Helping People Realize the Life They Want to Live: Walters Builds a Strong Exercise Science Program
What do clay muscles, group workouts, and pre-physical therapy classes have in common? They are all part of Grace College’s exercise science program, which is thriving under the leadership of Program Director Christina Walters. Walters has taken the program to new heights, fueled by student interest and her passion for the profession.
In 2015, Walters transitioned from Grace’s head athletic trainer to the exercise science program’s first full-time faculty member.
“Interest had grown so much that a professional in the field was needed to guide exercise science students and develop the program further,” Walters said.
In addition to her experience as an athletic trainer, Walters brought her knowledge from a bachelor’s and master’s degree in athletic training. She earned her bachelor’s at Indiana Wesleyan University, where she was Athletic Training Student of the Year, two-time NCCAA All-American, and NAIA Honorable Mention All-American for softball. She went on to Ohio University to earn her master’s degree and was named Outstanding Athletic Training Student.
As Walters stepped into the lead faculty role, she prioritized developing two concentrations within the exercise science program: Health & Wellness and Pre-Physical Therapy, which ensures that students get the specific prerequisites they need for graduate school.
By popular demand in 2021, Walters added the third concentration in Fitness & Nutrition.
“The field of fitness and nutrition is evolving and growing at a rapid rate,” said Walters. “And in our fitness-driven culture, everyone claims to be an expert. This fitness and nutrition concentration is intended to train and equip fitness and nutrition professionals by exposing them to evidence-based practices and modern techniques within the industry. This is a to our students’ strengths,” said Walters.
In addition to creating and launching the new concentration, Walters has helped bring in new lab spaces and equipment for the program over the past seven years.
In 2017, two new lab spaces were added to the Gordon Recreation Center for the exercise science program. One lab serves as a space for assessment of VO2 max (volume of oxygen maximum), body composition, muscular strength, balance and flexibility. The other lab is a functional training space. This allows students to practice exercise instruction and organize groups for workouts.
Walters hopes that one day the exercise science program will open its labs to all Grace students, faculty, staff and the community to provide fitness testing at an affordable price. “It would be a terrific experience for students to use their skills to benefit real clients on our campus and in our community,” she said.
With the right equipment in place in the classroom, Walters continues to expand internship and practicum experiences for exercise science students to get hands-on experience outside of the classroom.
“Nothing compares to practical, hands-on experience to prepare students for a career after college,” said Walters, who is passionate about preparing students for successful and fulfilling careers as athletic trainers, physical therapists, dietitians, fitness directors, medical physicians, biomechanists, and more.
“Every good exercise science program should be founded on the belief that it is our job to spread knowledge and help people realize the life they want to live,” said Walters. “Whether that means being able to play a sport, run a marathon, play with their kids, recover from surgery or beat a disease, that’s what we’re here for.”
Do you want to help people realize the life they want to live? Learn about the Fitness and Nutrition Concentration or read about Grace’s top-of-the-line clinical equipment.