Originally from Sun Prairie, Wis., and attending University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, Ally Thiel knew she wanted to work in the health care industry.

“Originally when I got to Eau Claire, I was a nursing major,” Thiel said. “I was also working as a CNA, and after about a year, I realized that nursing wasn’t for me.

I wanted to work more on the business side of health care.

“I had a friend in the Healthcare Administration Program, and she highly recommended it,” Thiel continued. “I looked into that, and I liked that it was a combination of the medical side of things, but also the business side of things, so I joined the program and changed my major.”

As part of the UW–Eau Claire Healthcare Administration program, students are required to participate in a 50-week administrative residency.

Interviewing at several facilities, including ones in Iowa and Minnesota, Thiel knew Ovation Communities was exactly where she wanted to be. Working directly with Katie Quintanilla, Jewish Home Administrator, Thiel has been able to experience every facet of senior living.

“When I interviewed with Katie, I knew this was my number one choice,” Thiel said. “I have really enjoyed it here and learning from everyone.”

Running from June 2021 through May 2022, Thiel takes her turn working with every department from nursing to admissions, marketing, and dining, learning how each department operates.

While she has, and is spearheading several projects, including a resident snack program, a falls prevention program, a school supply collection drive, and Teen Ovation, the most exciting and important part of the residency for Thiel has been getting to know the residents.

“During my Activities Department rotation, I got the chance to play trivia with the residents, and it was incredible how they knew every answer,” Thiel said. “People don’t give seniors enough credit. They often think that seniors aren’t paying attention. Then you play a game of trivia with them, and you realize they know more than you do.”

Throughout the residency, Thiel has been able to gain valuable experience and leadership skills that will help guide her over the course of her career.

“This program is so important and valuable, not just for the student to gaining real-world experience and opportunities in the day-to-day operations of a facility,” Quintanilla said. “But also, for the facility, having fresh eyes and having another team member being part of quality improvement projects to enhance the daily lives of residents

“One of the best things about Ally is her initiative,” Quintanilla continued. “She’s not afraid to ask the right questions and she’ll follow through on her own. My hope is that Ally continues her career in health care. She is such an empathetic, caring, and intuitive person. That is such a value to health care.”

As she approaches her May graduation, Thiel doesn’t know what the future holds but she would never rule out a return to Ovation Communities.

“Trish Cohn always says, ‘all roads lead back to Ovation.’ So, we’ll see what my future holds.”