Laura Kuglitsch lives and breathes wellness. “I’ve been that way since the day I was born.”
Laura’s passion for healthy living guided her to a career—and a life—she loves. Nine years ago, the Milwaukee native transitioned from rehab technician to senior health coach at Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin. She is also a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor who teaches classes three nights per week.
Last fall, Laura decided to get an advanced degree, a Master of Science in Health and Wellness Management, from University of Wisconsin to prepare her to take on a leadership role at work.
A Wellness Manager Is Born
For Laura, being a health coach has always been her thing. At a young age, she lived with a sister in nursing school and a brother with Type 1 diabetes. Laura says, “It was my responsibility to make sure we were cooking healthy recipes.”
As a teenager, she got to know avid exercisers at her local athletic club. “I’d see them measuring their food and was curious about it. They explained their healthy lifestyle to me, and those conversations expanded that whole world for me. I started running and paying more attention to what I ate. I saw the benefits; I had more energy and just felt good.”
Little did she know, these early experiences were preparing her for her future career.
Coaching 12,000 People
As part of the internal wellness team for a 12,000-employee organization, Laura is very busy. “One of the nice things about my job is I get to wear a lot of hats,” she says. She coordinates onsite fitness classes, co-chairs the staff wellness committee, and assists with planning and developing wellness challenges such as this year’s “Choose to Renew You.”
For her position, she needed to become a certified health coach. Health coaching is a service offered to all Froedtert employees, and Laura helps them find general wellness information, develop fitness goals, and begin an exercise program. As they progress, she guides and motivates them, promising, “I will always be in their corner, cheering them on and saying, ‘It will take time, hard work, and dedication, but when you reach that goal, it will be worth it.’”
Her next career move? “I’m excited about the career opportunities my master’s degree will provide me, and I am hoping this will lead me to a leadership role. I’ve already learned so much about strategic initiatives, goal-setting, program development, and other things from my courses. I’ve had so many lightbulb moments about how I can directly apply the knowledge at work!”
A year into the Master of Science in Health and Wellness Management through UW-Parkside (one of five UW campuses that offer the degree), Laura is very happy with her choice to enroll. “I looked into so many master’s programs after finishing my undergraduate degree in kinesiology,” she says. “But I just couldn’t find that fit.”
The fit Laura is talking about not only has to do with how directly applicable the Health and Wellness Management curriculum is to her career, but also the flexibility and convenience of an online degree.
“I take two courses each semester, while working full-time Monday through Friday. On top of that, I teach cycling and strength classes three nights a week. The draw of the online program was that I can continue to work and teach classes, come home, and still get my schoolwork done. Otherwise, I would have had to give up teaching classes, which is something I love doing.”
Overall, she says the courses and UW instructors who teach them have been great. Plus, she says, there is no travel time to campus. “I love that I can wake up on Saturday morning, make a cup of coffee, and get all my coursework done in my PJs. And if I want, I can take a break and do some yoga to clear my head.”
Laura will graduate with her master’s degree in December 2018, just over two years after she started the Health and Wellness Management program.
If she could tell prospective Health and Wellness Management students one thing, Laura says it would be this: To be a successful online student, you need to be self-motivated and structured when it comes to your studies. The easiest thing is to create a weekly schedule that works for you and try to stick to it.
Oh, and one more thing. “This is achievable. It’s not as scary as I thought. Just take the leap. And don’t look back.”