Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Grad student Jessh Mondesir ’20 finds home in UTSA research community

Grad student Jessh Mondesir ’20 finds home in UTSA research community


NOVEMBER 30, 2022 — Jessh Mondesir ’20 doesn’t really remember growing up in Africa, but he remembers always feeling like the new kid after his family fled the war-torn Republic of Congo. They spent the next 10 years in Gabon, a country west of the Republic of Congo, before eventually immigrating to the United States.

In 2009, the family settled in San Diego until an earthquake spurred them to move a year later to Austin, where Mondesir’s uncle lived.

When Mondesir enrolled at UTSA as an undergraduate kinesiology major in fall 2015, he found his “home away from home.”

“UTSA gave me everything. It’s a university that has shaped who I am today.”

Fast forward seven years and Mondesir is about to cross the Commencement stage to receive his second UTSA degree—a master’s in health and kinesiology—and a graduate certificate in health from the UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy.

With his graduation this month, he’ll begin a new journey. Mondesir, 25, hopes to go on to earn a doctorate degree in public health or physical therapy while continuing to conduct research, an activity he fell in love with while studying at UTSA.

“Research is one of those things where you start and sometimes you can’t stop because you’re just finding out more and more,” he said. “That’s the beauty behind it.”

During his graduate studies, Mondesir conducted research on the impacts of Qigong on older, low-income Latino individuals under the guidance of Zenong Yin, the Loretta J. Lowak Clarke Distinguished Professor in Health and Kinesiology. Qigong is a Chinese mind-body practice that involves meditation, deep rhythmic breathing and movement.

“The research that I’ve always been interested in is how can we promote health in the lower income communities to help prevent chronic disease like obesity and diabetes,” he said.

Mondesir also helped with a study promoting physical activity among preschoolers of migrant seasonal workers in McAllen, Texas. The researchers developed a lesson plan that increases the preschoolers’ physical activity to up to two hours a day and are implementing it now.

“Kids are supposed to be active to grow healthy,” he said. “If we can teach them from a young age to be active then we hope to reduce their chances of obtaining a chronic disease.”

Mondesir said it’s a “dream come true” to see his name mentioned in a peer-reviewed scholarly research article. It’s something he wants to hold onto as he continues his academic journey.

In addition to research, Mondesir has interned with physical therapy clinics in San Antonio. After graduation, he hopes to continue conducting research

Helping people is what drives Mondesir to keep doing this work. He’s eager to help reduce health disparities and help people live longer, healthier lives.

“Our fingerprints cannot fade off the lives we touch,” he said. “I hope to touch others’ lives and impact the lives of my younger brother and my friends.”

While he plans to continue his education, Mondesir admits there were times he struggled in school. During his undergraduate studies, he said he had to teach himself how to learn, and he changed majors from engineering to kinesiology. He said it was almost like he had to fail in order to succeed.

“UTSA gave me everything,” he said. “It’s a university that has shaped who I am today. The person I’ve become is because I’ve attended this university. My journey has not been perfect, but I guess that’s what makes the journey—the different obstacles you face throughout. As long as you do not back down from it, as long as you continue to remain consistent and persevere, you will eventually prevail.”

Brooke Crum

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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to news@utsa.edu. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.



University of Texas at San Antonio receives ‘transformational’ $40M gift

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