Isabel Mendoza

Isabel Mendoza desires to work as an occupational therapist someday. When she isn’t studying, she can be found strolling the farmers market, reading a good book, or baking with her sister, Tessa.

Get to know Isabel

  • Major: Kinesiology and health, pre-health professions option
  • Minor: Child, adult, and family services
  • Class: Senior
  • Hometown: Grimes, Iowa (Polk and Dallas counties)
  • Career goal: Occupational therapist
  • Clubs/activities: ISU 4U Promise, Motor Control and Learning research Laboratory, YSS mentor
  • Awards/honors: Dean’s list, Multicultural Vision Program (MVP) Scholar, Winifred Tilden High Scholar Award
  • Favorite place on campus: In a hammock on central campus
  • Most influential ISU mentor: Ann Smiley
  • Favorite class: KIN 366, Exercise Psychology
  • Why Iowa State: Family connections and good programs

Isabel Mendoza encourages students to explore, immerse themselves in different opportunities

Isabel Mendoza stepped foot on Iowa State University’s campus wide-eyed in anticipation of all the opportunities that would be offered to her. As a person of many passions, she knew she was interested in physical activity and health, but was still uncertain as to what exact career path she desired to pursue. 

“I realized there were so many different ways I could go,” Isabel said. “I had to figure out what I didn’t want to do, to figure out what I did want to do.”

Isabel began taking small steps toward things she thought sounded interesting. She did this by immersing herself in many different types of experiences, taking comfort in knowing rerouting her path was always an option if something didn’t suit her.

“I tried to be encouraged by things not being what I thought they were,” Isabel said. “It’s just getting me one step closer to something that is going to really fulfill me and I’m going to be passionate about for a long time.”

After switching her major to kinesiology and health, Isabel noticed a pattern in all the experiences she was involved in—she naturally gravitated toward children and loved working with them in one-on-one settings.

Isabel had been volunteering with ISU 4U Promise, a partnership between Iowa State University and Des Moines elementary schools that promotes college-going among students. Even though she was one of the only kinesiology and health majors involved in the program, it was always one of her favorite parts of the week. This, along with volunteering as a Youth and Shelter Services (YSS) mentor, pushed her to pursue her minor—child, adult, and family services.

“The future of the world is in the hands of children, and children are in the hands of the adults who care for them,” Isabel said. “To me, caring for children well is setting up the world to be a much better place in the future.”

Isabel has also been involved in assisting in research, working under Ann Smiley in the Motor Control and Learning Research Laboratory. One specific area of research, included in this laboratory, is the development of executive processing in children through rhythmic movement. This allowed Isabel to work directly with children, combining her love for children and her passion for physical activity.

“It’s been really cool to be able to participate and help in moving research forward,” Isabel said. “These are studies that make a difference and can advance the knowledge we have in the field.”

Isabel looks forward to incorporating her deeper understanding of people, acquired from her minor, into the healthcare setting — hopefully working someday as an occupational therapist.

“One of the reasons I think [kinesiology and health] is such an important field is because the way people feel physically affects every second of every day for them,” Isabel said. “Keeping people physically healthy sets them up to do all the things they love and have so much more of an enjoyable life.”

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