Communication & Media for Wellness & Exercise Program Statement

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I have chosen to pursue a degree in Communication & Media for Wellness & Exercise. The program I have outlined is very heavily science-based, with communication courses and photography in it as well. I have a passion for wellness and exercise, and even more so a passion for sharing that with people. Unfortunately, in today’s world, there are too many people who genuinely don’t understand wellness and exercise; I want to share my knowledge with the world to change peoples lives for the better. I chose to make the program more science-based because I feel that having a deep understanding of the human body, wellness, and exercise would make me a very credible source. While my communication and photography classes are important, those are skills that will be built and made better over time, whereas the science involves a lot more studying. I wanted to but these disciplines together instead of just studying either exercise science or communication and media studies. With just exercise science, I wouldn’t have gotten the communication and media studies skills, and with just communication and media studies, I wouldn’t have gotten the scientific knowledge I need. It is a unique combination because of this incorporation of communication and science. Often times experts in a scientific field aren’t taught how to communicate what they know to people who don’t really understand what they’re talking about, the terms they’re using, etc. This combination allows me to learn an immense amount of exercise science and wellness as well as how to communicate it to people who don’t really understand it.

I chose to take Intro to Media & Cultural Studies not only because it is a pre-requisite for other communications courses, but because it is a great way to not only learn about media (a field I will be involved with for my career), and how to reach a variety of audiences. You learn about communication with different cultures and people, which is very important for a successful communication/media career. Communication, Media, and Wellness is quite obviously extremely relevant to my major, in fact, the titles are almost the same. This basically is a course surrounding my major and what I am studying. It is an introduction to exactly what I’m pursuing. Social Media Audience Engagement is a key skill in today’s world for marketing yourself, and for getting your work out in the world for people to see. I will learn skills to do this and to successfully get my work looked at. It will allow me to reach a large audience. Technical Communication is an important class recommended to me by my advisor. It gets into the specifics of communication and builds a lot of skill in that regard. It allows for a deeper understanding of communication. Communication Theory is a course I chose to put in my major because it is key for understanding how to communicate with an audience to change their behavior. I hope to one-day influence more people to adopt an active and healthy lifestyle, so understanding this is key to my success. Organizational Communications is a course that teaches all about effective and efficient writing and speaking. This is a skill-building course for what I would like to do as a career and is an important introduction to communications.

For my QRCO, I chose the class called Measurement and Assessment in Physical Education. I felt that this was relevant because an important part of making a change to health and wellness is being able to assess and interpret someone’s fitness levels, explain it to them, what it means, and what they should do. Human Anatomy & Physiology I was an extremely important class for understanding and learning just about everything about the human body. I learned an incomprehensible amount about our bodies which is key information for other courses that follow. Human Anatomy & Physiology II was again, packed full of information. This class mostly focused on the physiology of our bodies, which is even more important to understand how we work. This class set me up for success in exercise/wellness courses. Human A&P Laboratory I was a hands-on way to learn about information from A&P I. As someone who is a hands-on learner, it helped me to better understand what I was learning in the lecture. Human A&P Laboratory II was again, a hands-on way to learn the information from A&P II. I could see, feel, and experiment more with what I was learning in the lecture, so it took that information a step further. Applied Nutrition for Healthy Living is a key course for the wellness aspect of my major. It is undeniable that nutrition is a vital part of wellness, so learning about this is 100% necessary for me to teach anyone about wellness. Flex, Core & Balance Training not only taught me about how to improve these skills, but I also learned how to communicate and teach people who don’t really understand how exercise works. This is a key idea of my major; I need to be able to communicate with and teach people who don’t understand. Functional Anatomy was all about how the human body moves. This is a key concept for exercise science, so it is something I need to understand to be able to communicate about exercise. Another class in my contract is Intro to Exercise Science. This class is important because it was an overview of exercise science, which I need to understand for my career. It went deeper than just “how to work out”, it was about the science behind it and why things are the way they are. It was a great introduction and set up for other exercise science courses. Resistance Training Techniques, similar to Flex, Core & Balance Training, taught me about weight training, as well as how to teach it. I learned a lot about explaining a type of exercise that is extremely helpful to health, but is also very misunderstood. It is something that is very important for me to be able to explain and communicate about to others. Kinesiology was similar to functional anatomy, but took it a step further with physics. I learned a lot more about the deeper science behind it, which is important to make me a credible source and to help me fully understand exercise and movement. Physiology of Exercise was all about how our bodies respond towards exercise, which is key to understanding exercise, and understanding how we react towards it. This was a key exercise science course toward my major because I learned about different types of exercise on a very deep level. My Physiology of Exercise Laboratory course was a hands-on way to learn about the concepts of Physiology of Exercise. I was able to do testing, data collection, and interpretation. Because science is always changing, these skills will be key to my career for the ability to be continually credible.

This program is quite clearly interdisciplinary. I am taking exercise science and wellness, and combining it with communications and media, which are two very different disciplines. These are two very separate fields, and a lot of people who study either one don’t get much knowledge of the other. Interestingly enough, the only time you really see these together is once you’re in the working world. These disciplines are rarely combined in education. This program is going to prepare me for a career of creating content about wellness and exercise. With my extensive knowledge of exercise science and continually growing communication skills, I will be able to get messages across about wellness and exercise that people without a science background will be able to understand and use to better themselves.

UPDATE 01/23/2019:

A lot has changed for me since last spring. As I learn, grow, and take in all kinds of new experiences, what I want to pursue for my future changes as well. In my earlier years of college, I was obsessed with learning all about diet and exercise. I thought these were the the only two components of health. Over time and through a long process of self-discovery, I have found the importance of other aspects of wellness. As I struggled through personal battle after battle, I discovered that maybe working out and eating salad every day wasn’t the key to my wellness and happiness.

I have fallen in love with the world of holistic wellness, spirituality, and energy healing. I’ve started to meditate every day, do yoga, and focus on my spirituality and relationship with the universe. While these aren’t the kinds of things that are typically taught in universities, I am working on changing my IDS program to include them. I recently discovered Plymouth State’s “Personal Approaches to Transformation and Healing” program. It is a post-graduate program that can be included as part of a masters or done just for the certificate. I immediately started trying to find a way to get these courses into my IDS major (I’m still waiting to hear back from course instructors). I read the course descriptions and was immediately ecstatic. It was like the program was built for me. It’s EXACTLY what I want to pursue, and it’s been right there all along, I just had to do some searching. I went from counting down the days ’til graduation, to looking at houses for next fall so I can pursue this certificate program. While I’m grateful for my knowledge in exercise science and such aspects of health, what I’m pursuing now is so much more fulfilling to me. 

One thing, however, hasn’t changed about what I want to get out of my interdisciplinary degree. I still want to share what I know with people, and I want to change the lives of others for the better. I want to take my experiences and my struggles and use them to guide others in living a well-rounded, healthy and happy life… in all aspects. I always liked exercise and such, but I’ve never been excited about it like I am with spiritual and holistic health. I know many people consider it “weird” or “taboo”, I mean even my own family thinks I’m crazy because I meditate with a crystal on my forehead, cleanse my room with a sage ritual, and read about reiki healing. Luckily, I’ve grown confident enough to tune that energy out and continue to share what I’ve grown to love with others. I do this because I believe it can help people. I want to be a mentor, a teacher, and a friend to people who are a little lost in life, because if they can find their path, they can be the best version of themselves. I truly believe that if more and more individuals are becoming the best version of themselves, the world can change for the better. I want to facilitate that growth and I feel like it is my calling.  It’s like I finally found my “thing” after all these years of searching, and now all I want to do is learn and share everything I can. 

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Interview with Liz Littell- HHP Professor and Fitness Expert

When thinking about who I would like to interview to ask about interdisciplinary work, Liz Littell immediately came to mind. Liz is a professor in the Health and Human Performance department here at Plymouth State University, as well as a personal trainer, class instructor, and manager at The Fitness Edge in Meredith NH. I’ve had the pleasure of taking multiple classes with her, and I knew it would be great to talk to her about interdisciplinary work because she is constantly working with people in her field (fitness) who don’t actually know much at all about fitness. While her focus is on fitness, Liz is involved with business and communications as well. Because of the major I am pursuing (communication & media for wellness & exercise), I take a lot of interest in this and wanted to hear from someone with years of experience about her work.

To begin with, I asked Liz what she does at Plymouth State. She is a professor of three classes in the Health and Human Performance (HHP) department. She teaches physical fitness training for law enforcement, resistance training techniques, and flex/core/balance training. I then asked her what she does for work outside of Plymouth, and she told me that she is a group instructor at a gym (The Fitness Edge), she is a personal trainer, and she also is a manager at the gym. I then asked her about the kinds of people she works with. At PSU, she works almost exclusively with students (almost all of them in the HHP department) and doesn’t really have much interaction with other professors. She does, however, have someone in the office who is there for assistance if she needs, and has a liaison in the HHP department. However, at The Fitness Edge, there is quite a variety of people she works with. She works with people of all ages; from children to elder people upwards of 80 years old. She has worked with someone recovering from an avalanche accident who had to completely relearn how to use all his muscles, she is currently training a future air force member, she has worked with cancer patients, people with Parkinson’s disease, she has trained people for athletic events such as marathons and spartan races, she has helped people with goals of both weight loss and weight gain, and trains a lot of people recovering from injuries. Clearly, Liz has worked with basically every type of person imaginable.

When asking Liz what it is like to work with people who are educated about exercise and health compared to working with people who aren’t educated in that department, she replied by telling me it is “like night and day”. At Plymouth, since most of her students are HHP students, they generally know what she is talking about and have some background knowledge of fitness, exercise, and the human body. At The Fitness Edge, however, a majority of the people she works with are very unknowledgeable about these things. She said, “I might be talking about the glutes, and they might very well think I’m talking about their arms”. With these kinds of people, she cannot use technical and specific terms. This is a very important lesson she incorporates into her classes at Plymouth. She teaches how to deal with the public population instead of professionals or peers. She focuses in her classes on working with people who probably don’t understand much (if anything) about exercise. She reminds students to “remember who the target audience is”, because after graduation day, chances are these students might not always be working with exercise scientists or fitness experts.

I was intrigued by this, so I then asked her about methods she uses when teaching and explaining to people who don’t understand what she does. She said it is helpful to know their interests and what they do, then make analogies based on what they know. An example she provided was a client of hers who is an architect. She said he doesn’t know his muscles at all, but knows a lot about building and architecture. For this client, she explains how you want a solid foundation for both the body, just like you would for a building. From here, she can more easily explain the importance of the core, and building strength throughout the body from there. Another tip she provided was to figure out if the person understands something more visual or tactile. Someone who is a visual learner will learn better from watching her and looking at their form in the mirror, while as someone who is a tactile learner will perform better in a hands-on way.

I then wanted to delve into learning about working and collaborating with co-workers at The Fitness Edge. She said at times it can be difficult to work with people at the gym who don’t really understand fitness. For example, if a member tries to go to them for help, it can actually be counter-productive because they might not know what they’re talking about. She said it’s a better idea if they come to someone like her. Additionally, she has to watch for members talking to each other and giving each other poor advice, and from there has to decide if she should step in, because poor advice in regards to exercise can be quite dangerous and can put people at risk for injury. On the other hand, she has to work closely with the owner of the gym, who doesn’t have much of an exercise science background but is all business and numbers. She said “finance is his expertise and it is vitally important. His work is key to the success of the gym, her work is key to the success of members, and her managerial role is important for “keeping the peace”. If you don’t have one or the other, things would never work the way they do. Although they have knowledge of different disciplines, working together is extremely important at The Fitness Edge.

Liz talked to me about her education, and told me that she has a communications degree from UNH, as well as a minor in business. She also used to do accounting work, which in combination with her education has led her to be successful with her managerial duties such as payroll and keeping members happy. She has been active her whole life and has a passion for fitness and exercise, which is what lead her to where she is today. She started as an instructor and trainer because it is what she loves, but she said: “I never thought I’d be managing or be a professor”. Overall, she said she never thought she’d be using her education and previous experience in combination with her passion to have the career she does today.

My next question for Liz was “what is another discipline outside of fitness that you deal with the most?” and she proceeded to tell me about her job here at Plymouth with education. She never studied education, but knows about communication and fitness. She had to learn as she went how to create lesson plans, tests, assignments, how to figure out moodle, so on and so forth.

I then decided to ask Liz what classes from other disciplines she would recommend that HHP students take. She was very sure in her answer, telling me “communications, public speaking, business, and marketing”. She said this knowledge is extremely helpful to success in this sort of career. You want to have an understanding of how a business runs, you have to be able to market yourself as well as exercise and health, and she said “you have to know how to talk to people, it is not going to be like working with your peers and you have to be prepared for that”. Overall I got the understanding that communications is a key discipline to understand in the fitness world.

Last but not least, I asked Liz what advice she would give HHP students vs. non-HHP students. Her answer “my advice wouldn’t be any different. She said that students should find what they are passionate about and pursue that, but shouldn’t forget to be well-rounded. She said to try other things and learn about other things too. She said to be able to communicate with others well, and overall, to make sure you love what you do.

It was an absolute pleasure to talk with Liz and learn more about her work. She has a true passion for what she does, and feels fortunate that her jobs have a lot of variety and she never gets bored. The information she provided me with is information that will be very useful to me throughout the rest of my studies and my future career. Overall I think all college students could benefit from her advice and should keep in mind the importance of working with disciplines other than their own.

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Working for Myself… Not an A

CC by 2.0 Corey Leopold
I can’t even begin to count all the times I have gotten A’s on papers with no passion, no interest, and little to no thought behind them. Our education system relies on structured and specific classes that force students to listen, take notes, and regurgitate information however, the professor would like them to. Do that and you’re basically guaranteed an A. However, what does a student get for saying or writing what they really think and sharing it for the world to see? Probably a bad grade, a meeting to discuss why what they did or said was inappropriate, or nothing at all. Gardner Campbell wrote, “Many students simply want to know what their professors want and how to give that to them.” I was 125% that student until recently. Three readings about the relationship and potential between the internet and education made me want to forget about writing for A’s, and instead write what I want and what I genuinely think… all ass kissing aside. (Yes, I just swore in an academic assignment).
As far as my IDS education goes, these readings reminded me that what I am doing and what I am pursuing is individual. I don’t fit into a cookie-cutter mold, and neither should my education. I’m currently in the works of developing my own program of study, so the use of my personal domain throughout the rest of this journey only makes sense. As Andrew Rikard wrote, “It makes sense when students find ownership in what they choose to create, how they put it online, and how it engages a broader audience.” Having a domain is a great way to take all sorts of knowledge from a wide range of classes, and put it together as desired in one place for the world to see. If that isn’t interdisciplinary, then I guess I have no idea what that even means and should probably switch majors now.
One point brought up by Audrey Watters was one I identified with quite a bit. I’m the type of nerd who keeps all of my work from all of my classes every year. I find it very valuable to have and look back on and has come in handy many times. So when I lose access to work or information from previous classes, it is extremely frustrating. This is just one reason why a personal domain for academic work can be so useful. Watters wrote “And then – contrary to what happens at most schools, where a student’s work exists only inside a learning management system and cannot be accessed once the semester is over –the domain and all its content are the student’s to take with them.It is, after all, their education, their intellectual development, their work.”. It really is our work and intellectual property, so we should have complete and full access to this.
Another point brought up in a piece written by Gardner Campbell is that a lot of students don’t actually have too much of an understanding when it comes to controlling technology. We rely on tutorials, step by step instructions, and youtube videos. By creating a personal web domain, we open up an opportunity to grow our understanding the hard (but rewarding) way. If we don’t really understand how to build on our own with technology, it can hold us back. Campbell writes, “For students who have relied on these aids, the freedom to explore and create is the last thing on their minds, so deeply has it been discouraged”. Students who have a genuine understanding of technology and can create with it are given a certain degree of freedom. They can personalize and finesse until they’re happy with their work.
Overall, the assigned readings were very intriguing to me; they took some pent-up feelings of frustration due to a lack of creative license in my academic work and pushed me over the edge. They have made me decide to take control of my own education, to learn, create, and share based on what I think and feel, regardless of what my professor wants to hear. I don’t want to bust my ass for an A anymore, I wanna bust my ass for myself.

Works Cited:

Campbell, Gardner. “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure.” Educause Review. vol. 44, no. 5, 4 September 2009.

Rikard, Andrew. “Do I Own My Domain If You Grade It?” Edsurge. August 2015.

Watters, Audrey. “The Web We Need to Give Students.” Hack Education. 19 October 2015.

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