by Dr. Michael G. Bemben, Professor and Chair
by Dr. Michael G. Bemben, Professor and Chair
In 1890, the Oklahoma Territorial Legislature established the University of Oklahoma and in 1890 there were 4 faculty members and 100 students. Today, the University of Oklahoma is a doctoral-degree granting research intensive university serving the educational, cultural, economic, and health-care needs of the state, region, and nation. There are now more than 30,000 students and 2,400 full-time faculty members in 21 Colleges offering 163 majors at the baccalaureate level, 166 majors and the master’s level, 81 majors at the doctoral level, and 27 majors at the first professional level. The University of Oklahoma is the Flagship University of the state, located in Norman, Oklahoma, a great college town with all the amenities of a small town (100,000) and within 25 minutes of downtown Oklahoma City.
The primary goal of the Department of Health and Exercise Science is to lead the state and nation in exercise science and health promotion education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and to maintain a national reputation for excellence in research. A broader goal for the Department is to contribute to the enhancement of quality of life for the citizens of the community, state, and nation. We feel this is best accomplished by delivering a curriculum for undergraduate and graduate majors that draws from the humanities, life sciences, behavioral sciences, and from the disciplines of exercise physiology and health promotion. The Department, one of the largest in the College of Arts and Sciences, by means of a flexible interdisciplinary approach to intellectual inquiry, strives to respond to emerging societal and University needs through dynamic and responsive teaching and research programs that tend to focus on health and wellness related issues like childhood obesity, tobacco prevention, osteoporosis, aging and muscle wasting, multiple sclerosis, stress management, cardiovascular adjustments to aging and exercise, pain management, age related functional performance, and muscle fatigue.
The Department offers onsite Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy degree programs to its majors as well as related study and research opportunities for students throughout the University by offering general education and elective courses and working with honors research students and McNair Scholars. Achievement of our mission is facilitated by the fact that all ‘core classes’ in the undergraduate and graduate programs are taught by regular tenured and tenure-track faculty members and by the uniqueness of our interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching at the undergraduate and master’s levels, and complementary but separate degree programs in Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion at the doctoral level.
Specific departmental goals include:
Our undergraduate program attracts students who have diverse interests including exercise/fitness, personal training, strength and conditioning, community and worksite health promotion, medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, public health, and many other areas of the allied health professions. We encourage undergraduate participation in the Honors College, departmental research projects, internships, fieldwork experiences, and membership in professional organizations and societies as a means of enhancing their basic academic preparation. As I mentioned earlier, the HES faculty are readily accessible to students, and we pride ourselves in our attention and concern for our undergraduate majors. Our undergraduate program has a pre-HES track that has an enrollment of about 750-800 students, allowing us to select about 225 of our best students to enter the HES major. Non-HES students can also pursue a minor in Health and Exercise Science and this program has about 175 students currently enrolled. The ‘core’ courses in our program (all taught by regular tenure track faculty members) will take an additional 3 to 4 semesters to complete before graduation.
Students who graduate from our undergraduate program have been very successful in entering many professional programs like medicine, physical therapy, dietetics, dentistry, nursing, etc. They are also very competitive for graduate programs in Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion, as well as finding employment in areas like strength and conditioning, fitness centers, pharmaceutical sales, and wellness programs.
Our graduate program offers Masters of Science (MS) degrees in Health Promotion, Exercise Physiology, and an interdisciplinary degree that incorporates both Health Promotion and Exercise Physiology. We also offer separate doctoral (PhD) programs in Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion. We primarily accept full-time MS and PhD students into our graduate programs, and we support them with graduate assistantships for the duration of their programs. All of our graduate programs have a strong emphasis in research experiences that help develop competent and independent researchers in Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion. Our MS graduates have been very successful in entering PhD programs, entering many of the allied health professions like medicine, physician assistant, etc., and finding employment in fitness and clinical settings. Our doctoral graduates have gone on to post-doctoral experiences in some of the best labs in the country, found academic positions in many excellent universities around the country, or found employment in corporate settings.
Our graduate programs have excellent collaborative efforts with some of the programs at the Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, including Physiology and Biophysics, Gerontological Medicine, Nutritional Sciences, Rehabilitation Sciences, Biostatistics, the Stephenson Cancer Center, and the College of Public Health. There are also a number of collaborative efforts on the main Norman campus with departments like Biology, Industrial Engineering, and Psychology.