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Exercise Physiology Alumni

Matthew Gonzalez (M.S. 2023 Exercise Physiology) is a Strength & Conditioning Coach at Performance Training Systems in Chicago, IL.

Matt GSince graduating from EIU I have pursued my career in the field of strength and conditioning and have began coaching clients full time. I have also taken the time to get certified through the NSCA and receive my CSCS.

My degree from EIU has created so many opportunities for me and I felt more than prepared to enter the work field. The hands on experience and relationships I was able to build with my classmates helped set me up for success as I progress throughout my career.








Niondina Nyström (M.S. 2023 Exercise Physiology) is a Gym Manager at Body & Soul Gym in Miami, FL.

Nio NAs the Gym Manager for Body & Soul, I play a pivotal role in supporting the day-to-day operations of our gym. My responsibilities include exercise programming, schedule organization, client relations, overseeing training staff, lead calls, marketing and brand promotion. In addition, my daily tasks are to manage client accounts with attention to detail which includes daily emails, calls, and receiving feedback about the overall quality of member experience. My role also includes to produce a monthly close out analysis of costs, memberships, and overall business functions along with a bi-weekly payroll for over 30 employees. I highly appreciate my job as I have the chance to have a significant impact by contributing to the growth of our family at Body & Soul!

My experiences of being a Kinesiology Graduate Assistant for Eastern helped me gain valuable skills in all aspects of management, problem solving, leadership and customer service. Being part of the EIU Adult Fitness Program provided me strong knowledge of customer service and organizational skills and supervising the Assessment, Testing, and Prescription lab gave me strong insight of leadership and exercise management. Both my internships with James Di Naso at The Body Club gave me strong knowledge with personal training, sports performance and specifically gym management. I would never been where I am today without all the staff, professors and mentors I was blessed to have met at EIU. Once a panther, always a panther!


Lily Hess (M.S. 2023 Exercise Physiology) is an Exercise Physiologist at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, IN.

Lily HessUpon graduating from EIU, I accepted a job working as an Exercise Physiologist at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. I work in the nationally ranked Pediatric Cardiology department. My duties include performing cardiopulmonary exercise stress tests on children with congenital heart defects. These tests are used to see how their heart and lungs respond to exercise. Additionally, I work with children in the Preventative Cardiology Clinic. I educate these patients on the importance of exercise and develop personalized exercise prescriptions. I also assist in various research projects with many of the cardiology healthcare professionals at Riley.

The Exercise Physiology Graduate Program at EIU truly prepared me for my career. In fact, my coworkers often comment on the excellent education I received at EIU. The challenging coursework provided me with the necessary knowledge to perform my job duties. Coursework included instruction in exercise prescription, EKG interpretation, and performing stress tests. Additionally, the Cardiac Rehabilitation internship at Sarah Bush and the Graduate Assistantship gave me hands-on-opportunities to work with patients and clients. I am so grateful for all the educational opportunities offered at EIU. EIU has given me the confidence to be a healthcare professional.


Hannah Carbonaro (M.S. 2020 Exercise Physiology) is an Exercise Specialist CVP Rehab at SIH Hospital in Herrin, IL.

Hannah Carbonaro As an Exercise Specialist, I prescribe and monitor exercise programs for both cardiac and pulmonary patients. I encourage patients and document their progress through 36 sessions of exercise. The Exercise Physiology Graduate Program at EIU provided me with hands on experiences in the hospital setting and in lab courses, to practice skills I now use every day in my career. Through the program we took countless blood pressures, read ECG rhythm strips, and demonstrated several exercises to practice these skills we would someday use in the real world. I am grateful for EIU’s Exercise Phyisology Graduate Program for preparing me and giving me the confidence I needed for this position through not only book studies, but also by doing and practicing each day!





Alissa Wagener, NSCA-CPT (M.S. 2015 Exercise Science) is the Director of Fitness at The Club at Mediterra


I am responsible for the organization, operation, and management of all wellness and fitness activities. Essential duties include recruiting and hiring talent, budget management, organization of group fitness schedules and the overall experience in the fitness center. Being able to adhere to the industry best practices, the research of new technology, creating safety procedures and policies and carrying out specific member policies. Additional tasks include communicating clear and concise duties and roles to fitness center staff, attending monthly Sports Committee meetings, planning and implementing exercise incentive programs, and management of the monthly calendar of events. The completion of my Master’s degree along with my Graduate Assistantship position at Eastern Illinois University demonstrated my dedication to health and wellness and added exactly what my resume needed to be considered for this position. The KSR staff and professors challenged, lead, encouraged, and awarded me throughout my Master’s program. The skills and qualities I developed at Eastern enhanced my knowledge and confidence as a leader as well as a fitness professional. I truly believe I wouldn’t be where I am today without the staff and students I met throughout my journey at EIU.

Tiffany Hilmes, NSCA-CPT (M.S. 2013 Exercise Science) is working at Bi-State Development Metro Transit


I work in the corporate wellness field as Manager of Wellness for Bi-State Development d.b.a. Metro Transit in downtown St. Louis. I oversee the Wellness Department, wellness program, and coordinate all wellness activities and initiatives. Our programs serve around 2,500 employees and their families, and cover all areas of health ranging from biometric screenings, health fairs, personal training, flu shots, nutritional counseling, and more. In the last year, our wellness program has won numerous awards, including Healthiest100 Employers in the Nation for the second consecutive year, and is a finalist for St. Louis’s Healthiest Employers of 2016 through the St. Louis Business Journal. I am very honored to be in a position that allows me to help so many people and utilize the extensive education that I received from Eastern Illinois University on a daily basis.



Dajana Jovanovic (M.S. 2015 Exercise Science) is currently an exercise physiologist/cardiovascular treadmill technician at  St. Vincent Heart Hospital


I perform cardiovascular exercise stress tests in an effort to detect ischemia, blockages and other cardiac complications. While monitoring a patient's EKG rhythm, I observe his/her cardiac response before, during, & after stimulating the heart with physical exercise on the treadmill or with stress inducing medication. I am fortunate to work for St. Vincent, Indiana's most prestigious heart hospital. Because of the world renowned care, patients of varying acuity seek treatment at St. Vincent. On any given day, I treat a patient with previously undiagnosed acute cardiac illness to an elite professional athlete. The clinical exercise science Masters degree program at EIU provided the fundamental knowledge necessary to clinically understand each patient's case. Ultimately, it was the KSR graduate program that allowed me to spend every day saving patients' lives; there is nothing more fulfilling than that. 



Bridget Sopeña (M.S. 2014 Exercise Science) is currently working at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute as a R&D Scientist


I am currently a Research and Development Scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute in Barrington, IL. My specific roles within the GSSI team are split between two pillars; research and athlete service. As part of the research team, I assist in the development of scientific sports specific protocols, screen athletes, and collect and organize the data for our research which studies the effects that exercise, the environment and nutrition have on the human body. I also am a part of the athlete service team, where I evaluate elite-athletes in their field of play for real-time data to provide them with experiential learnings about their individual physiology, hydration and sports nutrition needs. Not everyone can say their graduate program prepared them for the real world, but I am proud to say EIU did! During my normal work week, I use content from every single course I took from Eastern’s Clinical Exercise Science Program.




Ashlee Shiffer (M.S. 2013: Exercise Science) is currently an Exercise Physiologist at Carle Foundation Hospital


I work in Cardiac Rehab Phases 1, 2, and 3 and Stress Testing at Carle Foundation Hospital. This involves assisting patients in recovery after open heart surgery and stent placement as well as performing stress tests in order to detect ischemia and other potential electrical issues within the heart. I am also a lead teacher in the 12 week phase 2 cardiac rehabilitation outpatient program. Carle hospital is well renowned Level 1 Trauma center and Stroke care center. It is the leading hospital in patient services and our cardiac rehabilitation program is ranked top 10% in the nation in patient satisfaction. While obtaining my Master’s degree in exercise science (clinical) at EIU, I commuted an hour each way and was vastly challenged by the curriculum and research projects. EIU not only provided the education and training necessary for me to perform the job, but left me well equipped with knowledge about the job search and interview process. I am so pleased I put in the work and am able to live out my dream of working in a field I am passionate about each day.

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Dr. Andrew Kerins, Graduate Coordinator

2504 - Lantz Arena
Fax: 217-581-7973

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