Cesar Aldana, DPT '21

Cesar Aldana sits near the fountains on Rockhurst's campus

After completing his undergraduate degrees in exercise science and physics of medicine, doctor of physical therapy student Cesar Aldana decided to continue with graduate school at Rockhurst. Aldana originally focused his undergraduate college search on schools that had a pre-physical therapy program. He ended up choosing Rockhurst because of scholarships, because it was close to home and because the campus was small.

“I’ve heard a lot about small campuses because teachers are more involved with their students and I don’t think I would have had that with a 100-plus student class,” Aldana said.

He first became interested in the field during high school when he was first introduced to physical therapy through his own recovery process.

“I wanted to be a doctor when I was a kid, and throughout high school it just kind of changed a bit. I always wanted to stay in the medical field, and going into my junior year (of high school) I had issues with my shoulder and had to do physical therapy,” Aldana said. “When I got exposed to the field, I thought it was interesting. I did more research and more shadowing. I found out just how much I wanted to do it just because it was more centered on helping people and seeing people grow.”

Although he knew what he wanted to go to school for, Aldana’s college search narrowed when he realized his immigration status would make it difficult to receive any financial aid.

“Choosing a college was definitely hard because I didn’t know, practically anything. My parents only had a high school degree in Mexico and didn’t do anything with it and they didn’t do college just because of resources, finances, etc.,” Aldana said. “I think my biggest issue was finance, because I’m DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and we don’t get federal aid, so I’m not allowed to apply for the FAFSA, things like that. Other schools, even in-state schools, consider me ‘out-of-state,’ so clearly that would raise my price for every school that I applied to.”

Rockhurst had one base tuition and Aldana was able to receive academic scholarships based on his past academic success as well as diverse minority scholarships that he had applied to.

With grad schools, Aldana looked at other schools for security, but knew that he already felt comfortable at Rockhurst and was familiar with the academic environment. 

“I had two professors during undergrad that I have now. I had my anatomy professor, T.J. (Meehan, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise, sport and health science) and I already knew and really liked how he teaches,” Aldana said. “I had another professor for another one of my classes and I like the way she taught, too. Although it’s a lot of studying, I’m definitely not as stressed as some other people who haven’t been involved with cadavers, involved with even T.J. I think that’s what Rockhurst really helped me out with.”

Aldana believes that creating that relationship with his professors set him up for a more successful grad school experience.

“Definitely get to know your professors, and build a relationship with them. They aren’t here to fail you, they’re here to help you. If you have one on one time with them, it makes things more clear and they help fill in the gaps,” Aldana said.

Not only has he been able to create those relationships with his professors, Aldana also appreciates the experiential nature of the program, and looks forward to learning more about how he can successfully complete his job and help others. 

“The program is super hands-on. Right from the start you start learning a ton of material and you go into cadaver lab the next week. It’s not necessarily all book work. There’s a lot of different areas that we’ve started studying already,” Aldana said. “I’m excited to learn everything. I think definitely I’m excited to learn what area of physical therapy I want to be in and what I’m going to be most passionate about.”