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Kinesiology major Calvin Mai combines athletics, science with sights on a health care career

Calvin Mai knows it sounds cliché to say that he’s studying kinesiology because he enjoys working with people. But, honestly, that’s the truth. A natural athlete, Mai picked up a hockey stick and hit the ice at the age of 7, added soccer a year later, and has played both sports since. Add to that his longstanding interest in science, and it’s easy to see how Mai knew before he graduated from high school that a health care career, possibly in physical therapy, might be right for him.  

“I like the idea that as a physical therapist you’re able to help people make positive changes in their lives,” he says.  

Mai transferred in 2008 from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Though he grew up in Chaska, he went to Milwaukee on a soccer scholarship but soon found it difficult to manage his athletic commitment with his coursework. His interest in combining fitness and science, as well as a desire to be closer to home, drew Mai to the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota. He will graduate with his bachelor’s in May.  

While at the University, Mai has had the opportunity to shadow physical therapists at Southdale Hospital several times. He enjoyed the experience, saying it helped him see what it would be like to work in a team with doctors, nurses, and occupational therapists. He also enjoys the one-on-one, outpatient work he has been doing for a year and a half as a therapy aid at the Institute for Athletic Medicine.

“It’s obvious that you have a strong influence on how well people do in physical therapy when you work with them,” Mai says. “That’s very satisfying to me.”  

Outside of school, Mai coaches youth soccer at Chanhassen Chaska United Soccer, the same soccer club he belonged to as a boy. He took over his first team two years ago and is proud to say that the kids have worked hard enough to get promoted to the highest playing level. “I really wanted to stay involved in soccer, and it’s been great to see them do so well,” he says.  

Recently, Mai added hip-hop dance to his own athletic repertoire after watching music videos that inspired him to take a physical education course in hip-hop at the University. As a member of the U’s Vietnamese Student Association, he will perform some of his newly learned moves during a Vietnamese New Year performance in February.  

He is also a member of the University Undergraduate Advisory Board, which meets with the vice provost and dean of undergraduate education on topics such as curriculum, financial aid, advisers, and registering for classes. Additionally, he mentors undergrads who are undecided about their majors and considering kinesiology, addressing their questions or concerns.  

Mai is currently applying to physical therapy doctoral programs, including the program at the University.

Story by Meleah Maynard | February 2011



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