Meet Thayne Munce '98

Associate research director, Sanford Sports Science Institute and associate scientist, Children’s Health Research Center, Sanford Research, Sioux Falls
— biology major

Q. How did you choose Augustana?  

A. Growing up in Sioux Falls, I knew Augie well and it was always on my short list of schools. The combination of a strong biology department (my major), an opportunity to play Division II football and proximity to home made Augustana the best decision for me.    

Life at Augie

Q. Favorite class and why?

A. My favorite class was an interim course offered by the math department: “Strategies and Tactics for Intelligent Game Playing”. Yes, this was a real class! I enjoyed it because the course was unconventional and used creative methods to teach principles of mathematics and game theory. I regularly use unique applications of math in my career, so I have come to appreciate the lessons in this class even more over the years.

Q. Favorite professor and why?

A. I had too many great professors at Augie to single out one. Collectively, the faculty in the Biology Department was first class across the board. In addition to being knowledgeable scientists, all of the professors were skilled teachers and caring mentors. I am thankful for the preparation they gave me for my graduate studies and the example they set for my own career in academia.

Q. Best Augie memory?

A. My best memory was beating NDSU in our homecoming football game my junior year. We had lost to the Bison badly (very badly) the previous two seasons and that was the first time Augie had beaten NDSU in over 20 years! We had a great crowd that day and it was a very satisfying and emotional win.

After Augie

Q. Tell us about your journey after graduating from Augustana – first job, grad school, travel, etc.

A. After graduating from Augie, I attended graduate school at Penn State University (State College, PA), where I earned my PhD in Kinesiology (emphasis in Exercise Physiology). I spent one additional year at Penn State as a postdoctoral research associate before landing my first “real job” at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). At UIC, I was a Clinical Assistant Professor in the department of Kinesiology and Nutrition for seven years where I taught, mentored/advised students and performed research. In 2010, I returned to Sioux Falls when I accepted my current position with Sanford Health.

Q. Tell us about your career – what’s an average day like?

A. I’m fortunate to wear many different hats in my current position, so no two days are the same. My responsibilities are focused in the broad areas of athletic health & performance research, program development, and education / outreach. Ironically, as a sports scientist, I spend the majority of my day writing, planning and communicating while sitting in front of my computer. However, I also work closely with many talented sports medicine professionals and scientists on a variety of projects. Meeting with them gives me much needed breaks away from my desk.

Q. Greatest challenges and best rewards of your current role?

A. The greatest challenges of my current role are 1) being careful not to take on too many new projects while staying focused on those that are most important, and 2) effectively planning and leading innovations and programmatic improvements that have lasting benefits. The best rewards of my current role are 1) the discovery of new knowledge in my research that has the potential to improve people’s lives, and 2) helping to develop new programs and services that protect the health and safety of patients / clients.

Q. Greatest professional accomplishment thus far?

A. I have had the opportunity to teach, advise and mentor dozens of students who have gone on to graduate or professional school, and hundreds more who have excelled in their post-collegiate careers. Whatever small role I had in preparing these students for success and helping them to make a difference in the lives of the people they serve is my greatest professional accomplishment.

Q. What’s next for you professionally?

A. Innovation and discovery. I am leading a number of exciting research studies that are starting to reveal some very interesting findings; but we’re just scratching the surface.  I am eager to continue these projects and make new discoveries that can have a meaningful impact on the fields of sports medicine and athletic performance.

Q. If you could offer a prospective or existing Augie student some advice, what would you say?

A. Take time to think about the type of person you want to be and what you want to accomplish in life. Set long-term goals and work backwards to develop a plan for achieving those goals. Be willing to work hard and make sacrifices now with the knowledge that investing in yourself will be the single greatest thing you can do to create the life you want to live.

At Home

Q. Tell us about your family.

A. I am married to my best friend (Hannah) and we share our house with four pets – a white dog, a black cat, a gray cat and a white dove - more accurately, they share their house with us!

Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie? And why?

A. Without a doubt, my marriage. It is a blessing to share my life with someone who believes in my hopes and dreams, celebrates my victories, encourages me when I’m down and makes me want to be a better person. Our relationship helps me to keep things in perspective and be reminded of what’s truly important in life.

Q. A foundation for life at Augustana begins with our five core values – Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. How did your time at Augustana help to ensure those values remain central in your life?

A. Seeing is believing. Augustana is the ultimate laboratory for demonstrating how these core values are central to living a life with purpose. By experiencing these core values on a daily basis at Augustana they became woven into the fabric of who I am and what I want to be.