By Matt Watson
Traci Lundstrom has been in and out of jail more times than you can count. Not more than she can count, because she keeps meticulous data in spreadsheets for the Transitional Yoga Program she runs for incarcerated women.
Lundstrom, the spring 2018 Provost’s Award winner at Metropolitan State University of Denver, has spent the past six years volunteering through the nonprofit Yoga Impact at the Boulder County Jail, where she runs a program offering yoga to women behind bars and again when they leave the jail to help them re-enter society.
Over the past two years, the psychology major with a biology minor has conducted formal experimental research through the yoga program, navigating the protocols of the jail and the Institutional Review Board. Lundstrom also held fundraisers and secured grants for the program and has presented research at local and regional conferences.
Early returns on her research have indicated that yoga can decrease stress and depression in incarcerated women and offer them more hope. One of the women who participated in Lundstrom’s classes was released from jail, completed her probation and taught yoga at the same jail where she was once housed.
In her application for the Provost’s Award, Lundstrom wrote, “This is what the education process should be: students unfolding through the guidance of caring and dedicated teachers and then bursting into bloom, spreading seeds to others as they make their way to the graduation stage.” She was talking about herself, but her analogy certainly applies to the women she’s helped.
Lundstrom is many things. She’s an undergraduate student and a grandmother. She once fronted a rock band, and she once ran away from home. She’s a high school dropout and a soon-to-be first-generation college graduate. And formerly homeless, Lundstrom is now helping incarcerated women find their way back home.
“She is a perfect example of the transformative process we see in many students here at MSU Denver,” said Cynthia Erickson, assistant professor of psychology. “From a young woman who did not finish high school to a young mother to a life crisis, Traci’s path has not been straightforward. However, when life dealt her a significant blow, she used it as a growth opportunity.”
Courtney Rocheleau, the associate professor of psychology who oversaw Lundstrom’s research, said Lundstrom has a bright future in psychology and neuroscience.
“She has shown real dedication and commitment to this underserved population and to making sure that those who have faced difficulties in their lives will not be defined by those, but instead have the opportunity for growth and resilience,” Rocheleau said. “She does not shy away from challenges and demonstrates resilience and determination that will serve her well after graduation. She is a great ambassador for our university.”
Lundstrom’s work with incarcerated women started before she was an MSU Denver student, and it will continue long after. She brought on another student to continue the research aspect this past year, and she now has 15 yoga teachers in her program. She also expanded the program to the Broomfield Detention Center in February after the center contacted her.
“I lived a lot of my life feeling like I had to prove something but not quite having the confidence to think that I could,” Lundstrom said.
Graduating summa cum laude with a 3.99 GPA and making a measurable impact on her community, Lundstrom has proved herself worthy of the Provost’s Award and much more.
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