What is your field of study?
Primarily, I study physical activity promotion and obesity prevention in children and adolescents.
What drew you to this field?
While I was completing my master’s degree in kinesiology at UMass Amherst, I was the project coordinator on a research study that was looking at physical activity, among other things, in school children from first grade through twelfth grade in the Amherst area. And the research bug bit me. The co-investigator on this project was at the University of South Carolina, where I ended up getting my PhD. Getting involved with research early on really helped me continue my interest in this field.
What do you see as the potential value of your work/research?
Our bodies were designed to move and we have started taking movement out of our daily lives. We have taken physical activity out of our kids’ lives and that is having an impact on their health. Childhood obesity, which in of itself is a problem, can also lead to a range of chronic disease earlier in life. This translates into more problems later as these children get older. I take a public health approach and focus on the prevention of excess weight gain and prevent the decline in physical activity for children. The resulting health implications are important, but so are the financial ramifications of a population of unhealthy children, with the rising cost of health and insurance. The healthier people we have the better off we are going to be.
What drew you to UMass Amherst?
After traveling a lot during my education and previous faculty positions, I really did not want to move again unless a position came up at UMass Amherst. My wife and I both went here for our undergraduate degrees, so coming here was about getting back to family. In addition, the department of kinesiology here is so well respected. Being a part of the Commonwealth Honors College was also very appealing to me. I feel so honored to be here and to be a part of the Honors College.
What honors courses are you teaching?
I teach an honors section of Kinesiology 110- Human Performance and Nutrition. This course is a sport and exercise nutrition class for non-major, first year and sophomore students. Next year, I will teach another honors kinesiology course that will include a community engagement aspect. I hope to be able to travel to local communities to do research and assessments.
What does honors teaching mean to you and how is it different?
Having a small class of these students challenges me to come up with new ways of teaching the course material. I want to get out of the traditional methods of teaching by breaking away from lecture-based teaching and instead, giving an active lecture. I do this with some simple lab exercises that we do right in the classroom to provide real examples to better understand the material.