Running Down His Dream
Ethan Sunseri is an athlete. He participates in triathlons, he ran track all through high school and he’s a certified personal trainer.
But instead of focusing on a career where he would work with high-level athletes, his time at College of Education, Health and Human Sciences (CEHHS) has helped him realize that what he really wants to do is help the average person live a healthier lifestyle.
“I had been involved in sports most of my life and I wanted to see how far I could take my performance – how much potential I had to excel,” he said. “But the more I’ve learned about public health, I want to apply what I’ve learned to help others.”
Originally from San Jose, California, Sunseri started college at DeAnza College in Cupertino, California, mainly to continue participating in track. What he was really looking for, however, was a science-based exercise curriculum to help him train, which he found within U of I’s Exercise, Sport and Health Sciences program.
Although he was still mainly interested in getting himself in better shape at that time, he started taking other classes that introduced him to the plight of public health in the U.S. These included classes within CEHHS as well as lectures about sociology and politics.
Sunseri began to realize there was more to being healthy than just improving on one’s race performance.
“I started looking at the broader implications of being healthy from a public view, not just about in athletics,” he said. “I was helping myself become a better athlete but how cool would it be to help other people discover how to live healthier?”
Sunseri started taking more public health classes, included several from CEHHS Clinical Associate Professor Helen Brown. Brown said that Sunseri’s shifting interest from an athletics-based health focus to one centered on helping the public has been rewarding to witness.
Let’s say you are 50 years old and you decide that you need to start living a healthier lifestyle but you don’t know how to start. Those are the kinds of people I want to help. Ethan Sunseri
“I’ve watched Ethan’s interest in health promotion and health education grow over the past two years,” Brown said. “I’m impressed by his passion, his critical thinking and his commitment to improve the quality for life for others.”
During spring 2023, Sunseri interned at Vandal Health Education, an on-campus resource center that provides outreach and health education to students about well-being topics. While working there, Sunseri planned and presented events, such as sexual responsibility week, and facilitated workshops aimed at health issues specific to students, such as how to eat healthy on a budget.
“Ethan cares about the Vandal Community and wants to enhance his skills to be of service to others,” said Amanda Ferstead, Vandal Health Education’s assistant director of health promotion.
While focusing on his career aspirations in public health, Sunseri still occasionally dabbles in the athletic world. He volunteered to help with the U of I Track & Field/Cross Country team for a semester, assisting with practices and conducting underwater treadmill sessions with the team.
“Ethan brought a background and an athletic ability that all our athletes respected,” said Assistant Coach Travis Floeck.
While still athletic at heart – he is currently a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness in Moscow – Sunseri understands he can make a greater impact with his education by showing a larger percentage of the population how to live an active lifestyle.
His post-graduate interests include working with communities and cities to create more opportunities for people to engage in exercise and health activities, such as promoting parks, sidewalks and other places where people can walk, jog or ride their bike. He also wants to get involved in public health policy discussions.
But ultimately, Sunseri just wants to help people attain their goals of leading healthier lives.
“Let’s say you are 50 years old and you decide that you need to start living a healthier lifestyle but you don’t know how to start,” he said. “Those are the kinds of people I want to help. It’s hard to make these kind of changes alone. I want to show them the potential they have to improve their life.”
Article by David Jackson, University Communications and Marketing.
Photos provided by Ethan Sunseri.
Published in April 2023.