When you grow up in Champaign, there’s a little pressure to choose the hometown university when it’s time to go to college. It’s an expectation of sorts, culturally ingrained. Add to the mix a sibling already studying there and two parents employed there, and that focus gets zoomed in tight.

For a graduate of that university’s laboratory high school—Uni High, as it’s known to the locals—it would seem that one’s fate might be sealed.

But that’s not the case for Illinois State University incoming freshman Elizabeth “Beth” Geistlinger. She personifies all those descriptors above—except for one, the last one.

Geistlinger broke with family tradition, packed up the family car, and headed northwest on Interstate 74 to become a Redbird. How in the world did that happen?

“My mom pushed ISU, and I was against it at first,” she admitted. “We went on a visit spring semester of my junior year, and I just liked it. The campus was great, and the people were very friendly.”

That personal touch continued when she contacted the School of Kinesiology and Recreation to ask about its athletic training program. She sent a general inquiry to a departmental email address and got back a nice response.

Justin Stanek, assistant professor and program director for the undergraduate athletic training program, emailed Geistlinger personally, which really got her attention. Stanek invited her over to tour the facility, and when she and her dad took him up on the offer, he spent over an hour showing them around and answering questions.

“The facilities were nice, and the personal touch was a big deal,” Geistlinger said, adding that she’s interested in athletic training because it’s a hands-on major, literally and figuratively, where students learn a lot through practicums.

Her plan is to major in athletic training and pre-physical therapy, with a long-term goal of pursuing the doctorate of physical therapy. She’d like to become a physical therapist for a sports team, ideally at the university or professional level.

“I want to work with athletes,” Geistlinger said. “As an athlete who was constantly injured, I want to be the one to help them get going again.”

A sports injury introduced her to physical therapy and sparked an interest back in high school, where she was a guard in basketball and played a number of positions in volleyball. In the latter, she had to adapt her playing position due to nagging shoulder problems, which put her in contact with athletic trainers and physical therapists.

A former first-place medal winner in the IHSA journalism sectional competition held here on campus, she won for photography, but she will try her hand at writing sports for The Vidette student newspaper.

She will also work as a hospitality assistant during football and basketball seasons. And, she’s interested in joining a few clubs, including the Athletic Training Club and a couple of Christian-based organizations.

In the classroom she’s looking forward to some one-on-one instruction that eventually, with a class that will total about 30 students, she will get to experience.

“So, I’ll get small class attention and a big campus,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing I like.”

Geistlinger is one of five new Redbirds featured this week on News.IllinoisState.edu. Meet our other freshmen:

Apply now for fall or spring 2017, or set up a visit to our campus.

John Moody can be reached at jemoody2@IllinoisState.edu.