Valedictorian works towards Doctor of Physical Therapy degree

December 6, 2018
Emily Meinnert practicing in lab
Emily Meinnert (pictured above, in a gray shirt)
practices palpating pelvic bone structures.

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Emily Meinnert, a biology major with a pre-physical therapy emphasis, is working toward her longtime goal of being a physical therapist thanks to a partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and Clarke University. At the Dec. 15 commencement ceremony, Meinnert will represent the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture as the valedictorian.

Meinnert, a native of Plymouth, Wisconsin, initially became interested in biology while taking an anatomy and physiology class in high school, and her love for helping people heal and recover grew while she assisted her father after his knee surgery.

“I have fallen in love with the feeling of watching people heal as they come in with high levels of pain, gradually start experiencing relief, and then have the ability to enjoy life again. Watching my father recover from being in a wheelchair to an immobilizing knee brace and crutches to fully being able to walk again was amazing for my 4-year-old self to watch. This experience was a defining moment for me, and since then, I have held it close to my heart,” Meinnert said.

An articulation agreement between UW-Platteville and Clarke University in nearby Dubuque, Iowa, is offering its students a unique opportunity to gain a degree in physical therapy while eliminating one year of schooling. The program is called the 3+3 Doctor of Physical Therapy.

The 3+3 Doctor of Physical Therapy program allows students to take three years of their undergraduate studies at UW-Platteville and three years at Clarke University. After their first year at Clarke, the students will be able to transfer those credits back to UW-Platteville and graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

“The program certainly cuts down on the cost of education because it eliminates one year. That is also one of the biggest advantages – being placed in the work force that has a lot of opportunities one year earlier than most people,” Professor of biology and pre-physical therapy advisor at UW-Platteville Dr. Marilyn Tufte said.

Between each of the semesters at Clarke, students will be given internships that are located around the country. They will have the opportunity to work with practicing physical therapists in different fields (in-home, hospital, school, etc.) to gain hands-on experience.

Meinnert is currently attending Clarke University, but she said that Platteville has been her home-away-from-home. She transferred to UW-Platteville in the middle of her freshman year, something she was pretty nervous about. Meinnert said she soon found out, though, that there was nothing to worry about. Thanks to the faculty and staff at UW-Platteville, she said the transition was smooth and she soon knew someone everywhere she went.

Meinnert was part of Sigma Alpha, an agricultural sorority, while attending UW-Platteville. Sigma Alpha allowed her to take a break from biology and classes and focus on her agricultural background.

“My sisters were my best friends, and the organization taught me so much about responsibility, professionalism and teamwork,” Meinnert said.

Meinnert said being selected for valedictorian is humbling, and the opportunity means so much to her and her future.

“I’ve worked hard in school over the last few years in order to be accepted into physical therapy school, and UW-Platteville gave me an incredible foundation to continue my education. I could not be more thankful for all of my experiences. At UW-Platteville, every day truly is a great day to be a Pioneer,” Meinnert said.

This summer, Meinnert will head to her first internship in Ankeny, Iowa, and in May 2021, she will graduate from Clarke University with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. After graduation, she plans to take her licensure exam and start working as a physical therapist.

Written by: Abbey Pignatari, Student Writer, Communications, 608-342-1194,


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