Western Illinois University, Department of Kinesiology
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Western Illinois University, Department of Kinesiology

By Miriam N. Satern, Professor and Chair

Western Illinois University was founded as “the Western Illinois State Normal School” in 1899 by the Illinois Legislature to “address teacher preparation in the state’s grammar schools” (Undergraduate Catalog 2008-2009, p. 4). Classes in physical education/culture were an important component of the educational mission of the university from its inception, as evidenced by the hiring of a professor of “Expression and Physical Culture” in 1903. The first physical education specialist was hired in 1906 to teach children enrolled in the training school and students enrolled in the normal school. By 1907, students were required to enroll in at least two class periods of physical activity a week. The first director of physical education was hired in 1913, and separate physical education departments for men and women were established in 1918. Academic programs in physical education were joined by health and recreation in 1967 to form the School (later College) of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. The College of HPER was dissolved in 1994 as part of a university-wide reorganization that reduced the number of academic colleges from six to four (Hallwas, 1999). The College of Education and Human Services resulted from this reorganization and is the current governing structure for 13 departments, including the Department of Kinesiology.

Over the years, the Normal School evolved into Western Illinois University and broadened its mission beyond teacher education to include liberal arts, business, technology, fine arts, communication, and graduate education (Undergraduate Catalog 2008-2009). Today, Western is a regional comprehensive university that serves 13,000+ students, 93% from Illinois, 3.6% from other U.S. states, and 3.5% from international countries (Fall 2007 statistics).

Although the department has grown and matured from its first presence on campus in 1903 to reflect the changing profession, preparing physical education teachers has always been central to the mission of the department. Undergraduate curriculum offerings were expanded in 1973 to include the first curriculum program in athletic training in Illinois and one of the early programs in the United States. A non-teaching major in fitness instruction (now known as exercise science) was added in 1986. The graduate program was expanded in 1973 to offer one of the first programs in sport management in the United States.

In July 2004, the name of the department was changed from Physical Education to Kinesiology to reflect the breadth of program offerings. Today, the Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology provides options in three professional areas of study – athletic training, exercise science, and physical education. All undergraduate student majors complete a 15 credit core of five courses that provide the disciplinary knowledge base in kinesiology – anatomy and physiology I, motor behavior, sport and exercise psychology, physiology of exercise, and biomechanics – and complete coursework in one of the three degree options beyond the core. The Athletic Training Education Program (ATEP) is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE), the Exercise Science educational program is recognized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and the Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) K-12 certification program is accredited by NASPE/NCATE. Each undergraduate degree option requires a capstone experience completed during the student’s final semester. Athletic Training and Exercise Science students complete a 12-week internship and Physical Education teacher candidates complete 16 weeks of student teaching.

In addition to the major, the Department of Kinesiology offers three minors. The coaching minor is based on NASPE coaching guidelines and structured primarily for teacher candidates outside of physical education who are interested in coaching. The minor in kinesiology is designed for students interested in pre-professional programs majoring in other degree programs. The minor in scuba diving, the only such program in Illinois, is designed to complement many majors on campus by providing open water diving skills to enhance their professional, career, and academic opportunities.

The Department of Kinesiology also offers two graduate degrees – the Master of Science in Kinesiology and the Master of Science in Sport Management. The M.S. in Kinesiology provides in-depth study in the following areas: exercise science, wellness promotion and fitness management, pedagogy (including adapted physical education), and sport and exercise psychology. Kinesiology graduate students complete one of the following capstone experiences: thesis, departmental comprehensive exam, or internship experience with a synthesis paper. Currently, the M.S. in Sport Management is approved by the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) and NASPE. In the next two years, we will begin the process of pursuing accreditation from the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA). Sport Management graduate students complete either a thesis or non-thesis option with all students completing an internship and synthesis paper of their internship experience.

Although the requirement of all Western students to take activity classes as part of their undergraduate education was eliminated in 1972, the demand for general activity classes remains high. Nine graduate teaching assistants are teaching 41 sections of basic activity classes for the Fall 2008 semester. Western Illinois University is the only public university in the state of Illinois with a category titled Human Well-Being in its General Education curriculum. The stated purpose of this category is that students “will come to understand and develop healthy lifestyles and practices” by studying human well-being (Undergraduate Catalog 2008-2009, p. 56). To fulfill this requirement, undergraduate students must select courses to total a minimum of three credits from at least two of four possible program areas – family and consumer sciences, health sciences, kinesiology, and recreation. Because of the two-department requirement, our basic activity classes continue to be in high demand and provide some of our graduate students with financial support.

The quality and on-going sustainability of any academic program, however, results from the synergy provided by its students, faculty, and facilities. The undergraduate major in kinesiology is the third largest on campus with over 450 students enrolled in the major and 74 students enrolled in the three minors in Fall 2008. The graduate major in sport management is the fifth largest graduate program on campus and the combined graduate enrollment for Fall 2008 is 94 in the two degrees.

Twenty-five (25) full-time faculty (18 tenured/tenure track and 7 non-tenure track) deliver the academic and research mission of the Department of Kinesiology. The academic programs and faculty are housed in Brophy Hall, a modern academic, research, and physical activity complex with four (of six possible) electronic classrooms, wireless network, Olympic size swimming pool with a diving well, dance performance studio, gymnasium that can be divided into three teaching spaces, multi-purpose room, weight room, fitness room, and athletic training classroom and lab facilities. Research and teaching lab space and equipment in Brophy Hall include: (1) the Lakie Human Performance Laboratory with a Biodex isokinetic measurement system, environmental chamber, Bod Pod, hydrostatic weighing tank, metabolic and 12-lead ECG systems, Cholestech lipid and blood glucose analysis equipment, and microplate reader and washer; (2) the Biomechanics Laboratory with Peak Motus 8.2 two-dimensional video analysis system, AMTI force platform, and 8-channel Myo Pac Junior EMG; (3) the Perceptual and Motor Behavior Laboratory with a BIOPAC system that records ECG, EMG, and EEG; (4) the Physical Education Teacher Education Laboratory with wireless microphones for audio and video recordings, B.E.S.T. software, and Palm Pilots for hand-held assessments; (5) a computer laboratory featuring the A.D.A.M. software; and (6) the Sport Psychology Laboratory with space provided for private consultations with athletes. Faculty and students participate in human-based research studies on topics that range from ergogenic aids to research on aging and obesity in clinical based populations to the psychology of injuries.

As the 2008-2009 academic year unfolds and members of the University community participate in the University theme of “Health and Wellness: Challenges and Responsibilities,” faculty and students in the Department of Kinesiology will be more visible than usual on campus. The value of any academic program to its university community, however, is reflected not only in the involvement of its members on their campus, but also in the accomplishments of its graduates. With over 5,000 alumni scattered across the United States and world, the Department of Kinesiology takes great pride in its many outstanding alumni that have proudly carried the banner for their alma mater and distinguished themselves in their chosen professions. We look forward to the opportunity to add to the number of alumni in the future. We also remain committed to continuing to change and evolve with our professions and sub-disciplines, just as our predecessors starting in 1903, changed to reflect the culture and the body of knowledge of their time.

Reference List

Hallwas, J. E. (1999). First century: A pictorial history of Western Illinois University. Macomb: Western Illinois University.