Grace Vaughan

Grace Vaughan

Major: Nutrition-Dietetics

Year of Graduation: 2016

Current Position/Location: Personal Trainer, Discover Strength, Minneapolis, MN

Previous Position: Community HIV/AIDS Outreach Volunteer, US Peace Corps—South Africa


Please give a brief description of your current position.

Personal Trainers with Discover Strength are backed by a four-year degree in exercise science, kinesiology, or a related field. We have accreditations from ACSM or ACE and are certified exercise specialists. Strength training is the only modality of exercise that is administered in Discover Strength studios. Discover Strength employs an evidence-based approach to strength training, which examines the preponderance of peer-reviewed literature and applies these findings to clients’ workouts. Extensive on-boarding and continual education processes ensures that all trainers understand and adhere to this evidence-based approach.  


What path did you follow to get to your current position?

After returning from the Peace Corps, I was in search of something new and different, but a job that kept me moving and on my feet at the same time. I was lucky to have several connections to help me learn about the position. This really was a matter initially of “who you know” over “what you know.” I, of course, still had to go through the interview process and prove I was a good fit for the position. So, I completed the four-step interview process and was offered the position as personal trainer.


What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?

As what is mentioned above in the job description, this isn’t your “typical” personal trainer job that one immediately assumes. This position is really one where education plays a key role. Having a kinesiology/exercise background will really aid in your success to help educate the why behind what you do and how you teach. One of the passions the founder of Discover Strength has is to create a company where personal trainers can be financially successful. Another element that sets Discover Strength apart from other fitness centers is the idea of acquiring and finding your “own” clients. The trainers at DS are not responsible for that. All clients are considered Discover Strength clients, not of one specific personal trainer. This allows the client to have scheduling freedom, and it allows the personal trainer to have a more regular and consistent schedule too.


What skills are important in your field?

There are a number of important skills necessary for this type of position. The skills important for this job align well with the core values of the company. The four core values are the foundation of how we facilitate ourselves and the business daily. They reflect who we are, how we live and whom we surround ourselves with. The four core values are: Learning, Servant Leadership, Creating Our Own Future and Science-Based. To add, I think people need to be able to learn on the go, flexible, accepting of feedback, able to step outside of one’s comfort zone/make mistakes, and really love what you do.


What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?

By far, the most rewarding part of my position is helping people get stronger and healthier in a safe and effective manner. We work with people of all ages (10-80 years old), sizes, abilities, goals/aspirations, health conditions, etc. Beyond helping someone physically, I also get the chance to really connect with people. I get to learn more about them and their lives. I feel inspired by each person I work with because they are all there for their own individual reasons and I get the opportunity to be a part of that journey with them! Plus, my co-workers are some of the best teammates I could ask for! At Discover Strength we really pride ourselves on the idea that a team gets the most accomplished! I am lucky to be a part of such an incredible working team!


Most challenging?

The most challenging part of the job is always being “on.” This is not a job where you can simply take a day off, sit in the office or work from home when you may feel like it. Although you may have numerous clients in one day, you are someone’s only trainer and it is up to you to bring your full, best self, to each person that you work with! By the time the shift is complete, I find myself sometimes mentally and physically drained due to the constant interaction… but at the same time there are numerous points of each day where I am reminded of how/why I love my job.


Tell us more about your Peace Corps experience.

I started my Peace Corps adventure about 8 months after I graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2016. The application process is extensive, so I applied in January of 2016, interviewed in March and was invited in May to commit to the two years of service with the Peace Corps. After the initial acceptance of the invitation, the next months consisted of medical appointments, filling out several forms, communicating back and forth with different Peace Corps staff. I worked a few part-time jobs between graduation and when I left in January 2017 for Peace Corps in South Africa.


Overall, my position as a Community Outreach Volunteer helped to support long and healthy lives and decrease the burden of HIV amongst all South Africans. Community HIV Outreach Project (CHOP) Volunteers worked with organizations and communities in grassroots efforts to address prevention and care. The goals of the CHOP project are to reduce HIV infection, stigma and discrimination, and to mitigate the impacts of the epidemic among youth, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV), and orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Working as health extension, community development, and youth development advisors, we taught about HIV Prevention, treatment adherence, gender-based violence, mitigation of stigma and discrimination, promotion of human rights, and basic nutrition. As health volunteers, the goal was to help organizations become more effective and sustainable while increasing the provision of HIV/AIDS services to communities in need. We provided advice to non-governmental organizations, and community-based organizations on how to improve the quality and effectiveness of their programs and services, mentored staff, and introduced or strengthened creative approaches to resource identification and mobilization.


Volunteers also do projects outside their primary focus, called secondary projects. A few of my secondary project highlights were: working with young girls and encouraging their participation in soccer, sharing knowledge about proper nutrition (utilizing my degree from CSB), and working with a local teacher at the primary school to improve her English and self-confidence for interviews in efforts to obtain a higher position within the school (she obtained the Head of Department (HOD) position for the 2019 school year).


What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?

One of the biggest elements of the job is being personable—The ability to talk to people and relate to them in some way or another. I think my education, the support and the environment at CSB/SJU created such a culture that encouraged this skill to always be something we focused on. When it comes down to it, being human and finding something in common can be the ticket to building that trust and connection you need for someone to feel confident and to move forward! I think the liberal arts education does an excellent job of providing such a well-rounded education, which for me, gave me enough background to fit the job description even though I didn’t personally graduate with an exercise science of a kinesiology major. Finally, I think being a part of the St. Bens varsity soccer team developed many skills and qualities outside of the game itself that can be applied to all aspect of life.


(February 2020)