Our once tiny department of Human Performance, Dance, and Recreation in New Mexico State University’s College of Education is not so little anymore. With more than 500 majors in fields such as kinesiology, physical education, dance and athletic training, our department is quickly gaining a reputation for its strong academic preparation of students moving into a variety of careers, but equally compelling are the areas of research that are gaining national and international interest.
Leading our charge is internationally recognized scholar Kim Oliver. Oliver, a professor of physical education, is recognized worldwide as one of the top scholars of her generation. Her work in the area of student-centered and inquiry-based curriculum has gathered so much praise that in just the last year alone, she has delivered keynotes and invited workshops throughout England, New Zealand and Sweden. She also has recently been granted faculty status at the University of Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom so she can assist in guiding graduate students through their dissertation work. Not only are other countries bringing Oliver to their institution, they also are sending students to her. Currently, she is hosting a Korean national as a visiting scholar and is serving as co-chair of a dissertation committee for a student at the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil; a student who has regularly been traveling to the U.S. to meet with Oliver for guidance on her research.
Also of great national and international interest is the work the department has been doing with regard to falls prevention. David Keeley, Jennifer Fabre and I have been spearheading efforts in this area, which has not only gathered a lot of local attention, but on the international level this work has resulted in the team being invited to collaborate with scholars and students at the University of Rio de Janiero.
The team also has recently been asked to support the research training of medical residents at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center in Phoenix, one of the world’s largest Parkinson’s treatment facilities with more than 1,500 patient referrals per year. Of course, we also need to acknowledge the contributions of other departments such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, anthropology and public health sciences, as well as industry partners, Life Support Medical and Molina Healthcare, for much of our success.
Other international projects include work from the dance and athletic training faculty. Based on her work in multiple intelligences, Debra Knapp, a dance professor, has been developing curricular materials for schools in China to engage their students in human movement, and thereby facilitate the development of the “whole child.” Mikaela Boham, an athletic training assistant professor, has been working with faculty at the University of Calgary in the area of concussion research.
On a national level, Joseph Berning and Phillip Post have created productive research networks across several states with respect to their interests in the areas of physiology and motor learning. Assistant Professor Hannah Cole has, in just two short years, brought great national visibility to our Dance program as a result of multiple national level awards.
We are so fortunate to have an incredibly talented and dynamic group of faculty members. The national and international collaborations that we are developing underscore the importance of the work we are doing and the promise that our talented young faculty bring to New Mexico. We view the interest in our work as good news; that there is growing interest in the importance of physical activity across the lifespan and the many ways in which physical activity optimizes quality of life.
Bob Wood is department head for the NMSU Human Performance, Recreation and Dance Department.