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Students Lead Employees in New Kinesiology Course

Students Lead Employees in New Kinesiology Course

11/17/2015 

Students always have learned from professors in the traditional college classroom. But in many academic departments at SUNY Cortland, professors are finding innovative ways to turn their students into better teachers of their disciplines.

One such example is found in Exercise Prescription 432, a new service learning course unveiled this semester within the College’s Kinesiology Department.

The class, taught by Assistant Professor Deborah Van Langen, involves students providing valuable health services to faculty and staff members who desire to lead a healthier lifestyle. Undergraduates, many of whom aspire to careers as physical therapists or personal trainers, offer proper exercise prescription advice to College employees for free.

“The class gives students a chance to apply what they learn in class onto real-world participants,” Van Langen said. “Participants, in turn, get a chance to work with students who want exposure to a clinical population or to go on to graduate school.”

The once-a-week class consists of fitness development and exercise science majors applying their skills learned in class to help address various conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and pulmonary disorders.

Each student is assigned a patient and the pair work together to improve the patient’s health condition. Students usually teach a cardiovascular warm-up exercise, a strength training lesson and a meditation component to reduce stress after exercise.

For now, patients who volunteer for the course are faculty and staff members from the College. Van Langen said she hopes to include participants from the Cortland community in the future. Patients mostly demonstrate high-risk health concerns, which offers students exposure to a clinical population of clients as opposed to a recreation population, Van Langen said.

She also has expanded the course from three to four credits, which means students would meet with clients twice per week to gain more experience. Those students who are part of the course’s inaugural cohort are enjoying the hands-on experience they have gained so far.

Philip Socci, a senior kinesiology: exercise science major from Westchester, N.Y., said the class has been equally as beneficial for employee patients and students involved.

“The clients love it as a whole and they’ve been doing well,” Socci said. “Being able to have your class and teacher to help with the exercises and clients makes the experience so much better than having to do it without support.”

Nancy Newell, a senior fitness development major from Glenfield, N.Y., has noticed clients helping each other in staying on track with their health goals.

“The clients all get along and motivate each other to keep doing better,” she said. “It’s almost like a friendly competition.”

The course’s service learning foundation has played a major role in its outcomes so far. Van Langen worked closely with John Suarez, the College’s coordinator of service learning, to develop the course. The service learning process integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience. Service learning helps students understand course-related topics from other people’s points of view.

According to Suarez, the service learning angle of the course makes it more rich and unique.

“Students are able to understand more because of this component and it allows them to work with people of all different backgrounds and habits,” Suarez said.

The course fosters close relationships between the aspiring health professionals and the type of clients that they likely will work with in the future.

“You have to know yourself before you know someone else,” Suarez said.

Prepared by public relations intern Brandon Romagnoli