Leader in Action: Transfer student pursues physical-therapy dream

Kayana Trottier finds family-like atmosphere at UND that recalls her earlier studies at Turtle Mountain Community College

When Kayana Trottier transferred to the University of North Dakota, she followed her passion for physical therapy despite the challenges in her personal life.

Retracing the footsteps of her mother, who earned a master’s degree in education at UND, Trottier wanted to pursue physical therapy at the University. Months before Trottier applied, however, her mom passed away. Devastated by the loss, Trottier said she struggled in her courses at first. Her mother was not there to hear her concerns and tell her that “you worry too much.”

“But I ended up getting through it with my family, friends, professors,” she said.

After graduation and her final clinical this summer, Kayana Trottier hopes to secure a sports physical therapist residency. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

Prior to UND, Trottier attended Turtle Mountain Community College. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in Belcourt, N.D. She moved to the reservation as a teenager, and the college provided an opportunity to learn about her heritage.

The college had a “big family dynamic,” she said. But so does the physical therapy program at UND. When she mourned the death of her mother, professors helped her in and outside the classroom. “It meant the most to me as somebody who was struggling because they didn’t have to do that for me,” Trottier said. “They want you to be successful not just as a professional or as a physical therapist but in your personal life, too.”

Today, a couple of months before graduating in May with her doctorate in physical therapy, Trottier is proud to have earned a degree in health sciences. It was one of her goals.

“I’m helping people get better,” she said. “I am helping them in the long term versus the short term because physical therapy is a long-term fix. It’s something to include in your daily life all the time.”

Academically, it was not easy. Aside from classes, she had to extensively prepare for her clinical practices, where students interact with patients.

“If I knew that there was a person coming with a certain body part I had to know about, I would study that beforehand,” Trottier said. “And then, I was able to apply that information. As a physical therapist, you are a learner your entire life. So every day, I’m learning things over and over.”

Kayana Trottier credits the family dynamic in UND’s Physical Therapy Department for helping her be successful in and out of the classroom. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.