Ohio State exercise science students and professor giving thumbs up in front of lab door

Columbus high school students visited Ohio State's campus to learn about exercise science career paths, guided by Professor Carmen Swain (center).

During a visit to The Ohio State University’s Columbus campus last Tuesday, Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center 11th and 12th graders learned about how the university’s exercise science major can prepare them for careers in healthcare, sports medicine and other competitive, fast-growing fields.

Ohio State, Columbus State Community College and the Columbus City Schools are part of a JP Morgan Chase Foundation five-year, six-city global career readiness initiative, New Skills for Youth. College of Education and Human Ecology Associate Professor Chris Zirkle hosted the Fort Hayes students as part of the healthcare pathways careers exploration.

The goal of the Columbus New Skills Ready Network portion of the grant, which is managed by Beth Frey, is to raise young people’s awareness of career paths that they may not otherwise be exposed to, said Zirkle.

Ohio State students look on as a student is in an Exercise Science lab uses a Bod Pod
The Fort Hayes students learned about advanced equipment that measures body mass.

“Part of this visit today is to also let kids know what kind of opportunities are here at Ohio State,” said Zirkle, an expert in career and technology education. “We hope this is the first of many visits. We’re focusing on health pathways because it’s a huge need here in the Columbus area.”

The Columbus New Skills Ready Network also includes information technology, and plans are underway to expand the network to other in-demand career fields in the future, Zirkle said.

“We’re going to try to do more with getting high school kids on campus to see what possibilities it produces,” he said.

During Tuesday’s visit, Carmen Swain, an EHE clinical associate professor and director of the exercise science program, gave the Fort Hayes students an overview of the curriculum. The program affords opportunities to undergraduate students to participate in research and put what they learn into practice, she said.

“We have lots of cool classes that do that, like basic systems physiology. We also have the theory of strength and conditioning, where you learn a lot about muscle physiology,” she said. “The second part of that class is you’re actually in the gym, learning to do all these strength-training techniques and lifting techniques.”

Exercise science majors also apply what they learn through internships. Swain, who coordinates the internships, said she encourages students to find opportunities tailored to their long-term goals. 

“The point of an internship is not for me to pick for you where to do your internship. That’s why I love exercise science – people have such varied interests,” she said. “I want you to pick a site that helps you in your next steps. That’s the point of an internship, is to have a practical, hands-on experience.”

Swain led the Fort Hayes students on a tour of the exercise science laboratories in the Physical Education and Activity Services building, where professors and students conduct research.

Seeing the facilities firsthand enabled the high schoolers to understand that Ohio State is accessible, said Vicky Pate, Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center fitness and wellness instructor and an EHE alum.

“That’s what I hope that they take from here, is that they can see themselves here in this program, the excitement of everybody in the program,” she said. “One of the students… talked about how she liked seeing the various age groups down there in the lab, so it’s not just all college kids. They’re just reaching out to everybody.”

Two exercise science majors  ̶  Preston Nutwell, a third-year, and Jean-Pierre Khouzam, a fourth-year and member of the Ohio State Buckeyes swim team  ̶  demonstrated research they conducted in the labs and spoke to the Fort Hayes students about their experiences.

Nutwell and Khouzam are representative of students who are gaining practical experience in the careers they plan to pursue, Swain said.

“They don’t just get to read about it, they get to learn how to do it,” she said. “And I think that’s the real magic of our degree.”

For more information about the exercise science major, visit the program’s website.

Ohio State student using machine to measure stretching ability
Professor Carmen Swain guides a Fort Hayes student through a stretching exercise.

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