Note: The ICP Health and Wellness Track is now its own major, Health and Wellbeing Sciences.

For Mandi Wordes, the secret to living a good life is cultivating a healthy body and mind. Wordes discovered this for herself through a keen interest in nutrition, a passion for running, and an uncompromising sense of balance in all aspects of her life: work, play, school, and relationships with family and friends.

“When you think about your health, it’s not just your physical health that you need to worry about. It’s your mental health, too,” Wordes says. “That’s made all the difference in my life.”

Wordes is about to graduate from the Inter-College Program (ICP) in the Bachelor of Science Health & Wellness track. But this is not her first degree. Actually, Wordes earned a BA in legal studies and philosophy in 2014, at another institution, but came to the unsettling realization that she disliked the industry she was primed to enter.

“Since I was eight years old, I told myself I was going to law school,” Wordes says. “I literally started working the day after I graduated college at a little law firm downtown Saint Paul. But very early on in the job, I realized the work was not what I was expecting at all.”

“I want to know that I’m making a difference.”

At the law firm, Wordes worked on personal injury cases, spending her days on the phone with health insurance companies while pushing paper, and sitting stationary at a desk. As she made notes and tracked numbers, she felt more like an accountant than anything else. The woozy realization set in that she was not happy in this line of work, which she concluded was not good for her mental health.

To make herself feel better, Wordes often went to the gym. She also did an internship with Twin Cities in Motion, teaching young kids through the Wise Kids in Motion program to understand nutrition facts and stay active. It soon became clear that her pursuits outside of the law firm were the things sustaining her and that she wanted to go after a health-related career.

Wordes attended an ICP information session and met with her soon-to-be advisor Karolyn Redoute (now retired). Soon after, Wordes decided to return to school, making an extreme pivot on her professional path.

Mandi Wordes photo

A Career Turn

“I’ve always been pretty academically inclined, so going back to school was not a problem,” Wordes says. “I jumped at the chance.”

Because ICP degrees are individualized, Wordes took a variety of classes and was better able to discern the specializations that suited her as she customized her degree. “Overall the experience in the program was great,” Wordes says. “It’s definitely worked for what I’m doing.”

Her favorite classes mirrored her personal interests, that is, nutrition-related coursework. One class in particular, Management of Eating Disorders, had an enormous impact on Wordes and she is now interested in a career that allows her to positively influence those suffering from eating disorders.

Wordes continues to teach kids through Wise Kids in Motion, and she feels that she’s finally on a professional path that resonates with her interests and skills. After graduation from ICP in the spring, she will complete ACE certification to be a health coach and may pursue a job with The Emily Program, a program for people with eating disorders. She eventually wants to earn her master’s in public health from the U of M as well, and possibly even a PhD in order to teach at the college-level.

“I want to have an impact on people positively and have person-to-person interaction,” Wordes says. “I want to know that I’m making a difference.”

Now that’s she’s on the health and wellness track that Wordes passionate about, she’s likely to make good on those goals.