Skip to main content

Back to School

By Daniel P. Smith

For Stephanie Vazquez ’19, MS ’21, and Conor Deal ’18, MS ’20, it turns out you can go home again.

Spurred by their own lively and formative experiences as Exercise Science students at Loyola University Chicago’s Parkinson School of Health Sciences and Public Health, Vazquez and Deal have returned to their alma mater as adjunct professors in the Department of Applied Health Sciences.

“Both Stephanie and Conor have pride for Loyola and work experience in the field that is a great asset to our program and our students,” says Stephanie Wilson, director of the Parkinson School’s undergraduate Exercise Science program. “As alumni, they can relate to the daily pressures and challenges of student life and share their own experiences with our current students while serving as role models as well.”

Vazquez runs her own sports performance and personal training business in addition to serving as an adjunct professor at the College of DuPage in west suburban Glen Ellyn. In her previous position as director of performance and programming at EFT Sports Performance in Highland Park, Vazquez created an internship program for Loyola Exercise Science undergraduates and served as the program’s preceptor. She called it an “honor” to join Loyola’s faculty ranks.

“I know how well Loyola prepared me for professional life and I’m so excited to teach current Ramblers,” says Vazquez, who hopes she can inspire other women to pursue careers in sports performance and exercise science.

Since joining the Parkinson School faculty in 2022, Vazquez has taught numerous sections of Exercise 101, the introductory course for Exercise Science majors.

“The opportunity to create relationships, mentor students, and give advice is incredibly energizing for me,” Vazquez says. “I’ve been where the students are and know firsthand the impact professors can have on driving student success and motivating them to reach their goals.”

Deal, meanwhile, helps individuals with intellectual disabilities, such as autism and Down syndrome, transition from a school setting to a professional environment at Harper College in Palatine. He previously worked at TCBoost in Northbrook, where he helped propel athlete performance across a range of age groups.

Fueled by instructors he encountered during his undergraduate years, including Wilson and Anthony Deldin, associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Applied Health Sciences, Deal says teaching at the collegiate level, particularly at Loyola, has been a personal goal for years.

“Professors Wilson and Deldin were inspiring and encouraging to me, and I hope I can do the same for the students I meet,” he says.

Deal led his first class, Exercise 101, last spring and has since added Program Design to his teaching courseload. In each class, he focuses on presenting sometimes complex topics in an accessible way so students can find joy in exercise and a place for fitness in their lives.

“I’m excited every time I walk into class because I enjoy what I teach and am passionate about it,” Deal says.

Wilson calls adding Vazquez and Deal to the Exercise Science faculty roster a positive for the program and students, as both alumni possess real-world experience, industry knowledge, and professional networks that help to ensure the program’s relevancy and contribute to its vibrancy. Vazquez and Deal’s professional roles also underscore the varied career opportunities available to those who earn a degree in Exercise Science, which travel far beyond physical therapy or medicine.

“Stephanie and Conor can leverage their own relationships to invite guest speakers, bring in internship opportunities, and share knowledge from the field, all to the benefit of our students,” Wilson says. “They are two young leaders who stand out and we’re blessed to have them on board.”