A name change and brand new facilities are bringing exciting — and cutting-edge — enhancements to Southern’s Exercise Science Department, renowned for its programs in athletic training, biomechanics, exercise physiology and more. The department recently was renamed the Department of Health and Movement Sciences, to better encompass its wide breadth of programs, and the department’s new address on campus — a 4-story Health and Human Services building — will enhance learning and research opportunities for students and faculty alike.
“Historically, our department has been rooted in the exercise sciences, which encapsulated the performance, rehabilitation, and physical education aspects of exercise and sport through human performance, athletic training, and education, respectively,” said Marc Robertson, associate professor of health and movement sciences. “The field has evolved as society has placed greater emphasis on the health benefits associated with physical activity, hence the departmental name change better represents the types of programs we offer.”
Just a few years ago, the Exercise Science Department encompassed only the undergraduate majors of Athletic Training and Exercise Science. Now, Southern offers an accelerated 3+2 (3-year undergraduate degree plus 2-year graduate degree) Athletic Training degree program, one of the longest running accredited programs in Connecticut, as well as undergraduate and graduate programs in human performance, physical education, respiratory care, and school health education.
A new Bachelor of Health Science degree program was added in fall 2019 to provide tailored educational programs to students who plan to pursue graduate health professions such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant.
When construction begins in March 2020 on the Health and Human Services building, these programs will be enhanced with new teaching and learning labs, expanded research opportunities for faculty and students, and interprofessional education programs with other health and human services professions. Many of these collaborative learning experiences will take place in the patient/client simulation center that includes six hospital rooms, four medical exam rooms, and a home simulation facility.
A dedicated human performance lab and a biomechanics lab will enable the department to expand its research opportunities with additional equipment for testing and analysis. High-tech components include motion capture technology and the use of force plates for movement analysis. A new piece of equipment called a BOD POD will allow students to measure body fat using air plethysmography (air displacement). The equipment will replace a technique known as hydrostatic underwater weighing, which required clients to sit on a special scale and be lowered into a tank of water to estimate their body composition.
“The person sits still in an egg-shaped structure while the measurement is taken,” said William R. Lunn, associate professor of health and movement sciences. “It’s easier for the participant, as there is no anxiety of needing to be submerged under water.”
Award-winning faculty still will be the cornerstone of the department, although the new space will offer increased opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. It’s what drew champion triathlon racer and student David Martin, ‘20 (a master’s candidate in exercise science with a concentration in human performance), to Southern and continues to fuel his success.
“What is so special about the program and the faculty at SCSU is that I’m surrounded by people who are as enthusiastic as I am about this field of work,” Martin said. “The classes are set up in a way that prepares you for real experiences we will face in the exercise science field. With research being conducted by the professors, we can be hands-on as students and learn as we watch our professors.”
Even after graduation, he added, “There is a huge focus on having a plan. I feel successful here, and I feel comfortable that my success will continue to grow and exceed my expectations because I have the support of this department.”
Department Chair Gary Morin also has his eye on growth, although it’s for the department’s capabilities and programs.
“Once the building is done, the technological capabilities will increase the quality of education students get,” Morin said. “It’s been — and will continue to be — an exciting evolution.”