Class of 2020: Elizabeth Thompson
Computer engineering major discovers passion for fitness
By Craig Brandhorst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-3681
Elizabeth Thompson wanted to be at the head of the class — and she made sure she got there.
No, we’re not talking about the computer engineering major’s classroom success, which landed her a job in her field straight out of college. We’re talking about Thompson’s other driving passion: group fitness instruction.
The Irmo, South Carolina, native and Chapin High School graduate was already into group fitness before she came to the University of South Carolina, but during her sophomore year she heard about an opportunity to become a certified fitness instructor through Campus Recreation’s GroupX program and jumped at the opportunity.
It would turn out to be one of Thompson’s favorite college experiences, and one that she expects to benefit her well beyond graduation.
“There was a training group — me and a handful of other girls. We all studied together for our American Council on Exercise certification and took the exam together,’ Thompson says. “The following semester we got to be official group exercise instructors.”
Asked to explain the appeal of becoming a GroupX instructor, she points to her own fitness awakening.
“When I started taking group exercise classes, they really transformed my life and made me want to keep getting healthier and more fit,” she says. “Group exercise instructors had inspired me, and I just wanted to be that instructor too, to motivate other people to get in shape.”
And it didn’t end just because campus closed midway through her final semester. Thanks to Campus Rec and a savvy bit of tech support, she and her fellow GroupX instructors kept right on kicking.
“One really cool thing that Campus Rec did was help the GroupX instructors continue to lead classes via Live Instagram,” Thompson explains. “Different instructors did courses on kickboxing, BodyAttack, HIIT, Boot Camp, CORE and different strength training workouts.
“It’s been great to have that opportunity, to still interact with the same participants in the same class, to have at least some sense of normalcy. It was just great to see people consistently coming and have that interaction.”
Thompson also took advantage of the COVID-19 lockdown to expand her own exercise regimen.
When I started taking group exercise classes, they really transformed my life and made me want to keep getting healthier and more fit. Group exercise instructors had inspired me, and I just wanted to be that instructor too, to motivate other people to get in shape.
Elizabeth Thompson, computer engineering graduate
“I’ve had the opportunity during the pandemic, because I have more free time, to focus more on running, to improve my running speed,” she says. “I even started to prepare for another group fitness certification.”
Like many of her classmates, Thompson describes her final semester as “bittersweet.” But regardless of how her final term as an undergraduate was upended by the pandemic, she looks back at her overall college experience with a sense of pride and satisfaction, and not just for what she accomplished in the gym.
“This was also where my dad went to school, and I was interested in a similar degree,” she says. “When I saw what he was doing with computers, that made me want to major in that, too.”
And the decision paid off. Despite an economic downturn and lots of uncertainty, she has already embarked on the career she began planning for the day she toured the Swearingen Engineering Center and decided to spend the next four years at the University of South Carolina.
“Luckily, I accepted a job offer before the pandemic working at Capgemini in Columbia,” she says. “I’ll be a cloud consultant — working on cloud development and cloud migration. So, it all worked out in the end.”
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