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April 11, 2016
Story by Mark Hornickel / Photography by Todd Weddle
This story appears in the spring 2016 edition of the Northwest Alumni Magazine. To view more content from the magazine and an e-edition of the magazine, visit www.nwmissouri.edu/alumni/magazine/.
Northwest ushered in a new era of profession-based education on a sunny afternoon last fall when faculty members cut a ribbon to commemorate the opening of the University’s School of Health Science and Wellness.
“This just didn’t come about,” Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski said. “We’ve been listening. We’ve been learning. We’ve been gathering information from a variety of inputs, and it was very clear that there are significant education needs across health science and wellness.”
The School’s launch was years in the making, actually. It was born out of a string of strategic moves to strengthen academic programming and adapt to needs of students and employers – not to mention a society paying increased attention to steps, nutrition facts and cholesterol numbers.
What was known by previous generations of Bearcats as the Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (HPERD) is now a free-standing, interdisciplinary unit that brings together 35 health science and wellness programs spread across multiple departments.
Now, curriculum and instruction originates from a variety of areas including the departments of Natural Sciences and Behavioral Sciences. Programs are designed to prepare students to pursue graduate studies in health sciences as well as manage and provide preventative health and wellness care and services. Practical experiences are embedded in each program.
The School offers a plethora of pre-professional programs – chiropractic, dentistry, nursing, physical therapy and radiology, to name a few – and wellness-based bachelor’s degree programs in foods and nutrition, physical education and recreation. Master’s degree programs explore fields such as applied health science and sport psychology.
The School also opens opportunities to add new and innovative programming that maps to regional and national needs. Graduates of the new school will work in a variety of fields such as health communication, health coaching, health information management and therapeutic recreation. They will have opportunities to become doctors, nurses and medical technologists.
“I believe it’s a better way to serve students, and that’s what we’re really all about,” Dr. Matt Symonds ’90, ‘94, the founding director of the School.
A snapshot of the School of Health Science and Wellness’ future already hangs somewhere on a wall in the childhood home of siblings Tyler ’04, ’06, Mary ’14 and Rachel Tapps.
Growing up in the small town of Coon Rapids, Iowa, it was natural for the Tapps kids to be involved in multiple activities – basketball, cheerleading and band during the winter season – at once.
“We were all active kids,” Tyler says. “You played basketball, and then you went and played drums at halftime and ran back.”
From those activities they picked up on what it means to work hard. They learned to manage their time, and they developed a deep interest in the benefits of health, recreation and wellness. Those interests eventually brought them to Northwest.
Today, Tyler is an assistant professor of recreation at the University. Before returning to Northwest, he completed his doctorate in health, leisure and human science at Oklahoma State University. In 2014, he received the Robert W. Crawford Young Professional Award from the National Recreation and Park Association, recognizing him as an active contributor to the field of recreation and leisure through service in academics, research and publications, and administration.
Mary is activity director and therapeutic recreational specialist at Oak Pointe, an assisted living facility that opened in Maryville last year and immediately became a strong partner of the School of Health Science and Wellness, providing internships and other practical experiences for students. She also will complete her master’s degree in administration recreation in May at Northwest.
Mary advises Northwest students who come to Oak Pointe to practice skills in assisted living as well as memory care. Similar to student teaching, interns gain responsibility and experience as they progress through the practicum program.
“It’s one thing to stand there and watch someone do it, but to take charge and do it yourself, you learn things as you go,” Mary said. “It’s really good functional and practical experience.”
Rachel, who will graduate from Northwest in May with her bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation management, specializes in working with youth and coordinates recreational programing at Clarinda Academy, a residential foster care facility in Clarinda, Iowa.
She enjoys comparing the perspective of Mary’s work with older generations to her experiences with youth who are just realizing the benefits of wellness and recreation. “If you don’t start there then they don’t understand recreation is a positive thing,” Rachel said.
The Tapps personify the kinds of Northwest graduates who are working from coast to coast in physical, social, emotional and clinical health arenas.
“We’re teaching people to understand what it’s like to be healthy and living a healthy lifestyle,” Tyler said. “It’s not only the health perspective, but to develop social skills and cognitive skills that come from participating in activities.
“We live that every day and we’re lucky enough that we had the opportunity to come through a program that teaches that – and teaches you to help other people do that.”
An eternal optimist, Tyler’s excitement about the future of the School of Health Science and Wellness is contagious. It boasts accredited programs, he notes, that are led by nationally and internationally recognized faculty who are experts in their fields.
“We understand there’s a change in the health industry and that staying in the same place is not going to cut it anymore,” he said. “We have to evolve as the profession evolves, and Northwest is known for good collaboration and community partnerships. Whether it be with hospitals or long-term care facilities – we’ve been doing those things for years. Now we have a platform to say here is where we have our fingers already embedded in the community.”
When Karen From ’87 joined the Northwest faculty in 2009, the Didactic Program in Dietetics she was appointed to direct had about 20 students and was based in a department facing challenges with enrollment growth.
Since then, the dietetics program has relocated to the School of Health Science and Wellness, and it’s grown to more than 90 students today.
From has taken advantage of professional development opportunities to grow the program and maintains high expectations for students. Last fall, she received the College of Education and Human Services’ Dean’s Faculty Award for Teaching.
“The School is designed to bring together hard sciences,” From said. “We are evolving from HPERD and Health and Human Services to an all-inclusive school that focuses on health science and wellness.
“When you’re working with all of the sciences, we need to work collaboratively, instead of in separate silos. If we work together, we can offer better programs.”
From knows that well. Before joining the Northwest faculty in 2009, she spent 15 years working in a variety of roles and settings throughout the country – from operating a private business in Ontario, Canada, to running a nutrition and food service program for migrant workers in California. She worked in cardiac rehab and clinical dietetics at regional medical centers in Kansas City.
“We always worked with each other, not separately,” From said. “If you’re working in any type of medical field, you work with the pharmacists, you work with the doctor, you work with the physical therapist, you work with the therapeutic rec person. You don’t do it by yourself. So why not start at the education level?”
The dietetics program is an intense one that requires students with a strong grasp of the sciences and who are high-achieving academically. Graduates of the program also must continue their training in a residency-style internship program requiring 1,200 hours.
“Especially in America, we have some serious overweight and obesity issues, which lead to a lot of health diseases,” From said. “But we also need to look at that person who’s going to be working in therapeutic rec or pre-pharmaceutical, or medical. Nutrition is a part of that, and sometimes people just don’t get that nutrition is really a hard science. It’s not fluff.”
Although the school structure is new to Northwest, professional schools are not new to higher education. A professional school is an academic unit that aligns itself with a portfolio of professional careers. The structure also enhances the ability of faculty to engage with students in profession-based education.
Northwest’s established brand of profession-based education is what differentiates the University from others in the state and region, Northwest Provost Dr. Timothy Mottet said. The new School brings well-established programs to the forefront and encourages collaboration across departments – from communication to computer science.
“Profession-based education occurs when an institution commits to making sure graduates are career ready on day one, which means they have the intellectual, emotional, social and experiential preparation necessary to face, tackle and solve complex problems on the first day of employment.”
The School of Health Science and Wellness is headquartered in Martindale Hall on the Northwest campus’ southern edge – a fitting location adjacent to the new Robert and Virginia Foster Fitness Center and the Lamkin Activity Center.
“One thing that Northwest does very well is we have very strong academics and we have very strong athletics,” Mottet said. “Any time that you can merge strong academics and strong athletics together, you’re creating something that I think is unique and rare. Northwest has done that incredibly well.”
Dr. Patrick Harr chairs Northwest’s Board of Regents, which approved the launch of the School last June. He spent 38 years practicing medicine in Maryville and served as a volunteer physician for Northwest athletics teams before retiring in 2012.
He also studied pre-medicine at Northwest during the early 1960s before completing his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
“We didn’t have advisors for our profession. We just kind of hung out in biology and chemistry and hoped for the best,” Harr said. “I’m really excited and honored to be a part of a program that’s going to bring more students into the health profession.”
Dr. Jim Redd ’66 called Northwest home for 37 years as a student, faculty member, coach and administrator. When he retired in 2000, health education had changed dramatically and the seeds of a more holistic approach at Northwest were taking root.
As a student majoring in health and physical education, Redd took almost all of his physical education classes in Martindale Hall and enjoyed topics like human anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. Students like Redd were predominantly destined for jobs as elementary and secondary physical education teachers or coaches.
|Dr. Jim Redd ’66 called Northwest home for 37 years as a student, faculty member, coach and administrator in the University's departments of Athletics and Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.|
That began changing during the late 1980s and early 1990s as faculty embraced ideas of mental, emotional, social and spiritual development. State and federal guidelines were changing, too. In 1976, Redd sat on a committee that recommended the merger of Northwest’s men’s and women’s physical education departments in light of Title IX legislation.
Faculty realized the need to prepare students who could work in community health programs, government agencies and health care. The therapeutic recreation program took off, preparing students to work in hospitals or assisted living facilities. The corporate recreation major began preparing students to lead a growing number of company wellness programs.
Facilities changed, too, and the department expanded beyond the campus boundaries, negotiating with the city of Maryville to acquire land at Mozingo Lake Recreation Park. The University’s 320-acre Mozingo Outdoor Education Recreation Area provides space for students to practice teamwork, leadership and outdoor skills.
“That kind of changed the overall philosophy of the program, in terms of how it established a greater quality of life for not only our majors, but everyone in the country for that matter, to that holistic approach,” Redd said.
Amid a realignment of academic departments across the University in 2012, the department took the major step of transitioning from the HPERD department – an identity it had held for decades – to the Department of Health and Human Services. Northwest’s dietetics program joined the department adding another dimension for students.
“That name change was kind of the spring board, as the administration was looking at how they were going to change the colleges, for the idea of a School of Health Science and Wellness,” Associate Professor of Recreation Dr. Jeff Ferguson said. “We were given a heck of a lot of opportunities to think outside the box and be entrepreneurial. We took advantage of them.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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