Ozarks overhauls PE program, adds health sciences major and outdoor leadership minor

Release Date: 6/12/2013

Beginning in the 2013 Fall Semester, students at University of the Ozarks will be able to earn a major in health sciences as well as a minor outdoor leadership. The university has also made significant changes to its physical education curriculum to give students more professional opportunities in the field of study.

The University's Board of Trustees approved the new health sciences major and outdoor leadership minor and changes to the PE program during its annual Spring meeting in April. The changes will be included in the 2013-2014 university catalog.

Brett Stone, assistant professor of health and physical education, spearheaded the efforts to update the PE curriculum and institute the health science major. He said the impetus behind the changes is to better prepare students for applicable careers.

"For several years, the physical education major at the U of O has offered two directions for students to follow: a teaching track or a non-teaching track. Both tracks of study, however, required methodology courses which were designed to prepare students for the professional dispositions and competencies expected of public school physical education teachers and did not prepare students for a career in physical education outside a public school setting," Stone explained.

Stone, who is completing requirements for his Ph.D., said the new PE curriculum removes those methodology courses as requirements, so students interested in careers other than teaching can pursue more applicable content-specific courses. The methodology courses will still be available as electives for students interested in teaching.

In that same vein, Stone saw a need for a new program of study that would address the needs of students pursuing careers more closely aligned with allied health rather than traditional physical education.

"The health science major will prepare students for both graduate programs in the health sciences or entry level positions in the health promotion professions, including health maintenance organizations, hospitals, public and private clinics, voluntary health agencies, health departments, secondary schools, or business and industry," Stone said.

Stone cited particular trends in the health care industry that supported the need for the new major.

"The Kaiser Foundation Brief (2010) reports Americans spent $2.3 trillion dollars in health care in 2008 - nearly a 40 percent increase from $713 billion dollars spent in 1990," he said. "Consequently, the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics (2012), reports the demand for health education and promotion specialists is projected to increase 37 percent between the years 2010-2020. Likewise, the demand for allied health personnel is also projected to increase by 14 percent above the current average."

University Provost Dr. Daniel Taddie is enthusiastic about all the new opportunities for Ozarks students.

"I am excited about these new programs and the updates to the existing ones," Taddie said. "The new health science major will meet the interests and curricular needs of our current and prospective students. The program will provide a solid foundation for careers in a variety of high-demand health-related professions. In addition, our faculty - Brett Stone and our newly appointed Dr. Pete LeRoy - have degrees and experience in both physical education and allied health. So they have the expertise to deliver a top-notch program in association with our excellent science faculty."

In addition to these changes, Ozarks has also approved adding an outdoor leadership minor to the 2013-2014 catalog. As Taddie explains, this new minor takes advantage of Ozarks' unique location as well as its new Ozarks Outdoors program.

"Our new minor in outdoor education builds upon our existing programs in physical education, environmental studies, and Ozarks Outdoors," he said. "Our Director of Ozarks Outdoors, Jamie Lewis Hedges, brings his outstanding experience and expertise to this program in collaboration with faculty from across the campus. Because of our location in the Ozark Mountains and the expertise of our faculty and staff, Ozarks is a great place to study and participate in these programs."

Hedges, who has already been teaching some outdoor leadership courses on campus, is thrilled to have more in depth option offering valuable outdoor and recreational experience. 

"The new outdoor leadership minor will provide an opportunity for students of any discipline to cater their degree toward an outdoor or environmental related field," Hedges said. "Graduates with degrees combined with this minor will have access to dynamic careers like outdoor recreation therapy, public lands management, environmental law or policy, environmental conflict mediation, and more."