Norkus inspires greatness in her students through innovation and real-world experience

Headshot of Susan Norkus

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perfect mix of passion and drive for educating the next generation of athletic trainers has made Professor Susan Norkus, associate chair of the department of athletic training and sports medicine, one of the most valued educators at Quinnipiac. Norkus’ innovative approach to Athletic Training has helped build the program into a high-quality, nationally-renowned facet of the university that attracts students from all over the world. 

For her outstanding efforts, she will be recognized with Quinnipiac's Center for Excellence in Teaching Award on October 17.

Students of hers — past and present — describe her as an ever-evolving educator and mentor, always challenging herself to improve and innovate to meet the advancing demands of the athletic training field.

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“As both an athletic trainer and educator, I am constantly trying to get better,” said Norkus. “Each year, each class, and each student helps me to learn, evolve and grow — and I hope I do the same for my students.”

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“It is vital to teach thinking through situations and move them away from creating a rule,” she explained. “The answer is contingent on the situation. By the end of the semester, they know that ‘always’ or ‘never’ are rarely the case in health care”.

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When Norkus joined the Quinnipiac family 20 years ago, the athletic training program was a new endeavor at the university, but she knew that it was destined for great things. 

“When I first interviewed, I could tell that the institution was committed to excellence, and that included every program and every faculty member,” she said. “The administration at Quinnipiac ensured we had the necessary resources to become a high-quality, nationally recognized program, and graduate students who were going to become highly successful practitioners”. 

Since that first interview, she has overseen the development of many new initiatives in the athletic training program. Perhaps most notably, she coordinates and oversees the program’s preseason football program, which places students with a football clinical rotation at institutions across the country. Norkus has built and fostered relationships with some of the largest and most impressive college sports programs in the country, and it has greatly benefited her students. 

This past summer, Norkus placed students with football programs in the Big Ten, SEC, PAC-10, ACC, Mountain West Conference and Patriot League. 

“These experiences allow students to live in the world of a Division I football program, integrate their knowledge and skills and develop a professional network,” she said of the program.

Norkus also supervises the program’s academic graduate assistants, and acts as a mentor to many of her undergraduate students. She is sensitive to the fact that every student comes from a unique background of experience and knowledge – and strives to help everyone. 

“Each semester I receive emails with the subject line: ‘life talk’, ‘catch up’, or ‘chat’,” she said. “It’s rewarding to know students feel comfortable to review a concept, seek counsel, or just talk.” 

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“Dr. Norkus made our program feel like family,” said Casey Fusco ’20. “She is the kind of teacher that everyone needs at some point in their education."