GW’s exercise science program became the third department of its kind in the country when it received full departmental status in late March. A program becomes a department once it has distinguished itself academically within its school, officials said.
“The elevation of a program to departmental status is an action that is not taken lightly,” said Richard F. Southby, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Services. “The program must have achieved a record of academic accomplishment, established itself as a center for teaching, research and service and achieved an academic identity within the school.”
Although the elevation to department status will not result in major physical alterations to exercise science, it gives the program distinction and increases its notability.
“Becoming a department means more visibility … it’s easy to get buried in the system. It means we have more power in operation,” said Donald C. Paup, the new exercise science department chair.
“Budgetary-wise, not that much will change,” said Paup, noting few alterations. “Applications are in for a couple new faculty members, and we’ve increased financial aid for graduate students to make the programs more attractive, but other than that, the budget won’t really change.”
Exercise science had departmental status for a short period of time between 1990 and 1995 as the department of exercise science and tourism studies. It went back to being a program after it moved into the SPHHS from the School of Education, which became exclusively for graduate studies.
The SPHHS initiated a review process about a year ago that focused on the creation of a department, development of a business plan and funding. The exercise science faculty requested the review.
The program currently includes 132 undergraduate students and about 40 graduate students.
It offers degrees in exercise science and athletic training. Courses available involve the study of human health, drug awareness, building and administrating fitness programs, as well as exercise and sports activities classes, such as squash, gymnastics and swimming.
While comparatively smaller than other majors at GW, exercise science consists of courses widely taken by students across the University.
There are currently seven full-time faculty and about forty adjunct professors teaching in the department.
“(We) think that this elevation to departmental status can only help us, not just in terms of our student base, but in (terms of) our ability to attract external funding and maintain the highest possible standards relative to national accrediting bodies,” exercise science professor Patricia Sullivan said.
Paup said he expects admissions to the major to increase slightly because of the change.
“We’d like to get more (students) into the program as freshmen,” Paup said. “Most transfer from one of the other schools.”
Paup noted that the switch to department status is especially exciting because there are only two other universities in the country with exercise science departments, one at South Carolina University and the other at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Joseph Hammill, chair of the Department of Exercise Science at U-Mass Amherst said he is “delighted” about the created of the new department.
“I feel that the programs of study in departments of Exercise Science offer much to the scientific community and to the students. I will follow the development of the program at GW with much interest,” Hammill said.
“The department and its distinguished faculty will serve to exemplify the important role nutrition, fitness, and sports medicine have in the health of the public,” Southby commented. “I am confident the dedicated faculty and staff of our newest department will enable the school to (achieve) new levels of excellence in all we do.”