One-third of all students studying in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education plan to go to physical therapy school after completing their undergraduate degrees, said John Bartholomew. However, because they are housed in the College of Education, these students lack access to the resources they need to support their long-term career goals.
UT should move the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education into the School of Human Ecology in the College of Natural Sciences.
John Bartholomew, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, said the department used to primarily concern itself with the training of physical education teachers. However, the discipline has undergone tremendous transformation in recent years.
Movement and physical activity are now Kinesiology and Health Education’s focus, and its shift to the study of the body in relation to people’s health outcomes prepares graduates to not only be sports teachers, trainers and coaches but also physical therapists and researchers.
Pre-physical therapy is one of the biggest pre-health tracks at UT in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. These pre-physical therapy kinesiology students have to complete science prerequisites for their pre-health requirements, just the beginning of which include basic chemistry and biology.
However, if kinesiology was housed in the College of Natural Sciences, these prerequisites would likely be built into the degree plan automatically, allowing for easier degree planning and course completion. Additionally, kinesiology majors would have access to all of the pre-health opportunities and support, such as the research, internship and career planning opportunities, that all students of this department are afforded.
Simone Perque, an exercise science junior on the pre-med track, agrees the department’s current location is not the best fit.
“It would be much more helpful and more logical for it to be in (the College of Natural Sciences), especially because it is a science,” Perque said. “I think for the people that are doing health education it makes sense to be in the College of Education, but for the people who are doing exercise science and taking anatomy and all of those classes, it is a science.”
Bartholomew said the department’s placement in the College of Education is due to UT’s existing academic structure.
“The College of Education makes sense because the College of Education is interested in translational research,” Bartholomew said. “A lot of the work that we do has that same emphasis.”
I can easily see the connection Bartholomew emphasizes between kinesiology and translational research, which is the application of basic scientific knowledge to address health needs. However, given that the larger goal of translational research is to transform laboratory, clinic and community observations into interventions that benefit peoples’ health, housing the department in the College of Natural Sciences’ School of Human Ecology, with its “science based, human focused” enterprise, would be a better fit.
As the field of kinesiology further cements its foundation in the sciences, universities across the country are resituating their departments of kinesiology. Both the University of Illinois and Pennsylvania State University now house their departments of kinesiology in their applied health departments, which combine a number of community health-related disciplines.
Similarly, the University of South Carolina and the University of Maryland locate their departments of kinesiology in their schools of public health. Some universities, such as Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota, are creating new programs to better reflect the multidisciplinarity of kinesiology.
UT’s School of Human Ecology is also the academic home of disciplines like public health and nutrition, which feels like a natural fit for the kinesiology of the current moment. This change would ultimately facilitate the kind of cross-disciplinary exploration that today’s kinesiology majors are looking for.
Strelitz-Block is a Plan II sophomore from Austin, Texas.