When HHP alum Stacy Cutrono took a course in adaptive physical activity, it completely changed her mindset about health and wellness.
When Stacy Cutrono took the course adaptive physical activity at UF, it completely changed her mindset about health and wellness.
“It changed my life,” she said. “The class changed how I thought about everything.”
The class, which was taught by Professor Christine Stopka, who has since retired, was an avid proponent that physical activity could be adapted for individuals with disabilities. One of the most memorable assignments that Cutrono recalls was when they had to create a brand-new game for kids in wheelchairs. That class still impacts her today and allowed her to realize that health and fitness is for everyone. “For the past five years I worked in oncology and would tell cancer patients ‘you have to find a way to keep moving’ and then encourage them that they could do it.”
Before finding her place in exercise physiology, she started out pursuing a degree in health science with an eye towards attending medical school, but switched majors junior year when she realized it wasn’t exciting her. Deciding she needed a different path, she flipped through the course catalog until she landed on exercise physiology. “Luckily, I didn’t have to flip through the catalog for too long,” she said. “It was the perfect combination of health and athletics. It was absolutely what I was meant to do.”
After moving to Gainesville from Weston, Florida, she immediately liked the city and UF. “Everything was so welcoming from the very beginning,” she said. “I had a different university as my first choice, but didn’t get in. It was honestly one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
In addition to taking classes at UF, her first job was working at the calling center on campus, where part of her work included calling alumni who may be interested in donating to the college. That now has come full circle as her and her husband, whom she met while working as a lifeguard at Lake Wauburg, have established a student conference scholarship in HHP. “Conferences are a great opportunity for networking, but travel expenses can be limiting for students,” she said. This scholarship provides students with the ability to attend a national conference and even present their own work. The scholarship started last year and occurs every spring. Over time, she wants to build it into an endowment so it is self-sustaining. “I want more alumni to realize how easy it is to give back,” she said.
She recently switched careers from health and medicine to technology. She now works at Ultimate Software, where their “people first” culture allows her to focus on facilitating health and wellness for all employees. She still travels with her Gator gear, recently proudly displaying a Gator flag at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
“UF taught me to dream big. I want to change the way the world views fitness and wellness,” she said. “I like to take the winding path. It’s harder but it’s worth it.”