The Exercise Physiology program at Ohio Northern University has seen numerous changes over the years. In 1998, the program began as the “Wellness” major, enrolling only 10-15 students. Four years later, the program was renamed “Exercise Physiology” and included two concentrations: Personal Training/Corporate Fitness and Clinical/Research. The program stayed the same from 2002 until 2018 when it was revised again. Now, the concentrations have changed to Clinical & Rehabilitation Sciences and Strength & Conditioning/Human Performance. Most recently, a new Strength and Conditioning program has been added.

Currently there are four faculty teaching within the CAAHEP Accredited Exercise Physiology program: Dr. Scott Swanson, Dr. Ed Potkanowicz, Professor Kurt Wilson, and Professor Michelle Wilson. Dr. Scott Swanson is an Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology in the School of Health and Behavioral Sciences and serves as the program coordinator for the Exercise Physiology Program. He has been teaching at ONU for the past 23 years and has witnessed the changes unfold. In the last few years, the Getty College of Arts and Sciences has changed around its departments. Originally the Exercise Physiology program was housed in the Department of Human Performance and Sport Sciences, but has since moved to become a part of the School of Health and Behavioral Sciences with Nursing, Psychology, Medical Laboratory Sciences and Public Health. 

Dr. Swanson claimed that “Exercise Physiology has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years.” Student interest in the program has been on the rise. On average, they are enrolling 65-70 students pursuing majors and 5 students pursuing minors. This year alone the program has brought in 22 students pursuing the major, the largest incoming class in the history of the program. Dr. Swanson added “we are excited to continue this success moving forward!”

One major contributor to the continued success of the program is the renovations that have been done to the lab areas. “We had been working toward requesting a remodeling plan for the labs last spring with hopes some of our requests would be granted. Given the craziness of the spring semester, along with all the financial pressures the University was facing, we were doubtful anything was going to be approved this year.” One evening in May the department received an urgent request from Dean Holly Baumgartner. “Normally a late request from the Dean to talk to all the Faculty in the evening is not a good thing, so we were all wondering what bad news we were about to hear. Luckily, she had happy news that our renovation request had been approved and that we needed to start working on the request soon. We were all shocked, surprised and extremely happy. It’s not often that the University makes such an important investment in facilities, lab and classroom space and a program.” Dr. Swanson and the others in the department have been working over the past few months to make this renovation a reality. “It has taken a lot of time and effort by our faculty, along with a lot of wheeling and dealing to maximize the funds we were given.”

The renovations have taken place in three spaces. First, the “two clinical areas were renovated to better serve student experiences related to rehabilitation, athletic training and injury prevention. Most of these renovations were cosmetic with new paint and room renovations.” 

The second part of the renovations “involved converting an existing racquetball/athletic area into a new lab and classroom space for the new Strength & Conditioning  program.” New paint, dropped ceilings, and premier weightlifting equipment and technology were added to upgrade the space. The front half of the room serves as a classroom area while the back half of the room acts as a lab space. “Kurt Wilson has purchased equipment that is state-of-the-art and is used directly in classes and labs. We now have the ability to measure multiple strength, power and velocity measurements for strength & conditioning.” Kurt is also working with several ONU alumni to receive more donations to further improve the lab. “We love our graduates, especially when they remember the education they received at ONU and give back to the program!”

The third part of the renovations involved the main laboratory area for Exercise Physiology. “This room received major internal and external renovations. Outside the lab, a water mitigation issue was remedied with a new water barrier and draining.  Inside a new HVAC heating and cooling system was installed to ensure the room maintains a comfortable environment. In addition, a sink with new water lines was run to ensure we have access to water for equipment and cleaning.” In regards to making the room more appealing, a new coat of paint with an accent wall was added, the old carpet was replaced with all new vinyl tile, and new lighting was installed. Further, “new glass entry doors were added so we can show off the space. It really is a showcase space now.”

“We have a lot of equipment and really have the capability to perform any common (and some unique) exercise physiology assessments.” Some of the equipment included in this lab space:

  • Body Composition Equipment
    • BOD POD
    • Underwater Weighing
    • Skinfold Calipers
    • Bioelectrical Impedance
  • 4 Cycle Ergometers
  • 2 Stress Testing Systems with Treadmills and ECGs
  • Metabolic Cart 
    • Measures aerobic capacity (VO2 testing), energy expenditure, and fuel utilization
  • Flexibility Devices
    • Sit-and-Reach Boxes
    • Goniometers
    • Inclinometers
  • Blood Pressure Cuffs and Stethoscopes
  • Lactate Analyzers

According to Dr. Swanson, “pretty much anything you want assessed and measured that is exercise physiology related, we got you covered.” Not to mention they are currently in the process of ordering even more fancy technology, including a new metabolic cart, an electronically braked bike, and other small assessment equipment.  

So far Dr. Swanson and the Exercise Physiology department “are all proud of the renovations and the transformation of the spaces. Now our facilities match the performance of the program. We hope the returning students appreciate the new renovated spaces and we hope the new freshmen will appreciate the upgrades.” However, the remodeling process is far from over and will continue over break. Exercise Physiology has always been housed within King Horn, but sometimes got lost in the importance of athletics in this building. Because of this, the hallway and area housing the Exercise Physiology program will be reinvented and differentiated. Following the semester break, students can expect some new paint, designs and graphics to transform the academic area so everyone knows where Exercise Physiology is located in King Horn. 

To summarize, Dr. Swanson stated “I hope everyone in the major and all our current and incoming students enjoy the changes to the learning environment and take full advantage of all the opportunities the renovations allow. We are excited to have new inviting spaces for learning. But we aren’t done yet – there are more changes to come!”

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