Two initiatives in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation mean greater opportunities for students and better preparation for their careers. This fall, the department began offering a new concentration for its physical education degree – Personal and Commercial Fitness. And, department personnel recently signed articulation agreements with the University of Nebraska Omaha and Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri for early review processes for Missouri Western students who plan to pursue an advanced degree.

New concentration
Dr. Justin Kraft, associate professor and department chair, said the new concentration was created with their graduates’ careers in mind. For those who are interested in being a fitness professional, such as a personal trainer or working in corporate wellness, the concentration allows for more targeted content because it offers courses in management, marketing, and sales; “all essential skills within the fitness industry,” Dr. Kraft said.

Dr. Kraft said he wasn’t in the department very long when a recent graduate in the exercise science program told him that he was well prepared for the exercise aspect of his career, but he wished he had some background in marketing and communication, and Dr. Kraft has never forgotten that.

“Personal trainers need to market themselves; they are basically managing their own business, and they need business skills. Now students will learn the managerial skills they need to be successful.”

He said the concentration was also designed to make it easy to pair with a minor in Recreation/Sport Management, General Business or Entrepreneurship. When students complete the courses they need for the concentration, Dr. Kraft said they would be halfway to one of those minors, which will “further enhance their skills and employability,” he said.

Dr. Kraft noted that the new concentration will also open up new avenues for careers in sales for medical or exercise equipment.

Articulation agreements
The department’s articulation agreements with two universities are also a great benefit to students, Dr. Kraft said. Qualified students who plan to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Rockhurst University or a Master of Arts in Athletic Training from University of Nebraska Omaha now will know a lot earlier if they are accepted into those programs. The two universities will also hold a minimum of two class seats each year for Missouri Western students.

“This gives students a level of certainty early in their senior year,” he said.

Along with the agreements, the department also changed its curriculum for students in the health and exercise science program. Prerequisites for getting into a graduate program for physical or occupational therapy are now built into the program as electives.

“We see a lot of students who are interested in these graduate programs,” Dr. Kraft said. “These agreements give them a clear path to that, and they know what they need to do. We’ve cleared the hurdles.”