Faculty Senate approves public health major

Image by Bailey Horlander.

A new exercise science major dedicated to public health will be added to the fall 2017 catalog. With the new major's recent approval from Faculty Senate, a two-year development process is close to its end.

Director of Exercise Science Chris Todden said the addition of a public health major to the existing exercise science program has been a goal for several years, and he is excited at the opportunities it will provide.

Martha Harris, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the university has students who have an interest in a combination of majors and a post-graduate goal of working for a nonprofit or an organization that benefits or works directly with public health issues.

Whereas exercise science majors are now more focused on the work between one or two people, or a group of healthy people, public health is more geared toward larger arenas with larger and more complex implications and decisions.

“When we get to the public health side, we are talking about impacting masses of people, entire communities,” Todden said.

Harris said the current exercise science programs tends to be focused on preparing students for physical therapy and graduate programs.

She said the public health focus is not so much on pre-med preparation as it is on meeting the social missions students may be interested in, such as community wellness or working in disadvantaged areas.

Todden said the public health major will be strongly associated and linked to the social sciences, specifically sociology.

He said that although the exercise science faculty members can teach and provide students with the health side of the major, they cannot provide the social science dimension.

Students who choose to switch or begin the track toward the public health major will choose one of three concentrations associated with public health.

Harris said these three concentrations will be physical activity, health communication and literacy, and sociology and cultural competency.

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