Living and Moving for the Glory of God: Professor TJ Zinke Shares His Background with Health and Exercise Science
As a child, Professor TJ Zinke always loved to play sports. Like many little boys, he dreamed of becoming a professional athlete someday. As he got older, he realized that making it big-time wasn’t as realistic as he had hoped, but he still thought it would be fun to work in the world of health and exercise science. Now, as an Assistant Professor of Exercise Science, Zinke is passionate about helping students understand how our bodies work and function and apply that knowledge to live and and move to the glory of God.
1. You are currently working on a doctorate. Tell us about that and the education you’ve earned up to this point.
After getting my degree from Wheaton College in Applied Health Sciences, I worked in a physical therapy clinic for a year before moving to Tennessee to get my Master of Science in Athletic Training at University of Tennessee – Chattanooga. I’m now working on my Doctorate of Education through University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and hope to have my dissertation completed by this time next year.
2. We hear that you were a missionary kid growing up, tell us a little bit about your childhood in Japan.
I moved around a lot all through childhood. I was born in Illinois, but spent 15 years growing up in Japan, with a couple furlough years spent in different parts of Illinois as well. During my elementary school years, we lived in Ibaraki which is about an hour’s drive northeast of Tokyo. My dad was planting a church there, so I grew up attending a Japanese language church that met in our living room! I attended a Japanese elementary school through sixth grade in Ibaraki, after which our family moved to Tokyo so that I could go to an international school for middle and high school. After going to college just outside Chicago, I‘ve spent the last eleven years of my life down in Chattanooga, TN, but I am excited to be back in the Midwest.
3. What experiences do you have in the fields of health and exercise science?
Prior to becoming a full-time faculty member, I worked as a certified athletic trainer at the college level for five years. I loved that experience and I’m still an athletic trainer at heart in a lot of ways, so health and exercise science are intertwined in my approach.
4. What courses will you be teaching at Grace? Which course is most exciting to you and why?
This semester I’ll be teaching Introduction to Public Health, Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription, Research in Exercise Science, and Environmental Chemistry. I’m most excited about Fitness Assessment, since that is such a practical course for our majors where they get to learn a lot of hands-on skills that are directly applicable to their futures as fitness professionals.
5. How does your faith intersect with your teaching on topics such as fitness, health and exercise science?
Because I believe that our bodies are good gifts from God that he desires for us to steward and enjoy, I want my teaching to give students not just a better understanding of how their body works, but a deep love for their body and a genuine delight in being able to use it and help others do the same. The human body is an amazing creation, and the more I study it the more amazed I am by it. We have each been given this incredible gift of embodiment, so we should desire to steward that gift well to the glory of God.
6. What does it look like to view our bodies through a lens of stewardship?
It’s easy to think of exercise as just a leisure activity for those who enjoy it, but physical activity is actually crucial for our bodies to function best in all sorts of ways. So I see exercise science as hugely important from the perspective of stewardship, and I want to encourage our students to think not only about how they can steward their own bodies well, but also how they can love their neighbors by encouraging and helping them to also be more active.
7. What are some of your favorite ways to stay active?
I love exercising in all kinds of ways, from cycling, to playing tennis or soccer, to even just doing simple bodyweight workouts in my garage at home. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but my wife and I did really enjoy getting to play beach volleyball with friends over the summer while we lived down in Tennessee!
8. What is a little-known fact about you?
I love to drink good coffee, and have actually gotten to the point where I roast my own coffee beans so that I can enjoy my coffee as fresh as possible.
9. What are you most looking forward to about teaching at Grace?
I am looking forward to building relationships with the students getting exercise science degrees. College is such an amazing time where students are learning so much about who they are and who God is. It’s a privilege for me to be able to walk along side them during these formative years, and I love that Grace actively encourages me to point them to Jesus whenever I can.