Amber’s Noteworthy 10-Year Challenge

Amber Patterman, a 2013 Western graduate, is currently on her second term teaching Anatomy and Physiology to Western students. Her journey started at Western as a student just over a decade ago. After branching out to acquire experience and knowledge, she’s returned to Western to stay. A life well planned and organized is a desirable thing.

Patterman’s post high school journey of self-discovery began at Western in 2011. Like her role model and sister Brandi before her, Amber chose to attend Western for general education classes. She played on the basketball and volleyball teams and had a work-study job on campus. She loved her Western experience and still recommends it to anyone. The small class sizes felt perfect for student discussions and establishing a relaxed rapport while easily connecting with instructors. And everything you need is on campus.

Patterman attended all three of La Crosse’s postsecondary schools: Western, Viterbo, and UW-L. After two years at Western, she transferred to Viterbo to study dietetics and nutrition and continued playing basketball. While there, she had the insight to set up a job shadow as a hospital dietary aid and found it lacking and not what she envisioned. Patterman found hospital patients were deeply set in their habits and rarely took advice, which can be deflating while simultaneously robbing an expert of their purpose. Patterman’s tip for a better life: “Deciding on a college major is a huge decision; I fully recommend doing a job shadow before applying to the program. The job will always be different than what you imagined. Get those shadow hours in before deciding on a major—you’ll be glad you did.”

Patterman then changed course slightly and finished her bachelor’s degree in exercise science at UW-L. Working on the proactive-preventative side of healthcare was always appealing to Patterman, so she took a health and wellness educator position at Anytime Fitness in Minneapolis. With a passion for health and fitness, Patterman places hefty value on educating engaged and interested clients about their wellness. She worked hard to gain this specialized knowledge and has a great personal need to help people. While working at Anytime Fitness, Patterman set up a job shadow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, but COVID got in the way, and she deferred the plan.

Succumbing to the lure of La Crosse again, Patterman was accepted to UW-L’s accelerated master’s program in Clinical Exercise Physiology and graduated after 15 crushingly rigorous months. As a grad assistant, she found she liked teaching and had a talent for it. Looking back now, she realizes she’s always loved teaching and has a knack for relating to students and deciphering their needs. Patterman’s intuition is an often-called-upon skill for the notoriously tough healthcare gatekeeper class. Patience and compassion for different lives and difficulties is often a great equalizer.

Patterman worked as an exercise physiologist in a hospital before deciding she preferred the academic setting. When the health science instruction position opened at Western, she was ready for it. Patterman explains, “I wanted something more challenging intellectually, more open, and I prefer the academic setting. This teaching job is something that challenges me every single day. Every student is so different that I’m being challenged in different ways and in sharp contrast to medical patients whose issues come with specific protocols. But with teaching, there’s no handbook to it; every day is problem-solving on your own. I love, love teaching! This is my second term, and I feel like this is what I’m supposed to do. I found my purpose and my challenge.”

Patterman is currently happy, fulfilled, and making a meaningful difference in students’ lives. However, she is still tending to her path. Patterman refers to herself as a forever student and lifelong learner who needs to be challenged. A fulfilling career and life were—and is—always the end goal, and it takes a lifetime to achieve it!