Stoaks discovered a passion for physical therapy at Wartburg West

Madison Stoaks at the top of Torrey Peak in Colorado

By Katie Hirv ’22

For countless Wartburg students, Wartburg West has served as a way to gain experience in their chosen fields through experiential learning in an urban setting, while clarifying their vocational goals. For Madison Stoaks ’21, this urban studies program set in Denver, Colo., delivered on its promises.

“I interned at Peak Physical Therapy as a human movement specialist intern. Basically, I was an exercise physiologist. At this physical therapy clinic, the physical therapist met with the patient, did all the physical and manual therapy along with an assessment, then prescribed a set of exercises. The exercise physiologist goes off with the patient for the rest of that session and does those exercises with them,” Stoaks said, who did her internship in Denver this past summer.

“I actually wanted to go to medical school until I went to this internship,” Stoaks added. “I was OK with physical therapy and thought I wanted to do something in orthopedics. After two weeks, I realized how personable you have to be to be a physical therapist. I was really excited to see my patients every week! I really enjoyed how important it is to build relationships with them. After that experience and how much I enjoyed this, I realized I wanted to be a physical therapist. I almost didn’t go because of COVID, but it put me on the right career path.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Stoaks’ internship only looked slightly different.

“It was pretty similar to what it would have been before (the pandemic). I worked the same number of hours. In that health care environment, we’re cleaning things regularly anyways. The only difference was we had to wear masks at all times, as did the patients. Sometimes they’re exercising and have to slow things down a little, but the actual internship was pretty similar,” Stoaks said.

Madison Stoaks in front of a flag that read Orthopedic Centers of Colorado
Madison Stoaks

With her positive Wartburg West experience, the biology major highly recommends it to other Wartburg students considering an off-campus experience.

“It’s amazing for future career development. I have 160 career hours I can use for job applications and resumes,” Stoaks said.

When she wasn’t interning at Peak Physical Therapy, Stoaks was able to enjoy Denver and some of its tourist sites.

“Living in Denver was amazing! Because of COVID, it was a little different, but I was still able to go hiking every weekend,” she said. “I really loved having all the freedom and living in Colorado. I went to 16th Street Mall with some friends, too. Exploring the ski and tourist towns was also really fun.”

On campus, Stoaks is involved with the softball team, serves as a morale captain for Dance Marathon, is an Admissions Ambassador, and participates in Phi Eta Sigma, National Society for Leadership and Success, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Reflecting on her time at Wartburg, Stoaks has found her vocation and had experiences that will serve as lifelong memories.

“I’ve gotten an amazing, well-rounded education. I was able to play softball in Europe, study Spanish in Costa Rica for three weeks, and go to Denver for two months. I’ve also met so many amazing people I love and know that we will be lifelong friends,” Stoaks added.