different than me to overcome the mental obstacles that stand in the way. 

Why did you choose HNU?

I honestly wouldn’t say that I chose HNU, it in a way chose me. Due to the pandemic, my life plans altered and HNU popped up as a new direction to explore. Coming full circle from once going to HNU summer camps to now being a student has made for an interesting and exciting experience. 

What has your experience at HNU been like? 

My experience has been all over the place–I was a virtual student and in person graduate assistant for two years. I was able to learn and grow in so many different areas of my life. For the pandemic to have been a “set back,” my experience has really pushed me further into my career than I could have even imagined. 

Who would you like to thank? 

There are so many people to thank, from Dr. Pope-Rhodius to accepting me into this program, Coach Daniel Eberhart who availed me the opportunity to be a part of his inaugural staff as a graduate assistant, and my professors and supervisors who have taught me and pushed me to excel into a field of sport psychology. Most importantly, my family with their love, support, and encouragement, which has helped me not only develop into a successful student, but also develop into a high level professional. 

What’s next for you? 

The current plan is to work with Courtex Performance as a Mental Performance Consultant, with a primary focusing on collegiate athletes. Also, I plan to work with AthMindset and move my attention to directing collegiate and professional Brand Ambassador’s to help create and execute strategies and tactics in order to increase engagement, reach, awareness, and any other necessary metrics. 

What advice would you give your past self (at the start of your academic journey)?

The best advice I would give my past self: “be free.” Oftentimes I found myself being too caught up in trying to be perfect, but what is perfect? An unidentifiable standard in most cases. Why strive for something that isn’t even defined. Not being free held me from exploring different options, and once I reached that understanding, things began to change. All in all, I wish I would have been able to “be free” from the start.

Tayna Harris, MA ’22

Why drew you to the Master of Arts in Applied Sport and Performance Psychology program? 

My experiences as a student-athlete. The challenges I faced mentally that affected my performance, and not having someone there to help me overcome those challenges. My experiences pushed me to want to help and support other athletes overcome mental obstacles. 

What has your experience at HNU been like? 

My experience at HNU has been full and eventful. Thankful for the atmosphere and HNU and the new friendships I created along the way. 

Who would you like to thank? 

I would like to thank my family and friends that have shown endless support. I would also like to thank Dr. Pope-Rhodius–she has been a vital part of where I am today and I will always be grateful. 

What’s next for you? 

I plan to obtain my certification to become a Certified Mental Performance Consultant. I am also going into fitness because I would like to combine mental skills and fitness to help people obtain their fitness goals. 

What advice would you give your past self (at the start of your academic journey)? 

The advice I would give myself is “You got this. Focus on the journey and not the end results.” It’s better to be present, in the now, than stuck in the past and worried about the future.

Juan Garcia, MA ’22

Why drew you to the Master of Arts in Applied Sport and Performance Psychology program? 

My long-term goal is pursuing a career as a sport psychologist. Getting a master’s degree in Sport and Performance Psychology was a step toward achieving that goal. 

Why did you choose HNU? 

When doing my research about HNU, I learned about their values and quickly realized how my personal values align with what HNU envisions for the growth and development of a community. 

What has your experience at HNU been like? 

My experience at HNU was everything I was looking for, a community to grow with personally and professionally. 

Who would you like to thank?

I would like to thank all my mentors for pushing me through adversity when I was seeking some guidance in challenging circumstances. 

What’s next for you? 

Not entirely sure yet, but I am considering working for the military as a mental resilience trainer. I am leaving my options open, but I feel the right employer will fall into place when the time comes. 

What advice would you give your past self (at the start of your academic journey)?

There is no such thing as life/work balance if you want to be great at your craft. 

Angelique Monge, MA ’22

Why drew you to the Master of Arts in Applied Sport and Performance Psychology program? 

What drew me to my major was being a former athlete and former performer. I had moments where I struggled with connecting the mental side to the physical side, so I wanted to help guide others to reach their full potential in their realm. 

Why did you choose HNU?

I chose HNU because it was a homecoming of going back to where my love of psychology began.

What has your experience at HNU been like?

My experience at HNU has been great. Being able to have professors who are invested in the program along with my classmates who have been a great support system. 

Who would you like to thank?

I would first like to thank my daughter Anais for being my motivation to go back to school, and help me go above and beyond to realize my purpose in life. Second, I would like to thank my family and friends for all of their support, never giving up on me, and always having my back.

What’s next for you?

To be honest, I don’t know what’s next for me. Whatever opportunity comes my way, I will welcome it with open arms. 

What advice would you give your past self (at the start of your academic journey)?

The advice that I would give my past self is to celebrate the small wins, give yourself credit that you deserve because you are so much more, and never give up on your dreams.