Alumni Accomplishments

Wellness Crusader

Olivia Schwager promotes healthy lifestyles as a professional and personal pursuit

Wellness Crusader

Photo Credit: Rob Hall

icon of a calendarSeptember 19, 2022

icon of a pencilBy Patrick Dunn and Patti Johnson Georgevich

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Olivia Schwager, SHS ’15, was in high school when she realized her passion for a career in health care.

While working at a chiropractic clinic in Rochester, she recalls, “I loved seeing patients come for adjustments, how it changed them and they felt better. I thought, ‘I want to do that.’”

Schwager initially pursued a nursing degree at OU but changed course. She’d started working as an instructor at Stretch-n-Grow of Southeast Michigan, a children’s fitness program. Teaching children how to exercise and eat better through sessions in community centers and schools, she found her career interest in “preventative health.”

“I wanted to help people improve their health before they wound up in the hospital,” the lifelong Macomb County resident says.

In 2015, Schwager earned her Bachelor of Science in wellness and health promotion. She works full-time at Health Alliance Plan (HAP) as a senior well-being consultant — conducting worksite and virtual wellness programs and coordinating health fairs, flu shot clinics and behavior-change programs.

“This is my profession, but it’s also personal for me,” she says. “Wellness is important. We’re educating people on the benefits of changed behavior for prevention.”

Schwager explains being mindful to wellness is essential to our health, well-being and quality of life.

“Encouraging people to stop bad habits, eat healthier and be more active lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure as well as obesity — and, reduces health care costs,” Schwager says.

In 2019, her professional passion ignited her entrepreneurial side, becoming owner and director of Stretch-n-Grow of Macomb County.

Stretch-n-Grow of Macomb suffered almost immediately from the impact of COVID-19. But, Schwager says business is rebounding. She’s currently teaching both children’s classes and adult special education classes at the Sterling Heights Community Center and Clinton Township Parks and Recreation. Her long-term goal is to build Stretch-n-Grow of Macomb throughout the county, expanding to offer classes in schools.

Schwager says she loves “stimulating young minds” through Stretch-n-Grow of Macomb.

“The kids tell me, ‘I had some broccoli and now my muscles are nice and strong,’” she says. “They’re really diving into the information and loving it. When they’re older, they’ll understand why it’s important to exercise and eat right.”

Schwager says she received an outstanding education and mentorship at OU. When Schwager wanted to change her major from nursing to wellness and health promotion, she found vital support from Dr. Lucy Sternburgh, clinical instructor in interdisciplinary health sciences.

“She was so accomplished in health and wellness,” Schwager says of Sternburgh. “She showed me if you really work hard, you can have a vibrant career in health and wellness.”

On top of her busy professional schedules at HAP and Stretch-n-Grow of Macomb, Schwager also finds time to give back to the educational institution that supported her. She’s the lead adviser for OU’s Phi Sigma Sigma sorority. Schwager says Phi Sigma Sigma “helped me become a great leader and business professional.” And, she’s served as a mentor in the Leadership OU program. Kyle Gross, one of her former mentees, says after the first 10 minutes he spent with Schwager, “it felt like she wasn’t my mentor. It just felt like she was my friend.”

“It always seems like she wants to give back and she wants to put herself out there to improve someone else’s life,” Gross says. “That means a lot because there aren’t many people out there like her. If more people were, I think this community or this state or the world would be a better place.”

The married mother of a newborn son, Schwager says she’s encouraged that employment in the wellness and health promotion field is projected to grow robustly through 2028. 

“Our mental and physical health are important,” says the 30-year-old emerging health care leader. “Learning healthy habits when you’re young will carry you through life. And, it’s also never too late to start. I love what I do. It’s rewarding to see people becoming the best version of themselves.”

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