“Students need a voice.” Interview with Zachary Pope, Kinesiology Student Council president

Can you tell us a little about the background and history of the Kinesiology Student Council?

The impetus for the Kinesiology Student Council was KIN 8980 Graduate Research Seminar in Spring 2015. Specifically, Dr. Maureen Weiss remarked that the School of Kinesiology had previously had a graduate committee akin to our current Council, but that this committee had since dissolved. She stated that it was a shame that the committee was no longer present as all students need an advocate and voice. Luckily, there was an ideal cohort of intrepid students in that seminar that believed starting a Council would be a superb idea. Over the course of Summer 2015, a Kinesiology Student Council was developed and subsequently presented to the former Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Konczak, and the Chair of the School, Dr. Ji. Both thought the Council’s by-laws and vision to be ready for implementation and, with their blessing, the Council was officially recognized by the University of Minnesota Student Union and Activities as a Campus Life Program (CLP #3636) in Fall 2015.

What do you see as the main goals of the KSC?

Our mission statement represents well the main goals of the Kinesiology Student Council. Specifically, we seek to create community among and between Kinesiology undergraduate and graduate students and School emphases while providing professional and networking opportunities which allow these students to go forth in their chosen field and make an impact. In pursuit of the preceding goal, our Council has or is currently working to implement initiatives that not only benefit students while seeking their degree (e.g., revising graduate student graduation requirement timelines), but also to provide networking and/or professional development opportunities for students (e.g., hosting an annual Kinesiology Research Day, holding student-run and -organized seminars regarding teaching methodology, bringing back initiatives such as the “Tucker Table” which promote professional development and interaction among students and faculty, and, most recently, affiliating the School of Kinesiology with the American College of Sports Medicine’s Exercise is Medicine). It is our belief these initiatives will ensure that graduates from the School of Kinesiology will be held in high regard. Overall, the Council wants to ensure that the learning environment in the School is conducive to success outside the walls of Cooke Hall.

What activities have you done in the past that have been most successful? What are this year’s activities?

Two Kinesiology Student Council activities over the past year achieved great success. The first success was the 2016 Kinesiology Research Day. Over 150 individuals attended this event which featured approximately 40 unique poster or oral presentations from students and faculty in the School. The objective of this event was to showcase the innovative and impactful research currently being undertaken in the School while bringing together individuals from various Kinesiology sub-disciplines to promote interdisciplinary collaboration. Currently, the 2017 Kinesiology Research Day is being planned, with another successful year expected! A second successful activity the Council has put on was a seminar for incoming graduate assistants during the Fall 2016 orientation week entitled “Things to Know from Those Who Know.” This seminar sought to educate incoming graduate students on best practices related to their teaching appointment. Attendance at this event was superb, with a standing room only crowd of 20+ graduate students included. Our hope is to make this Council-hosted event a regular part of Orientation Week activities.

This year’s initiatives are many and include the following:

  • 2017 Kinesiology Research Day: This will be the Council’s second time hosting the event. The event will take place on April 21, 2017, and promises to be a great platform for students and faculty to network and discuss research being completed in labs across the School. Indeed, 40+ presentations will be given at the 2017 Kinesiology Research Day on April 21st.
  • Revisions of Graduate Student Graduation Requirement Timelines: The Council has worked hard to develop Ph.D. and Master’s checklists providing a year-by-year outline of what tasks need to be completed toward graduation four and two years later, respectively. These Timelines were met with great fanfare at an all-School meeting in December 2016 and are about to be posted to the School’s website for incoming graduate students to follow.
  • ACSM Exercise is Medicine Affiliation: The Council has filed an application to affiliate the School of Kinesiology with the American College of Sports Medicine’s Exercise is Medicine Program. This affiliation will bring professional and academic resources and opportunities to undergraduates and graduates of all Kinesiology emphases. To fulfill the application requirements, the Council has/is working with Dave Golden from Boynton Health and Ben Kohler from the University of Minnesota Recreation and Wellness Center to start a novel program in Fall 2017. Specifically, this program will offer exercise prescriptions to students seeking mental health care services at Boynton. To do so, RecWell has generously offered to provide a set number of free/reduced price fitness classes to students who are medically referred from Boynton’s Mental Health Care Clinic. Further, the Council hopes to get a number of undergraduates involved in a research study related to the aforementioned program. This research will be advised by Dr. Barr-Anderson and Dave Golden and will investigate the effectiveness of this program in improving mental health and other physical activity-related outcomes. Grant monies from the University Recreation and Wellness Center, Boynton Health Services, and the American College of Sports Medicine’s Exercise is Medicine Initiative will be sought to fund this research.
  • Tucker Table: This initiative will kick off in Fall 2017 and will be formatted as a monthly lunch-time meeting wherein graduate students can go to hang out, solicit feedback on writing, practice job talks, and even prepare 5-minute thesis presentations.
  • Appointing COGS, GEC, and UEC Kinesiology Student Council Representatives: At the direction of the Chair, Director of Graduate Studies, and Associate Director of the School of Kinesiology, the Council sought and appointed Council representatives for the Council of Graduate Students, Graduate Education Committee, and Undergraduate Education Committee. These individuals regularly report back to the Council information from their respective organization appointments which subsequently inform further Kinesiology Student Council Initiatives.

How did you become interested in being part of the organization’s leadership?

I have always been interested in leadership. No matter the setting, I seem to always find myself in managerial- or director-type positions. Personally, I feel blessed to have had each one of these positions as I do not see myself as having any better a mind for leading than others. What I do believe in is people. My “life interest” is people and I believe that when you concentrate on helping people, all else falls into place. Indeed, I live by what I term my “H.O.P.E. Principle,” which stands for “Help One Person Every-day.” This is the mindset I take into leadership. Specifically, I believe that if you trust the individuals you are working with and allow them creative freedom to propose initiatives while only assisting when asked or necessary, this is when the best work is accomplished. Undoubtedly, the Kinesiology Student Council has Executive Team members far more talented in many respects than I. Moreover, each individual on the Council’s Executive Team has a vision and a servant heart which, as evidenced in the above-mentioned initiative overview, is resulting in projects producing noticeable changes on behalf of the undergraduate and graduate student experience. Therefore, to answer the question concisely, I was interested in leading the Council for the simple reason that I want to both help people and be surrounded by those who desire to do the same.

Have you had past experience with similar organizations? Is this a particular interest of yours, and if so, why?

Yes, I do have past experience with similar organizations. At Boise State University, I was president of the Health and Human Performance Club, a successful student organization. This student organization was known for, among several other initiatives, hosting a large 5K/10K Run/Walk called “Speed to Feed Idaho.” The Speed to Feed Idaho 5K/10K Run/Walk was held for three consecutive years and saw 600+ runners/walkers participate while raising over 1,000 pounds of food and $1,000 for the Idaho Foodbank. My interest in leading this type of organization is, as outlined above, my desire to help people. As young adults in a field which is hands-on and thrives upon assisting people to live healthier in all aspects of life, anything we can do to (1) help provide a platform for students to engage in community health outreach, or (2) improve the quality of our education through Council initiatives—thus producing more effective and confident health professionals—we need to do it! These organizations give students a voice and the ability to advocate for the education they are paying for!

What role do you see the KSC ideally playing in a Kinesiology student’s experience?

This answer is simple and brief. We see the Kinesiology Student Council as a platform students use to help people (on- or off-campus), engage in professional and/or social networking, and improve the already high-quality education we receive in the University of Minnesota’s School of Kinesiology. As stated previously, students need a voice. If giving students a voice allows those students to go forth and effect real change in the world of health and medicine—possibly contributing to major future improvements in population-level health—why would we just sit idly by and not form an organization such as the Kinesiology Student Council?

Do you work together with other groups or organizations on campus?

Yes. As stated above, the Kinesiology Student Council has filed an application to affiliate the School of Kinesiology with the American College of Sports Medicine’s Exercise is Medicine Initiative. This affiliation will bring professional and academic resources and opportunities to undergraduates and graduates of all Kinesiology emphases. To fulfill the application requirements, the Council has/is working with Boynton Health and the University of Minnesota Recreation and Wellness Center to ensure this affiliation would have the most benefit to the University at-large.

What are the KSC’s future plans and initiatives?

Please see third question for this answer. Otherwise, we are working hard to recruit individuals to serve on the Council and plan to hold elections in April/May ☺. Bottom line, we want to GROW!

Watch Zachary Pope, Eydie Kramer, and Christiana Raymond discuss the single-most challenging issue facing Kinesiology graduate students and the KSC:

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