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Law student achieving academic, athletic success following stroke

Emily Lauritsen playing soccer

From The Ichabod - Fall 2022
By Chris Marshall

Emily Lauritsen is a goalkeeper in every sense of the word.

When she suffered a stroke in November 2020 in her third semester at Washburn University School of Law, those familiar with her work ethic didn’t doubt she would one day return to pursue her law degree.

But what nobody anticipated – especially during a rehabilitation that involved retraining muscles and learning how to speak and write again – was Lauritsen would win a gold medal in the process.

While battling the demands of mental and physical therapy, Lauritsen, aa ’19, bas ’19, did more than just get by – she started at goalie for the U.S. Women’s Para National Team, which won the 2022 IFCPF World Cup in Spain with an undefeated record.

“I had never traveled outside of the country and definitely hadn’t played in a World Cup,” said Lauritsen, who focused her education on addiction counseling and human services at Washburn. “I hadn’t even played soccer competitively since high school, so it had been well over a decade. There were definitely a lot of firsts.”

The journey began when Britt Lauritsen, Emily’s wife and Washburn’s assistant athletic director at the time, saw a U.S. soccer social media post seeking athletes who had palsy, brain trauma or a stroke. The Lauritsens responded, and soon, Emily was taking off for a tryout in California.

After a whirlwind training camp and a crash course on goalkeeping, she recorded three shutouts and allowed just three total goals in five games in Salou, Spain, helping the United States go 4-0-1 to win the inaugural tournament.

“I felt vindicated,” she said. “I can see progress in things like my handwriting getting better and being able to walk without a walker, but because I have lingering day-to-day difficulties, I need to remind myself, ‘You’re still getting better every day and making progress.’”

Lauritsen said her law professors provided every resource necessary to make her return possible. Michelle Ewert, an associate professor Lauritsen worked for as a research assistant, was in constant communication during her recovery. Lauritsen just started her third and final year of law school, and in June, she returned to her research role with Ewert, yet another step toward normalcy.

“It was really hard to see her have to struggle through physical therapy and speech therapy,” Ewert said, “but she handled it with such grace and poise. It’s inspiring how hard she’s worked. Because of her superb problem solving skills, tremendous work ethic and concern for others, Emily is going to be an exceptional attorney.”

Lauritsen may have earned gold for denying the goals of others, but now, she's focusing on goals of her own.

“When this all started, I thought, ‘What if I make a fool of myself?’” Lauritsen said. “I never had self-doubt, 
but there were questions if I can trust my body and brain. Britt pushed me to take that risk. I’m really grateful for her support and for the Topeka and Washburn communities.”

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