Health sciences degrees more student-friendly

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Dixie State University is making significant changes to the school of health sciences by seeking to offer new degrees in exercise science and restructuring others to be more student-friendly.

The school of health sciences created a new department of health and human performance which has taken over for the physical education, health and recreation programs and is actively developing new curriculum and opportunities for students. The university is also considering degrees in health promotion, recreation and sports management, athletic training, and physical education teacher education.

“It is part of a 5 to 10 year plan,” said Patricia Wintch, interim dean of the school of health sciences and dental hygiene department chair.

Susan Hart has been appointed department chair of health and human performance and has been developing the program for the university since being hired three years ago.

Gaining approval for the new degree in exercise science has been a year-long process of scrutiny by the university and several committees, Hart said. It recently received approval by the Utah State Board of Regents for a Bachelor of Science in exercise science. Final approval for the program by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities is not expected for 90 days.

If approved, the exercise program will enable students to participate in laboratory courses, gain practical knowledge from working with the population and within the industry, and will require an internship in the community to increase students’ experience in the job market. Upon completion, graduates will be prepared to pass a test, obtain necessary certifications and have the credentials needed to rapidly enter the workforce, Hart said.

Hart said it is expected 150 students will declare it as their major within the first year, and by the fifth year, the total number is predicted to increase to 300. Students are excited it will become available soon and think it would be a great addition to the region, Hart said. 

“We don’t yet have a program, and instead of decreasing enrollment, we’ve increased enrollment,” Hart said. “We are offering multiple sections, and we have wait-listed students we are letting in.”    

Although it is not yet officially available as a program of study, many related courses are filled to capacity.

This is the first step in considering other possible degrees for the program, Hart said. The department currently offers an integrated studies degree with an emphasis in recreation management that could develop into a four year degree program. Future courses could include commercial recreation, professional golf management and therapeutic recreation.

Plans are currently underway to build a new Human Performance Center that will house the new programs and replace the facilities currently housed at the Student Activities Center.

Pursuing the new exercise science degree is just one of many goals outlined in “Dixie 2020: Status to Stature,” which is the university’s strategic plan to expand its offerings.

The Bachelor of Science in dental hygiene has also undergone changes to enable completion within four years. Students have been taking nearly six years to complete a degree, but courses have been restructured to run concurrently and allow them to finish with a bachelor’s degree in four years.

“The plan was to streamline the process,” Wintch said. “They work so hard, they deserve it.”

The dental hygiene program also operates a dental health clinic that is open to the community and offers lower prices to DSU students and faculty. The clinic is housed on the first floor of the Russell C. Taylor Health Science Center located on the Dixie Regional Medical Center’s River Road campus at 1526 Medical Center Drive.