LaGrange College’s exercise science program is rapidly growing, doubling its enrollment since it began in fall.
There was large student interest in bringing the program to the campus, and director of the program Chad Harris came to the college from Western New Mexico University in June to begin putting the program together, which started in the fall semester.
Harris has a doctorate in human performance from Oregon State University and was a 12-year faculty member at Boise State teaching and researching in kineseology. He later became program director of WNMU’s exercise science program for five years, where he rebuilt the program before taking the position as dean of allied health in his last year before coming to LC.
“I was excited to start here and start the brand new program here,” said Harris. “They were really open to my ideas.”
In the program’s first semester in August, about 20 students were enrolled. Now, that number has nearly doubled in the second semester.
The program is housed on the bottom floor of the Mariotti Gym on campus, which has gone through a physical transformation with new, state-of-the-art exercise equipment, including what Harris refers to as the SPEED Center. The SPEED (Sport Performance Enhancement Education and Development) Center, made up of various weights and exercise equipment, allows students to get hands-on experience and apply what they learned in lectures.
Harris designed the undergraduate program to ensure that students get much hands-on experience involving labs, fitness evaluations, assessments and monitoring the progress of athletes’ trainings by use of the SPEED Center.
“The program is designed to break away from the physical stigma of the program,” he said. “Thus incorporating classes that include anatomy, exercise testing and prescription writing, and sports nutrition. My hope is that they can graduate with graduate-level knowledge, not just exposure.”
Some of the students in the program were biology majors wanting to go to careers involving physical therapy school in the future.
“It’s becoming one of the leading majors going into physical therapy programs,” Harris said.
Other common careers that exercise science majors could embark into are cardiac rehabilitation, personal training, sports medicine and physical education in schools.
A senior and former biology major, Kenny Strack switched into the program and said he wants to go into athletic training or the chiropractic field after he graduates in May.
“I felt I could go into more fields than in biology,” Strack said. “I like the program because it’s more hands on than I expected, and I like doing research in labs. Doing testings and prescriptions is my favorite and human performance has a lot of things geared towards testing and performance like in football and other sports.”
Michael Jones, also a senior in the program, said he made the switch into the program because he thought it would be a better way to get into training and coaching.
“I would like to be a trainer or coach and would later like to go into sports medicine,” Jones said. “Once exercise science came, it was right down athletics and I could still coach along with more opportunities. I’m glad the program came here.”