ASU grad’s gymnastics background inspired her path to physical therapy

ASU grad Joyce Yen at the Old Main fountain with a graduation cap decorated to say "to the next chapter"

ASU grad Joyce Yen


Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Arizona State University graduate Joyce Yen fell in love with gymnastics as a 3-year-old. She especially loved the thrill of the uneven bars and competed for 15 years, including on ASU’s competitive club in her first year as a Sun Devil.

“I battled a crushing ankle injury my senior year of high school, which set me back in terms of my mental and physical health in the sport. However, this injury led me to what is now my current passion,” she said.

This experience led Yen to pursuing physical therapy; she also shared her passions for movement and nutrition as a group fitness instructor (HIIT and abs are her specialties) and a nutrition educator for the Sun Devil Fitness Complex

Yen’s classes were known to fill to capacity, and she also helped grow the Tasty Tuesdays program at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex, which encouraged students to fuel their bodies with nutrient-dense foods, stay hydrated and take care of themselves. She said she was inspired to bring this education to Sun Devils because of her experience as an athlete and that the event was very meaningful and fun. 

Yen said she gained confidence and great connections in her student worker roles.

“The amount of growth, leadership skills and confidence I have built within myself from these jobs is truly incredible for me to recognize. … I have gained an immense amount of knowledge and passion from both positions. From time management to discipline and prioritizing my commitments, these roles have made a significant impact on my student experience here at ASU, and I will take these skills and passion to my future endeavors,” she said. 

Yen, who is from San Diego, is graduating with her BS in clinical exercise science with a minor in nutrition and healthy living. In her time working with the Sun Devil Fitness Complex, she also helped pioneer and grow virtual programming such as Tasty Tuesdays, which shared nutritious recipes with Sun Devils. 

Yen earned scholarships through the Dean’s Award, Discovery Fellows Cohort Award and the Super Senior USA Gymnastics scholarship. As she prepared to graduate, Yen shared some of her memories and advice for fellow Sun Devils.  

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

A: The beginning of my junior year, I realized I love being around people. I love connecting with people and hearing their stories. I also have a huge passion for health and creating a healthy lifestyle through movement and food — I started volunteering at a sports medicine physical therapy clinic and soon fell in love with the job. You get to interact with different people every single day, carry them through various exercises and hear about their stories while making an impact on their day. My hope and goal is to incorporate my passion for nutrition into my future career as a physical therapist as well.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A:  I always doubted my abilities to be as successful as I envisioned myself to be. I didn’t think that physical therapy school was even an option until my advisor encouraged me to go the pre-PT route because of my high GPA and well-built resume. 

I would say too, you get out what you put in. In other words, my perspective was greatly changed when I started to realize my highest potential in the classroom, at the gym and in involving myself in various commitments. I have learned resilience, dedication, grit, time management and how to be a committed student, worker and stick to a routine that built my best me each and every day.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of the immense amount of school spirit and passion that I saw right away with the school. I was looking for a school that would give me opportunities to grow, go to sports games, make new friends for a lifetime and give me an education on a level suitable for me to succeed. ASU fit all of those requirements, and right away I knew I would be a Sun Devil.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: My BIO 201 professor, Dr. Hyatt, taught me everything from how microtubules work to the grit and dedication that you have to give in a high-level college science class. That was one of the hardest earned B’s I’ve ever achieved. He pushed me and taught me that you have to be willing to work hard and stay persistent for success. I am now graduating summa cum laude and will always remember how hard I had to work in that class to earn my grade.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Best piece of advice I could ever give someone: You miss every opportunity you don’t take. Go for it. You never know what might happen. You have to grow in order to learn.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: I am a downtown Phoenix student and loved going to the tables outside the law building when it was nice weather! I also loved the second floor of Cronkite — many memories of late-night study sessions there.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: I will be taking a gap year in San Diego, where I will be working as a PT aide and finishing my last two prerequisite classes before hopefully going on my next adventure to PT school!

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would use that money to tackle world hunger. I would go further than just hunger too; I would want to implement food systems that allow access to nutrient-dense food, including fresh produce that would help society not just survive but thrive in their everyday activities.

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