The University of Iowa

Bridging Passion and Purpose: A Journey from Hungary

May 4th, 2020

Piroska Boros in Hungary

Piroska in Hungary

Growing up in Ikrény, a small village in northwestern Hungary, Piroska Boros enjoyed an outdoor lifestyle. “My father was very active, taking me and my sisters ice skating in the winters and windsurfing or kayaking during the summers. I was involved in many sports growing up, though one of my greatest passions was horseback riding. I started at the age of 13 and competed until my early 20s.”

Piroska’s active lifestyle inspired her academic career as she enrolled at the University of West Hungary to pursue a degree in recreation management and health promotion.

In a serendipitous moment during her freshman year of study, she met a faculty member from Iowa. Dr. Kevin Finn, then professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), visited the University of West Hungary to conduct research and co-lead a course with Piroska’s faculty adviser, Dr. Ferenc Ihász.

Piroska in Cedar Falls

Piroska in Cedar Falls

During her senior year, Piroska was invited to participate in a short-term non-degree exchange program at UNI, which she quickly accepted.

“This was a busy time in my life, taking classes at UNI while taking online classes and writing my thesis, which is required for a bachelor’s degree in Hungary. But I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Iowa; in many ways, it reminded me of home.”  After returning to Hungary and completing her degree, Piroska decided to pursue her master’s degree at UNI.

After settling into her new life in Cedar Falls, Piroska hoped she might find a way to continue her work with horses. Through a friend, she connected with Trudy Weichers, owner of a local horse farm, and her hopes were soon realized. “Trudy and I became close friends as I trained horses with her. These were very special times that created a wonderful balance in my life.”

Piroska with Greg and Robin Cooper

Piroska with Greg and Robin Cooper

Piroska also participated in a program at UNI that connects international students with local host families, helping acquaint students with the new culture and enhance their experience in Iowa. Through this program, Piroska met Greg and Robin Cooper, who became her extended family.

In May of 2014, Piroska graduated from UNI with a degree in physical education and emphasis in kinesiology. After working two years as adjunct faculty at UNI, she began to research doctoral programs. A faculty member suggested she apply with Dr. Kathleen Janz, University of Iowa professor of health & human physiology and director of the Physical Activity and Health Outcomes Lab. Piroska applied and was accepted as a PhD student in 2016.

During her studies at the UI, Piroska realized many successes: co-authoring several published papers, presenting her research findings at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting, as well as receiving a fellowship award to support her dissertation project.

In addition to excelling in her studies at the University of Iowa, Piroska contributed to the university community through her role as co-chair of the International Student Advisory Board, Graduate Panel, and also as a volunteer with the Student Accountability Office as a Critical MASS Mentor.

Students become involved in the Critical MASS program when they’ve violated the Code of Student Life. They’re assigned a mentor whose goal is to create a supportive relationship intended to promote positive choices in the future and decrease chances for further violations. “I’ve met some fantastic students and people who I wouldn’t have met otherwise. The experience truly helped prepare me for the role of an academic adviser, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”

Piroska Boros

When looking back on her journey, Piroska shares, “The program I’m involved in at the University of Iowa is really tremendous. When Dr. Janz retired last May and Dr. Kara Whitaker took over as my adviser, it could have been very stressful. But Dr. Whitaker is wonderful and everything thankfully went smoothly.”

Piroska recently accepted a position as assistant professor of health science at the University of the Ozarks, in Clarksville, Arkansas. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her entire interview process was online, including a virtual tour of the campus. She hasn’t had the opportunity to visit the area, but looks forward to the transition and starting her new career.

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