When Kayana Trottier came to the University of North Dakota (UND) as a transfer student, she was retracing the footsteps of her mother, who had earned a master’s degree in education there. Trottier wanted to pursue her passion for physical therapy, but months before she applied, her mother passed away. Devastated by the loss, Trottier says she struggled in her courses at first. Her mother was not there to hear her concerns and tell her “you worry too much.”
“But I ended up getting through it with my family, friends, [and] professors,” she says.
Before coming to UND, Trottier attended Turtle Mountain Community College. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in Belcourt, North Dakota. She moved to the reservation as a teenager, and the college gave her the opportunity to learn about her heritage.
The college had a “big family dynamic,” she says, but she also found community within the UND physical therapy program. While she mourned the death of her mother, professors helped her in and outside of the classroom. “It meant the most to me as somebody who was struggling, because they didn’t have to do that for me,” Trottier says. “They want you to be successful—not just as a professional or as a physical therapist, but in your personal life, too.”
Now, a few months shy of graduating in May, Trottier is proud to have earned a doctorate in physical therapy. A health sciences degree was one of her goals from the start.
“I’m helping people get better,” she says. “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 always 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 says. “As a physical therapist, you are a learner your entire life. So, every day, I’m learning things over and over.”
Trottier is currently completing her third clinical practice with an outpatient facility in Bemidji, Minnesota. After that, she will head to San Antonio, Texas, for her final clinical with Texas Physical Therapy Specialists.
Post-graduation, Trottier intends to remain in San Antonio, where her mother’s twin sister lives. She hopes to secure a sports physical therapy residency with Evidence in Motion, a renowned educational institution.
Looking back on her experiences at UND and heading toward her dream career, Trottier has a piece of advice for other transfer students. “If you have what you want in mind, then do it and stay on the right track,” she says. “And, don’t be afraid to ask for help. People at UND are willing to help you right away when you come here.”