Health educator Laurie Fritsch’s passion and spark help students grow
Laurie Fritsch is a woman with an outgoing personality and serious ambition who spends her days talking with Virginia Tech students about important health topics like safe sex, eating disorders, positive body image, and overall physical and emotional wellness.
She said these topics are important to helping students develop emotionally and be well-rounded members of society. University leaders agree and have supported the development of numerous health and wellness programs to support students and employees.
"When it comes to health and wellness, understanding how your mind and body work together and how to incorporate small changes can truly impact a person’s overall well-being for a lifetime," said Fritsch, an assistant director of student wellness with Hokie Wellness.
The New Jersey native came to Virginia Tech as a freshman in 1994 to study health and physical education. She loved the community so much, she said, that she couldn't bring herself to leave after finishing her bachelor’s degree. She stayed and earned a master's degree in health education. And, even then, in 2000 when she was done, she still wasn't ready to leave Blacksburg, so she applied for a job as a health educator with the Division of Student Affairs.
She and her husband, Jon Fritsch, who is also an assistant director of student wellness with Hokie Wellness, co-advise the Health Education and Awareness Team, a peer education mentorship program that teaches and promotes health to other college students. As part of the program, Laurie and Jon lead public health outreach events and workshops about safer sexual behaviors, contraception, healthy eating choices, body image, sleep, skin cancer prevention, tobacco-use prevention, and mental health.
Laurie also helps plan and manage several Hokie Wellness events each year, including Movember (men’s health education week), Wrap that Package (sexual health education), Destination Wellness (Safe Spring Break), Tobacco Free Hokies, and Body Matters week.
Many of the programs Fritsch leads are made possible by the Delores S. Schiffert Health Education Endowment, which was established by the former director of the university's Student Health Center in honor of his late wife.
“It was such a fun way to learn," said Tara Mulvey, a sophomore marketing management major from Middletown, New Jersey, about the class she attended.
Fritsch also serves as a tobacco treatment specialist; supervises field study students in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise; and is the assessment coordinator for Hokie Wellness.
“Laurie is the most kindhearted person I have met at Virginia Tech,” said body project facilitator and Virginia Tech junior Karys Gettier. “She is always willing to help others. To me, that is amazing.”
The Body Project Workshop Series is one of Fritsch's favorite projects. The series is a two-part workshop that helps female students challenge their personal body-related perceptions, learn how to talk more positively about their bodies, and discover how to respond to the pressure to be model thin and look picture perfect at all times. As part of this program, Fritsch advises a team of female students who are Body Project facilitators for their sororities and teach 80 two-hour workshop sessions a year.
Developing her passion
As a high school student, Fritsch played soccer and was involved with the school theater club and chorus. She worked as a lifeguard during the summers and taught gymnastics lessons. That all changed when she got to Blacksburg.
"I didn't do much of anything my freshman year of college," said Fritsch. "I never exercised and I was miserable as a result."
She decided to take up rowing and joined the Virginia Tech Crew Team her sophomore year. She said it was life-changing for her.
“I had so much passion for how it changed me that I really just wanted to help other people feel that way,” said Fritsch, who changed her major from environmental science to health and physical education as a result. Teaching, she said, allows her to combine her passion for health and her desire to be creative.
In her free time
When Fritsch isn't working or tending to her daughters (Millie, age 6, and Iris, age 8), she enjoys running, being outside in nature, spending time with friends, cooking, and, most of all, laughing.
Written by Dana Seigelstein, a sophomore majoring in multimedia journalism, from Westfield, New Jersey.