Marine Returns to College and Massage Therapy

Posted by on September 4, 2012

Justine Hilsgen in Afghanistan

Minnesota School of Business Massage Therapy Student and Veteran Comes Home

Most college students worry about time management: how to juggle work and school and
family. Justine Hilsgen does, too. But she adds to the mix community service
projects and military service.

Yeah. She’s a Marine and Military Policewoman, recently back from a deployment to
Afghanistan and re-enrolled as a massage therapy student at Minnesota School of
Business-St. Cloud.

And she loves it. All of it.

Hilsgen says she’s always wanted to be a massage therapist, ever since she was a child
and her brother paid her a nickel a massage. She remembers attending job fairs in high school and began researching the program at MSB when she was in the 9th grade.

Similarly, her dedication to community service stems from a childhood where volunteering to help others was the norm. “Growing up, we lived two miles away from a nursing home in Watkins,” she reflects. “My mom got me involved.”  Hilsgen also was a member of IMPACT (a mentoring organization) throughout high school as well as SADD, Student Council, Mock Trial and Investment Club.

She is currently a member of the student massage association at MSB and works at a
nursing home—a job that came as a direct result of a volunteer experience she had there as a college student.

In 2011, Hilsgen’s college journey was interrupted when, just one quarter away from graduation, her Marine unit was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan. Many students would have been frustrated– resentful even–to be so close to their goal and then have to leave it to achieve another purpose. Not Hilsgen.

“I loved it,” she says of the deployment. Learning about another culture was probably the highlight of the experience for her. Mentoring Afghan women—most who were her age—was exciting and rewarding. She was so engaged in the work that Hilsgen volunteered to return to Afghanistan shortly after her unit returned home to Minnesota in 2012, but the assignment was cancelled.

Once home and back at college, Hilsgen learned that because of re-entry requirements, she was now three quarters away from graduation. Unfazed, she jumped back into her program and recently volunteered with her classmates to give massages at a high school weightlifting competition. She says she is contemplating continuing her education to an advanced degree once her current program is completed.

What the future holds in store for Justine includes a focus on sports massage. While in Afghanistan, she became a fan of Cross-fit Training and now sees it as part of her future career. She envisions offering that kind of expertise to a gym setting, for example.

Whatever lies ahead, Justine Hilsgen is smiling. Life is good.


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