Making exercise a science

Microbiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, nutrition, physiology, chemistry

exercise science students

Shown with Professor Tom Dann are senior exercise science majors (left to right): Deidre Tetreault, Michelle Sanborn, Renee Cyr, Jaime Daugherty, Marcus Alexander, Colleen Delahanty, Bill Vital, Amanda Roy and Joseph Schacht.

Ever since Career Day at her high school in Bar Harbor, Maine, Jaime Daugherty '07 knew she wanted to be a physical therapist. "This career had everything I wanted," she says. Her first step in that dream is a bachelor's degree in Exercise Science, which Saint Joseph's College will award to her and 10 other students in May.

Launched in 2003, the B.S. in Exercise Science was initially a program within the Physical Education major. But professors Tom Dann and Dr. Sue Kelly, chair of the physical education department, saw the need to expand it into a specialized course of study with a more intense, science-based curriculum, especially for those interested in pursuing a career as a physical therapist.

"The field has changed, and there's a high value in this education. It specifically prepares one for graduate study," Dann says. "It is a very heavy science-based curriculum, involving real research. It's not just fun and games."

Surrounded in his office by numerous plaques and trophies from the cross country team he coaches, he is equally proud of the exercise science program's certification of recognition from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, an educational distinction held by only 70 colleges nationally.

The exercise science major has two distinct, yet similar, tracks. The fitness leader track, with a focus on health and wellness, is designed primarily for students planning to pursue a career in personal training, coaching, and strength and conditioning. Joseph Schacht '07 of Hermon, Maine, is learning firsthand the ins and outs of this major. A St. Joe's basketball player for three years, Schacht has a passion for athletics. "This major gives me a way to pursue athletics by helping other athletes, and also by helping the average person who wants to benefit from fitness," he says.

Joey Schacht

Joe Schacht serves as a personal trainer at the Alfond Center for the son of a faculty member who is trying to improve strength, balance and flexibility.

Two summers ago, an internship at Union Station Fitness Health Club allowed him to work with 30 clients as their personal trainer. This past year he worked there again, but was required to build his own client base, which he did successfully. "It's been difficult at times, but a great learning experience. It's important to make each client feel as though they are your only client. They must know you're there for them, and that's how you build your business: one person at a time."

Similar to other exercise science students, Schacht has also extended his "customer base" to include faculty and staff at Saint Joseph's. Initially, students start to help people get fit as part of course work requirements, but many continue to volunteer in order to gain more experience. Eventually, Dann hopes to have his exercise science students regularly staff the fitness center, offering advice for the campus community and alumni.

Joey Schacht

After graduation, Schacht plans on continuing his work as a personal trainer, and to look for opportunities within sports and athletics as a strength and conditioning coach. "It's been really good to be part of this program, and Coach Dann has been a big help. He's really helped us achieve our results."

Jaime Daugherty

Jaime Daugherty works with patients and learns from the staff at Saco Bay Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy while completing her internship there.

The exercise specialist track of the exercise science major has slightly more emphasis on science and math, and is well-suited for students like Daugherty or Colleen Delahanty '07, who plan on becoming physical therapists. After their upcoming graduation, Daugherty and Delahanty, of Warren, Maine, plan on pursuing graduate studies in physical therapy, and both have applied to University of New England. Eventually they expect to earn a doctorate in physical therapy, which is becoming an industry-wide norm for the profession.

Jaime Daugherty

When asked why she chose this particular major, Delahanty responded that she has a cousin with spina bifida and recognized at an early age how important physical therapy was for him. "I wanted a job where I could help others. My mom's a nurse, so doing something like this - that's health-related - was just natural for me." Her internships have included working with children with cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome and other challenges at a nearby school system, Penobscot Bay Medical Center, and the pool in the Alfond Recreation Center on campus.

Daugherty's internships experiences have also prepared her for the real world. "My work at Saco Bay Orthopedic and Physical Therapy allowed me to experience the whole job, not just putting ice packs on people!" She also remembers fondly working with two children with autism. "These kids were amazing. It was such a great learning experience. This (major) was the greatest choice I could have made. It all worked."

Just like she thought it would on Career Day.