Why Health and Human Performance?

The United States faces significant challenges regarding the health of its population as a result of inactivity, poor nutrition, and sedentary work environments.  This challenge is being met by the graduates of the Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP) by providing students with up-to-date knowledge in the areas of wellness, exercise, and healthy living choices.  The department’s programs in exercise science, health promotion,  public health studies, and physical/health education teaching prepare graduates to help both individuals and communities improve health.  The five majors in the department are:

The exercise science major is designed for students interested in a variety of professional graduate programs such as physical therapy, chiropractic, physician assistant, nursing, biomechanics, exercise physiology, athletic training, and other health-related fields.

The health promotion major prepares students for work in corporate health promotion programs, state agencies, health clubs or occupational therapy.

The physical education teaching major leads to licensure at both the elementary and secondary school levels.

The health education teaching major leads to licensure as a health education teacher at the middle and secondary school levels.

The public health studies major prepares students for work in areas such as mental and emotional health services; alcohol, tobacco and drug control and rehabilitation; nutrition, fitness, sexual health and general wellness; disease control; and other areas related to communicating, educating and offering resources to promote community health.

What are recent graduates doing now?

Katie Gallagher, '11, was published shortly after graduation in an environmental journal and completed a major and two minors in 4 years. She worked for a year managing a learning center while applying to graduate school programs and is attending the University of Madison for a MS in Genetic Counseling. Katie says: "I am so grateful to St. Thomas for teaching me leadership and research, and giving me a well-rounded education." 
Robb Poutre, '12  "The traditional path for a student who intends to go to medical school is usually a major in biology or biochemistry.  While these areas are important, I feel that majoring in exercise science will suit me better, and someday allow me to fulfill my potential as a physician. The depth of knowledge about the human body and the science involved with its function is what being a physician is all about, and I could not think of a more appropriate major at UST than the one I chose."

Here is a small sample of employers of recent graduates:

  • Courage Center
  • HealthSource
  • St. Anthony Orthopedic Clinic
  • Staywell, a health promotion management company
  • The Chicago Blackhawks hockey team
  • The Institute for Athletic Medicine

Learning opportunities outside of the classroom:

Internships. Our majors find internships at large corporations, community-based organizations and nonprofits. Students have interned at health clubs, small businesses and physical therapy clinics. Physical therapy students work in a clinical setting, while health students work for vendors of services or in-house wellness programs of companies. Here is a small sample of companies that have worked with our students:

  • Courage Center
  • Fairview Ridges Rehabilitation Center
  • HealthSource
  • Illinois Bone and Joint Rehabilitation Center
  • Institute for Athletic Medicine
  • NovaCare Physical Therapy Clinic
  • Regions Hospital In-patient Physical Therapy Clinic
  • Washington County Public Health Department

Study abroad. Our students travel to Norway and Sweden to examine factors that play a role in Scandinavians valuing and adopting a physically active lifestyle throughout their life. They learn about Scandinavian well-being, a holistic concept that embraces many aspects of a person’s lifespan such as enjoying exercising outdoors, living green, consuming a nutritional diet, and making time for stress reduction as they travel from Oslo, Norway to Idre, Sweden with stays in Lillehammer, Geilo, Voss, and Bergen.

Faculty research, presentations, publications, etc.

The department faculty is dedicated to outstanding teaching, mentorship, intellectual inquiry, research and service to the community and the profession. Faculty research includes the effects of exercise on reading, death and dying, the kinematics of cross-country skiing, throwing biomechanics and the effect of feedback on improving performance. Research is also being done on teaching and coaching strategies for high school physical educators and strategies to encourage children to be more active.

Students have the opportunity to pursue research in their interest areas under the guidance of a faculty member as part of required coursework. Students disseminate their research findings at a presentation to faculty and peers and are encouraged to submit abstracts and present posters at regional and national professional meetings.

What jobs are possible within the Health and Human Performance field?

  • Occupational therapist
  • Occupational therapist assistant
  • Physical education teacher
  • Personal trainer
  • Health education teacher
  • Physical therapist
  • College or high school athletic director
  • Community recreation director
  • Health club manager
  • Cardiac rehabilitation specialist
  • Community health educator
  • Pharmaceutical sales rep
  • Wellness coordinator