By Jane E. Clark, Professor and Chair
By Jane E. Clark, Professor and Chair
The Department of Kinesiology at the University of Maryland (sph.umd.edu/KNES) brings together those who are interested in studying human physical activity from a variety of perspectives and at many levels of analysis. From molecules, genes, neurons, muscles, and movement, to sport in society, the students and faculty of Kinesiology take an encompassing view of physical activity. Situated in the new School of Public Health, Kinesiology is committed to improving the health of our nation through our teaching, research, and service.
The Department of Kinesiology has 20 tenure-track faculty, five research professors, and three instructors. The faculty is formed into four research clusters: exercise physiology; cognitive motor neuroscience; physical cultural studies; and physical activity intervention physical education. Six faculty are elected fellows of the prestigious American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education. Over half of the faculty hold affiliate appointments in other programs including: Neuroscience and Cognitive Sciences program; Bioengineering; Psychology; Communication; the Center on Aging; and, the medical school at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (30 miles away). Last year, research expenditures from external funding agencies (NIH, DOD) totaled over $2 million.
The Department confers two undergraduate degrees: a Bachelors of Science (BS) in Physical Education and a BS in Kinesiological Sciences. Our BS in Kinesiological Sciences, which was approved by the University of Maryland in 1974, may be the first undergraduate “kinesiology” degree in the US; if not, it is surely one of the oldest. Today, the major is the sixth largest on campus with over 726 majors and another 55 majoring in physical education. Unlike many undergraduate degree programs in Kinesiology, Maryland’s program is structured as a ‘liberal arts’ degree that provides a “core” of knowledge that is foundational to upper level ‘option’ courses that provide more in-depth knowledge. The Kinesiology core includes seven courses: exercise physiology, biomechanics, motor learning & control, motor development, sport psychology, sport history, and sport & society. The department offers 12-16 option courses a semester depending on needs. Students are required to take a minimum of four option courses to graduate. Over 30 option courses have been developed and taught including such courses as: child and sport; exercise and body composition; neural basis of human movement; graded exercise testing; sport marketing and media; psychology of exercise and health; movement disorders; and many more. In addition to the core and option courses, kinesiology majors must take at least 6 different physical activity courses, 3 of which must be at the intermediate skill level. The major also requires 12 credits in biology (including anatomy and physiology) and a 3-credit statistics course. The major culminates in a “capstone” course in which students write a ‘senior thesis’ paper and do an oral presentation on their findings.
All students are encouraged, but not required to do internships. About 5-10% of the undergraduates gain research experience in departmental laboratories. The department has a strong record on undergraduate research. In 2006, one of our undergraduates won the campus-wide undergraduate researcher award. The next year, one of our faculty was named the campus’ ‘undergraduate research mentor.’ Our undergraduates have regularly been awarded Howard Hughes Undergraduate and Summer Scholars Fellowships – both of which pay undergraduates to work with mentors on research. The department also has a strong and select honors program for no more than 25 juniors and seniors who take honors sections of courses, participate in honors seminars, and complete an honors thesis.
Except for the physical education bachelor’s degree program, no professional career tracks are defined. Students are encouraged by their advisors to select specific options if they see themselves going to a specific career after graduation – such as medicine, physical therapy, personal training, sport management, etc. The faculty is committed to student learning outcomes that stress depth and comprehensive knowledge about kinesiology from the biological, physical, behavioral, and social sciences perspectives. About a third of our graduating seniors go onto post-graduate education, about half take jobs in the field or an allied health profession, and the remaining sixth are undecided or work in another field.
The Department of Kinesiology also offers a vibrant and high demand physical activity program. Every semester, over thirty different course offerings are available to students across the campus. From basketball to aerobics, to yoga and the martial arts, swimming, and trampoline, the department provides a wide array of physical activity classes which usually fill earliest during registration.
Last year, the Department faculty and graduate students read Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat and this year we lived it. We have two study abroad programs, one to China and the other to England. More and more undergraduate students are following University President Mote’s challenge to experience education internationally. The faculty too are collaborating and traveling abroad to present papers, conduct their research, and see Kinesiology globally.
In 2005, the doctoral program in Kinesiology at the University of Maryland achieved a 3rd place ranking in the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education rankings of the nation’s doctoral programs. Currently, the program has 75 graduate students (72% of whom are PhD students). The department provides funding for all admitted graduate students. Approximately 15% of the students are funded on fellowships (university, department, and National Institute of Aging training fellowships in exercise and geriatrics), and the other 85% of the funding is evenly divided between research and teaching assistantships. Graduate student course of study is individualized and approved by their program of study committee. Emphasis throughout the program is on becoming a scholar/researcher in the field. The department has a number of awards to recognize student excellence, including a teaching assistant recognition awards and published paper writing awards. The Graduate Research Initiative Project (GRIP) fund was initiated to give students the opportunity, three times a year, to apply for funds to support their research. Each year, all graduate students are eligible for funding if they are giving a first-authored paper at a scientific conference. Over the last few years, our doctoral students have averaged 1.2 first-authored papers at conferences. Graduates of the doctoral program usually take one of two paths: a post-doctoral fellowship or an assistant professor position. Recently, the majority have gone on to post-doctoral fellowships.
In addition to the department’s academics, the faculty, staff and students also enjoy having fun together! With graduate students from 12 different countries, Kinesiology comes together for an International Thanksgiving to enjoy each others favorite harvest feast dish. Of course, a roast turkey is always included. In late January, the Department has a chili cook-off to welcome everyone back as we start the spring term. A spring time softball game and a winter kickball match also provide good fun and lots of physical activity.