Senior Spotlight: Sam Tonjes

Posted on May 4th, 2021 by

The “Senior Spotlight” series honors graduating fine arts majors for their contributions to the Gustavus community.

Sam Tonjes is a Dance and Exercise Physiology major from Eden Prairie, Minn. After graduation, she plans to coach gymnastics, choreograph floor routines, and teach dance. Senior Continuing Instructor of Dance Sue Gunness has worked with Sam in numerous classes throughout the years. “Sam arrived to Gustavusas a beautiful dancer and gymnast. She is leaving Gustavus an artist! What I’ll never forget is her smile as she zoomed into online class, and how her face helped me through my anxieties during COVID lockdowns. I wish Sam health, happiness and joy in her teaching endeavors,” she says. 

We asked Sam to give us a little insight into her time at Gustavus and what her future plans are.

What will you miss most about dance at Gustavus?

ST: I will definitely miss all the amazing people and the profs, who have created such a fun and supportive community.

How have you grown in your time at Gustavus?

ST: I have faced some adversity and tough decisions in my time at Gustavus, so I have become very resilient, adaptable, and mature because of that. As a dancer, I feel I have become much more confident in myself and have really been able to just enjoy dancing.

What do you look forward to most about life after Gustavus?

ST: I am most looking forward to coaching gymnastics and being a mentor to others because I have had so many wonderful mentors that have truly changed my life. 

What is the most interesting class you’ve taken at Gustavus and why?

ST: Scientific and Somatic Foundations because it combines my two majors, Dance and Exercise Physiology. I got to apply knowledge I have gained in my exercise physiology classes specifically to dance. My favorite part was learning different Pilates and rehabilitation exercises for specific areas of the body regarding different deviations or injuries. Some of the exercises I still use and plan to keep using.

What professor has made the biggest impact on you and why?

ST: All of the profs are wonderful and have always been super supportive and welcoming. There is a lot to learn from each one of them. They are all different, yet work together extremely well which is something I have loved about the dance department. I love how laid back and approachable Sarah is, but also quirky, fun, and energetic. She inspires me to be my most authentic self because she is unapologetically and genuinely herself in class and rehearsals. I’m in awe of how athletic Jill is and I aspire to be as fit as her someday. She taught my favorite class I have taken and has taught me how exercise physiology and dance come together, specifically the importance of fitness and taking care of the body as a dancer. I have a newfound love of Pilates because of her. Michele has taught me so much about resilience and I cannot express how grateful and how helpful that has been for me and will be for me in the future. If you have the opportunity to take a resiliency class from her, I would highly recommend it. Melissa has been my advisor, so we’ve had many life talks and I know she believes in me and cares a lot. She has helped me with my back injury and is always checking in on me. She is very wise and gives great advice. I have probably enjoyed being in Ballet with Sue the most. She is my biggest cheerleader and is super understanding. You can talk to her about anything, whether it is dance-related or life-related. She is also hilarious if you pay attention, she comes off like she is being serious but is always cracking jokes. I will miss her sense of humor and kind, thoughtful encouragement.


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