Kinesiology is the study of human movement.
Until 2003, the program, which is part of URI’s College of Human Science and Services, had maintained a steady enrollment of about 350 students, half of whom were studying to become physical education teachers. This year nearly 500 students are enrolled in the program, and the majority are studying exercise science and health fitness.
“Exercise science students take many courses in the basic sciences, and that becomes a springboard to a wide range of careers,” said Deb Riebe, chair of the URI Department of Kinesiology. “These students end up working as exercise physiologists in cardiac rehabilitation, as physicians assistants, in physical therapy and occupational therapy, and many other allied health fields.”
Students with a focus on health fitness go to work on the prevention side of the field in corporate fitness facilities, personal training and with aging populations.
URI isn’t the only university experiencing an increase in students studying kinesiology. According to Linda Lamont, the graduate coordinator for the Department of Kinesiology, it’s a national trend.
“There is a huge increase in awareness about the importance of exercise and its effects on human health,” she said. “And for students looking for health careers, this is a great entryway into the field.”
The URI program changed its name in 2004 – it was formerly the Department of Physical Education and Exercise Science – to keep up with current terminology in the field and to convey the broadness of the discipline.
Enrollment in the program’s physical education focus, which leads students to teaching jobs in primary and secondary schools, remains stable. Riebe said the physical education curriculum has shifted in recent years from a sports model to a lifetime wellness model, which has helped to sustain enrollment despite a declining emphasis on physical education in some school systems.
Another reason for the tremendous growth of URI’s kinesiology department is that it is the only exercise science program at a university or college in Rhode Island and the only program in the state that offers a master’s degree in kinesiology.
“We’re also small enough to provide individualized attention,” Lamont said. “We still provide that personal touch.”
URI kinesiology students Brooke Currier, Katie Mahoney and Rachel Seidman.