Human Studies partnership with Campus Rec Center brings benefits to faculty, staff, students

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Sarah Andreski, fitness and wellness coordinator at the Campus Rec Center, puts her aerobics class through the paces. Andreski also provides the rec center's "Wellness Catering" program throughout campus.

Sean Ries officially started his position as director of the Campus Recreation Center March 1, 2012 at 8 a.m. He estimates that Kristi Menear, Ph.D., chair of UAB’s Department of Human Studies, was outside of his office at 8:01 a.m. that same morning.

Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. But it is true that one of the first meetings Ries had after arriving on campus was with Menear’s department. Menear had long been interested in developing a mutually beneficial relationship with the Campus Rec Center, and the goal of that initial meeting was to find a way for Human Studies faculty to incorporate the use of its facilities and staff in an effort to enhance student learning.

What they have learned in their nine-month relationship is that the partnership has provided so much more.

“We’ve been able to use the Campus Rec Center as a teaching facility, and that’s very important to us and our students,” Menear says. “From the academic side, we’re capitalizing on who we have here that are specialists in our field. They teach appropriate and necessary topics for our students, and they do it right here on campus. This gives us a professionally appropriate best practice.”

Indeed, Ries and other Campus Recreation staff members, including Sarah Andreski, fitness and wellness coordinator, are teaching several physical education classes, including weight lifting, aerobics and officiating.

“We’re pulling students in the building that have never been here, and that’s a key thing for us,” Ries says. “We’re hitting our largest numbers ever in the past couple of weeks — our largest numbers since the building opened in 2006. Our numbers are through the roof. Yes, we get some physical education classes coming through and our intramurals are growing, but when you bring in these 30-40 person classes, it adds up over time.

“They become interested in coming here, and that gives them an opportunity to learn,” he says. “And the opportunity to teach classes is good professional development for our staff.”

Career possibilities

One of the things students can learn as part of this partnership is about the possibility of a career in the field of campus recreation.

Every student who takes the PE485/585 Exercise Testing and Prescription class must complete a 12- to 16-hour field experience with a member of the campus rec staff. Ries hopes this kind of opportunity can show students that there are more options for Human Studies majors outside of the mainstream. Physical therapy, for example, is a popular choice for many students. It’s also a very difficult field to break into.

Every student who takes the PE485/585 Exercise Testing and Prescription class must complete a 12- to 16-hour field experience with a member of the campus rec staff. Ries hopes this kind of opportunity can show students that there are more options for Human Studies majors outside of the mainstream. Physical therapy, for example, is a popular choice for many students. It’s also a very difficult field to break into.

“If you walk in that PE485/585 classroom, every one of those 40 students say they want to be a physical therapist, which is a fantastic field,” Ries says. “At UAB last year, we had more than 400 applications for physical therapists, and 50 were selected. Hopefully we can impress upon our students that there are other similar opportunities available, including a profession in campus rec. We wouldn’t be able to showcase this facility and these opportunities without this relationship with Human Studies.”

The partnership has opened up new classroom experiences, as well.

Human Studies continues to use Bell Wallace Gymnasium for many of its classes, but one of the drawbacks of that facility for many students has been its lack of diversified training opportunities, especially for its weight training class.

The weight training classes are very popular and always fill up quickly, but machine weights have been the only equipment available for the class in Bell Wallace. The Campus Rec partnership has broadened what’s available and enabled Human Studies to offer two settings for the class. Now, when students register for the class, they can clearly see in BlazerNET that the weight training classes in Bell Wallace are machine weights only while the PE 115 classes taught at Campus Rec offer machine weights plus aerobic activities.

“Now students know when they sign up what experience they can expect,” Menear says.

The relationship is spawning other new opportunities for students and faculty. Two Human Studies classes and their faculty participated in the Campus Recreation Center Health Fair Feb. 22. A health education class shared information on sun damage prevention and the fitness leadership and exercise physiology students hosted a booth to educate attendees on health, fitness, balance and diabetes.

Other enterprises are in the works or have already begun, including semester-long PE 499 Fitness Internships for Exercise Science/Fitness Leadership majors and a rock climbing class. Discussions are even under way about the possibility of a recreation minor in the future.

“I am delighted that our program has a collaborative relationship with the Campus Rec Center,” says Jane Roy, Ph.D., associate professor of Human Studies and exercise science/fitness leadership faculty mentor and program coordinator. “These field experiences will better prepare our students to be successful in their careers, whether they enter the health, fitness or sports industry or a health-related graduate program.”

“This is coming at a great time for us in Human Studies because we are reflecting on our curriculum and making revisions,” Menear says. “There’s no doubt we have a new lens of opportunity and a big reason for that is that Sean’s group has been so phenomenally positive. They are taking this as a win-win approach for both parties.”

Sarah Andreski also provides “Wellness Catering” where she presents health and wellness topics to different departments, classes and organizations throughout campus. 

Campus outreach

Campus Recreation has reached out into the campus community in a variety of other ways during the past year, too. 

The center is hosting the Commit2fit and Love Your Heart clinical trials, which are directed by Nefertiti Durant, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

It’s also the fitness facility for the Training Interventions and Genetics of Exercise (TIGER) Study, directed by Molly Bray, Ph.D., professor of Public Health and adjunct instructor in Human Studies.

Andreski also provides “Wellness Catering” where she presents health and wellness topics to different departments, classes and organizations throughout campus. For example, Andreski recently presented on the importance of incorporating extra activity throughout the workday to the Department of Information Technology. “The idea was to encourage employees whose primary jobs have them behind a desk for the majority of the day to incorporate physical activity throughout their day,” Andreski says. “We can cater recreation-related topics to any group in the UAB community.”

Ries and his staff also engage in postdoctoral presentations regularly in the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry and others in an effort to reach new employees.

“We’re trying to build our campus relationships,” Ries says, “and we’re involved in orientations campuswide.”

Jennifer Probert, assistant director of marketing and membership for the rec center, also plans to introduce the “Find Your Strong” campaign in the coming weeks. The promotion will build on Campus Rec’s “Something for Everybody” slogan and encourage patrons to take pictures and videos of themselves working out and post them on social network sites.

“We want them to tag the Campus Rec Center on their posts and tell what motivates them to work out,” Probert says. “We’re hoping they will be excited about showing why they’re strong and hash tag it with #findyourstrong.”

Some visible changes inside the Campus Rec Center also will take shape in the coming weeks as part of the Find Your Strong campaign. Watch for new photos and posters that highlight the center’s personal trainers and fitness instructors.

Visit the Campus Rec Center online for more information about its programs.

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