It’s not what it sounds like — you don’t have to be a bodybuilder or track star to be an exercise science major. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym or maintain the exercise routine of an Olympian. All you need is a passion for science and an overwhelming love for sports.
Graduates of the exercise science program often go on to pursue graduate degrees in physical therapy, athletic training and similar fields. Students interested in personal training, fitness and strength and conditioning will thrive in this major.
All students complete a co-op and practicum experience, adding experiential learning to the program.
KayDee Perry, assistant professor of health and human performance, explains the valuable resources students benefit from in this program.
“Our faculty have field experience for the classes they teach,” Professor Perry said. “We also have added a kinesiology lab to provide students with hands-on experience. Couple these with our small class sizes and relationship-based learning, and we can help students find their passion.”
Senior Michaela Kaliniak credits her relationships with her professors in helping her find her place in the field. She believes that these unique bonds create opportunities for students — an experience she may not have had at a bigger school. Recently, Charles Crowley, Ph.D., associate professor of health and human performance, took her and four other students to the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) conference, which allowed them to form connections with members of the field.
“The five of us were the only undergraduate students at this conference,” Michaela said. “We were all able to network and meet with potential graduate professors. Not only did this conference give us great networking skills, but meeting with the graduate professors gave us a huge leg up in the application process, giving us an inside look at the college who is advocating for us to attend their school.”
Senior Kadesha Alawar-Taylor agrees that her relationships with her professors have vastly improved her experience as a Comet.
“The professors are phenomenal,” she said. “They are extremely encouraging and will go out of their way to push you to heights you couldn’t possibly attain on your own — if you are willing to be pushed. The sky is the limit and after graduating, they have put me in a position to reach it.”
Michaela values the professional experience she’s gained through the program, emphasizing that it helps shape each student’s future goals.
“Exercise science has many different avenues, so it can be challenging to decide what to do,” she said. “Something I love about Olivet is that the professors encourage you to attend conferences and do career collaborations — observations of professionals in the workforce. Going to conferences, you learn great networking skills, which is vital in this major. Doing career collaborations gives students a chance to observe a professional during their work. Getting a chance to observe and ask these professionals questions gives students a chance to understand what it is like being a physical therapist or strength and conditioning coach. That inside look at the job can help make a student’s decision to become a physical therapist or their decision not to become one.”
In addition to professional and technical knowledge, Kadesha has benefited from learning soft skills in the program.
“Communication and my written skills have been a lifesaver,” she said. “Fortunately, the professors in the human performance department are very adamant about effective communication, which translates to my field. Gaining knowledge is what’s expected when you enter college, yet many people don’t know how to transfer what they’ve learned into their occupation.”
Kadesha is excited about the possibilities ahead of her.
“Exercise science is an exciting major that puts you in a great position once you graduate,” she said. “Many people doubt the human performance field but have yet to realize that this field is and will be continuing to evolve as long as sports are still around. Everyone has a dream to contribute to change in this world by innovating some form of technology, technique or method. What’s exciting is that this field is constantly coming up with new methods of training, recovery and rehabilitation which puts students in a great position to tap into their creative side while maintaining scientific integrity. It might seem far-fetched, but there is so much out there for students to explore within the field that hasn’t been exposed yet.
“Many question what they can do with an exercise science degree. However, that’s not the question; the real question is what can’t you do with it? This department provides you with multiple opportunities to capitalize on and I am thankful that I have been given the opportunity to embark on this journey with such caring people!”