From Zimbabwe to NDSU and Beyond

The Henry L. Bolley Academic Achievement Award honors individuals who have attained noted achievements in the area of education as teachers, researchers, and/or administrators.

Story by Nicole Thom-Arens | September 16, 2021

When Alex Tröster ’86 came to NDSU from Zimbabwe in the mid1980s, he was expecting to see live bison and a soccer team instead of American football. His first winter in Fargo saw the historic blizzard of 1984, during which he was famous for wearing sandals around campus.

Despite these few miscalculations, Alex remembers his time at NDSU fondly. Born in Austria, where he lived for his first 10 years, Alex spent much of his teens and early twenties in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa and was part of one of the first graduating classes from the newly renamed University of Zimbabwe. His interest in the brain inspired him to study psychology, and his pursuit of graduate studies in neuropsychology and health psychology led him to NDSU.

“I came to NDSU because it was one of the few programs that actually had neuropsychology and health psychology at a master’s level,” Alex recalled.

After earning his master’s degree, Alex continued his education at the University of California San Diego and San Diego State University thanks in part to a recommendation from NDSU professor Bill Beatty.

“Bill Beatty was my main mentor at NDSU. He had actually been at San Diego and done research there, so it helped me to establish a connection with the people in San Diego, and I’m sure his recommendation was pretty instrumental in me getting a place in San Diego for a Ph.D. program,” Alex said.

Alex’s area of expertise is neuropsychology and much of his research deals with deep brain stimulation in people with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. He developed a questionnaire on quality of life for essential tremor exams, which is used to assess effects of treatments. The questionnaire has been adopted by the Movement Disorder Society as a standard instrument used around the world.

Alex’s career has taken him across the U.S. with positions held at various universities, including the University of North Carolina School of Medicine where he served as co-director of the National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence. Since 2012, he’s been at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where he is chair of the neuropsychology department. He served the National Academy of Neuropsychology for five years as president elect, president, and past president and has served on the International Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Society taskforce for mild cognitive impairment of Parkinson’s Disease.

Alex has published more than 200 scientific journal articles and book chapters and edited two books. He also served as a reviewer for the National Institute of Health and is an associate editor for the Journal of International Neuropsychological Society. Alex is the recipient of the National Academy of Neuropsychology’s Early Career Award and its award for research contributions to clinical neuropsychology.

Through all his work, Alex says his first major stop in the U.S. — Fargo — left such an impression that he’s stayed in America all these years — of course, his then wife-to-be, Kristy, also had a hand in this decision. “There are lots of stereotypes when you come from a different country,” Alex recalled. “Fargo taught me that the stereotypes don’t always fit and it’s not just somebody’s culture that counts but also their individual differences. People can just be marvelous — you sometimes get the unexpected.”

Alex credits NDSU for its excellent teaching and marvelous people.

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