Exercise & Sport Science
- Graduate Research: Collaborate on research projects with students in the High Altitude Exercise Physiology master's program.
- High Altitude Performance Lab: Take classes and conduct research in our state-of-the-art facility.
- Publish Research: Publish your work in the Center for Wellness and Human Performance Health & Fitness Journal.
- Wellness Elevated: Work with clinical populations and their exercise programming for a semester or more.
Ryan Barnhouse is a sophomore at Western Colorado University and an Exercise & Sport Science (ESS) major with a minor in Biology and Chemistry. Ryan is also a student in the Honors Program.
Ryan moved around a lot growing up, but he came to Western after graduating high school in El Paso, Texas. He discovered Western by doing a simple Google search. He knew he wanted a school that was great for outdoor adventures.
“I just googled ‘Best outdoor universities,’ and Western popped up,” said Ryan. “After doing some more research, I realized the Exercise & Sports Science program was excellent, so it made sense. Once I visited, I knew this was the place.”
On campus, Ryan is very involved with many different clubs and programs.
“The main thing I am a part of on campus is the EPIC Mentorship Program,” said Ryan. “I am the student coordinator for that. I am the mentor of about 35 or so freshmen right now. I have also been a part of developing the program, because it is new. I help with hiring new mentors and train them.”
EPIC is a mentoring program for the incoming freshman class. As soon as a student makes their tuition deposit, a mentor reaches out to them. A mentor helps incoming freshmen go through the process of getting to campus. The main goal is to help students find their passion and be there as a friendly face on campus.
When Ryan was a freshman, he was stuck in that routine of going to class and then going back to his dorm. He was not really involved on campus until his sophomore year.
“I think what really helped me [with getting more involved] was being an orientation leader this past year,” said Ryan. “Being an orientation leader and having that leadership position helped me branch out to try these other things. It gave me the confidence to express myself as a leader and learn what kind of leader I am. And then be able to use that leadership in other aspects.”
“I am also the president for Operation Smile and the president for the Exercise & Sport Science Club,” said Ryan about what else he is involved with on campus.
Ryan was given the opportunity to attend a conference in Virginia through Operation Smile.
In his second year at Western, Ryan says that his favorite part about Western is how the campus community is like one big family.
“It is incredible how nice everyone is on campus,” said Ryan. “Also, how almost everyone wants to have a genuine conversation and really wants to get to know you. Once you take hold of the opportunities available, the family seems to grow.”
In his free time, when he gets it, Ryan “really enjoys being outside. Just getting outdoors really helps me take a deep breath and relax from being so busy at school. I also really enjoy building Legos and playing board games with my friends.”
Profile by Western junior Taya Olson.
Senior Aspen Wallace spent her childhood growing up in the Dominican Republic. Then, after moving to the United States and graduating from a Texas high school, she spent a gap year living in Germany and Austria.
Shortly afterward, Aspen's taste for adventure led her to Western.
"I chose Western because of the Mountain Sports program and because of the location. Gunnison is so beautiful, and I love the campus," Aspen said.
Aspen declared a major in Exercise & Sport Science (ESS) with an emphasis in Exercise Science due to her interest in physical activity, coupled with her belief that it's a vital component of health.
"Exercise and being active is so important at any level and encouraging people to be physically active is so important. I feel like I can help educate so many people on the importance of [their] health," she said.
She also met one of her favorite professors, Ryan Weatherwax, through the ESS program.
"He has had such a huge impact on my college career and always gives me advice about life after college," Aspen said.
Aspen also regularly works with graduate students in the High Altitude Performance Lab—Western's premiere exercise physiology facility, which sits 7,750 feet above sea level.
Aspen's studies of physical activities overlap with her exceptional presence on Western's Mountain Sports teams.
She was the first woman to join the Mountain Sports road cycling team, and the first woman from Western to compete in a national competition for road cycling—one of Aspen's favorite memories during her time as a student.
"I loved traveling with our small road team ... we all got to know each other very well," she said. "I also love travelling in the fall to all of the mountain bike races and getting to see parts of Colorado that I had never visited before."
Overall, Aspen noted that Western's small classrooms and caring professors have prepared her for a future in the exercise science field.
"I think Western has prepared me very well for the future [by] offering opportunities to work in real life environments," she said.
A native of Hayward, Wisc., Alexia Abric left high school wanting to go somewhere different, with her sights set on medical school.
This, combined with her previous experience working in the medical field, led Alexia to Western’s Biology program.
“I was looking for a program that had a pre-med [focus], strong acceptance rates for medical school and high Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores. Western’s Biology program was great for that,” Alexia said. “I’ve always wanted to go into the health field because I love interacting with people.”
Her interest in medicine would soon bring Alexia to declare a second major in Exercise & Sport Science (ESS) during her second semester at Western. With the potential to enter into sports medicine or physical rehab, Alexia says that her interest in medical school and ESS “overlap really well.”
Western’s small class sizes have also helped Alexia foster meaningful connections in the classroom; she remembers bonding with Chemistry professor Anne Ryter, Ph.D., over their shared home state.
“We clicked the first day of class,” Alexia said. “She was asking where [everyone] was from, and she got the brightest look when I said I was from Wisconsin, and it grew from there. I go see her for help in other classes, and to hang out … and she goes to ski races.”
As an Honors Program student and an active member of the Academic Leadership Program (ALPS), Alexia is versatile in terms of academics as well as athletics. She’s active on two of Western’s Mountain Sports teams: mountain biking and Nordic skiing.
“I’ve been skiing since seventh grade, and I started biking as a junior in high school—so when I found out I could do both at Western, it was a big selling point,” Alexia said.
Initially, she only planned on pursuing Nordic skiing in college, but that changed when she met endurance coach Ellie Atkins, who convinced Alexia to compete in mountain biking, as well.
“I started practicing with the team and … pushing myself to new limits,” Alexia recalled. “Getting to know myself through biking has helped me discover more things that I’m capable of.”
Ultimately, Alexia says, passionate people are what set Western apart.
“It is really cool to be around people who are driven and excited about what they’re doing,” Alexia said. “People are doing the things they want to do out here because they love them—which is so unique!”
Samantha "Bob" Maddox
Samantha "Bob" Maddox
For students like Samantha Maddox, it doesn’t take long for the Western experience to get into their blood.
Maddox, an Exercise & Sports Science major, first visited Western Colorado University’s campus as a high school cross country runner. Originally from Vail, Colo., she participated in the high altitude running camp for two summers in a row, where she spent a week living in the dorms and, quite literally, acclimated to life at Western.
When the time came to choose a college, the decision was easy. She says she always felt like she belonged here.
“I really like the whole community of Gunnison, the outdoorsy aspect, and the culture here,” she says. “Everyone is so nice. I didn’t feel intimidated at all when I came here. I was like, I can handle this. I was stoked.”
She says she’s grown a lot during her tenure at Western.
“I would say that I’ve learned how to deal with overcoming things and to deal with tough situations,” she says.
As a freshmen, Maddox took COM 202, Academic Writing and Inquiry, “which was a super hard class for me,” she recalls. The class required students to write papers and then deliver speeches based on the paper.
“I’m a super outgoing person, but giving speeches is the most terrifying thing in my life,” she says.
On her first paper, she received a C. On the second, she improved a grade letter to a B. By the third: “I got a perfect grade on the speech and an A on the paper.”
Her instructor, JoAnn Arai, told Maddox that she was the “ideal student” — one that struggled in the beginning of the class, but showed growth as the course progressed.
“I wasn’t confident. I was freaking out. But I learned how to write a good paper instead of just getting through the class,” she says.
And beyond that, Maddox cultivated a strong relationship with her professor, who continues to support her learning outside the classroom.
“It was cool to build that relationship with her (Arai) and to now feel super confident about my abilities, giving speeches and writing papers,” Maddox says. “I always tell myself that if I can pass COM 202, I can do anything. It built my resiliency.”
Maddox is also heavily involved with Western’s Mountain Sports Team, for which she competes in trail running and Nordic skiing.
As a freshman, Maddox joined her Nordic teammates at the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association National Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she earned All American honors and placed in the top 10 in three of her four events.
When not competing, she spends much of her time working and teaching fitness classes at the Mountaineer Field House. She seems to know just about everyone there, and she’s often greeted with exclamations of her nickname, “Bob,” and friendly fist-bumps.
The closeness of the campus community is what brought her here and what keeps her here. She doesn’t believe she could have had the same experiences at a larger school.
“I feel like it’s a small school and everyone’s a big family and community here. You know everyone on campus and can reach out to people if you need help,” she says. “The professors are committed to being here and genuinely care about you.”
Maddox has grown to love Western and Gunnison and says she would love the opportunity become a permanent member of the community.
“Western is awesome. I love it,” she says. “I guess one thing is I don’t feel like I’m ready to leave yet, so if there’s an opportunity to stay after graduating, I would be so down for that.”
Written by Laura Anderson and photo by Taylor Ahearn, University Communications.
Degutis, Ernest Memorial Scholarship
Full-time juniors or seniors. Must be a declared major in Exercise & Sport Science. Must have a GPA of 3.0 or greater. Show outstanding achievement in four of the following five areas; special talents, leadership, obstacles overcome, community service and unique endeavors.
The estate and family of Ernest Degutis.
Award depends on funds available.
Western Exercise & Sport Science faculty in consultation with the Admissions Office and Financial Aid as needed. Award made at the end of the Spring Semester each year.
Contact the RESS Department for application and deadline information. 970.943.2010 - Wright Gym 209
RESS Student Professional Development Fund
Exercise & Sport Science and Recreation & Outdoor Education majors who are full-time students at Western.The Student Professional Development Fund is to support professional activities such as professional certification exams, conference attendance, research, or other professional preparation activities.
Approximately $400 awarded every semester.
Western RESS faculty committee
Contact the RESS Department for application and deadline information. 970.943.2010 - Wright Gym 209
Faculty & Staff
Professor, High Altitude Exercise Physiology Director
Office Location: Paul Wright Gym 224
Assistant Professor in Recreation, Exercise & Sport Science
Office Location: Paul Wright Gym 227
Professor of Exercise & Sport Science
Office Location: High Altitude Performance Lab 171
Exercise & Sport Science Lecturer, Wellness Elevated Manager, HAP Lab Manager
Office Location: Paul Wright Gym 232
Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs; Professor of Exercise & Sport Science
Office Location: Paul Wright Gym 233
Lecturer in Exercise & Sport Science, Physical Education
Office Location: Paul Wright Gym 226
Lecturer in Exercise & Sport Science
Office Location: Paul Wright Gym 230
Assistant Professor, Exercise & Sport Science, Sport & Fitness Management
Office Location: Paul Wright Gym 225
Lecturer of Exercise & Sport Science
ESS 181 - Foundations of Exercise and Sport Science (3 credits)
An introduction to the field of exercise and sport science. An overview of philosophical, historical, and scientific foundations, current trends and issues, professional opportunities, and skills and competencies required for careers in a wide variety of physical activity settings.
ESS 185 - Lifetime Wellness (3 credits)
Provides conceptual and experiential components designed as a basis for developing a healthier lifestyle.
ESS 201 - Essentials Human Anatomy and Physiology (with laboratory) (4 credits)
An introduction to basic anatomy and physiology of all human systems. Lab and lecture are integrated. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing.
ESS 275 - Motor Development and Learning (3 credits)
An application of the knowledge of motor development and learning to physical activity across the lifespan. This class introduces the physiological, perceptual, and cognitive, as well as the affective changes that occur in motor development and learning across the lifespan. Prerequisite: ENG 102 with a grade of "C-" or above.
ESS 282 - Principles of Sport and Fitness Management (3 credits)
A focus on the administration of programs within the sport and fitness industries. Topics include administrative theories and concepts, personnel, communication and problemsolving, fiscal management, budgeting, ethical considerations, and program evaluation. Prerequisite: ENG 102 with a grade of "C-" or above, ESS 181, or instructor permission.
ESS 290 - Curriculum Development and the Learning Environment (3 credits)
A comprehensive overview of materials, suggested teaching methods, procedures, techniques, well-directed and well-selected activities, and ways of evaluating physical education in K-12 schools.
ESS 320 - Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (3 credits)
A variety of issues and research areas in the psychology of sport and physical activity are addressed. Topics covered include an overview of the development of sport and exercise psychology, personality theories, exercise and mood, exercise adherence, goal setting, motivation, psychological interventions for athletes, and cohesion theories. Prerequisite: minimum junior standing.
ESS 330 - Exercise Physiology (3 credits)
An emphasis on the theory and principles of exercise physiology to health, physical fitness, and athletic performance in diverse populations. Prerequisites: ESS 201 or both BIOL 372 and BIOL 373; minimum Junior standing.
ESS 331 - Exercise Physiology Laboratory (1 credits)
Basic laboratory techniques of exercise physiology correlating with ESS 330. Laboratory experiences include aerobic and anaerobic exercise, body composition, strength, flexibility, and body composition and other indicators of exercise. Prerequisites: completion of the College Mathematics course requirement; Corequisite: ESS 330.
ESS 340 - Mental Training for Peak Performance (3 credits)
An application of theories and concepts of sport psychology. This course focuses on application of specific psychological skills necessary for high level performance and assisting students in teaching others those same skills. Prerequisite: ESS 320 or instructor permission.
ESS 346 - Psychology of Coaching (3 credits)
Psychological factors involved in coaching and leadership are explored in this course. Relevant theory and research, as well as practical applications, are discussed. Topics include expert coaching characteristics and behaviors, leadership and motivational styles, the coach-athlete relationship, stresses of coaching, reinforcement strategies, ethics in coaching, and issues related to youth sport coaching. This course is designed for current and future coaches, individuals in leadership roles, as well as anyone interested in the coach's experience. Prerequisites: ESS 320, minimum junior standing or instructor permission.
ESS 355 - Psychology of Injury (3 credits)
Psychological factors involved in sport-related injuries and the rehabilitation process. Course content includes relevant theory and research as well as practical applications. Topics include: stress, responses to injury, mental skills used to manage injury (i.e., goal setting, motivation, and confidence), social support, potential psychological problems faced during rehabilitation, and returning to sport after injury. Prerequisites: ESS 320, minimum junior standing or instructor permission.
ESS 360 - Nutrition for Wellness and Performance (3 credits)
A focus on concepts geared to promote peak performance based upon nutritional intake. An understanding of macronutrient ingestion along with other essential nutrients is gained and applied in detail to the healthy and chronically diseased populations. This includes an understanding of the metabolic effect of food. The pros and cons of select supplements are discussed and applied to real-life scenarios. Prerequisites or co-requisites: ESS 330 and ESS 331.
ESS 363 - Inclusive Physical Activity (3 credits)
Students develop knowledge and skills necessary to work with individuals having diverse needs in physical education, recreation, sport, fitness, or rehabilitation settings. Content includes planning, instructional design, assessment, coordination of resources, and advocacy in physical activity settings. Prerequisites: ESS 275 and minimum junior standing.
ESS 365 - Topics in Physical Activity: (3 credits)
Interdisciplinary study of the role of physical activity under a variety of conditions and settings, and for a variety of populations. Content focuses on current research and practice as it relates to the topic under consideration. Topics will rotate annually. Can be repeated up to three times for credit if a different topic is selected. Prerequisites: ESS 181, ESS 185; ESS 201 or BIOL 372; junior/senior standing.
ESS 370 - Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3 credits)
Exercise prescription and conditioning in the form of resistance training, including the use of free weights, machines, Olympic lifts, and plyometrics. Muscular adaptations to anaerobic and aerobic training, testing and evaluation, exercise techniques, and resistance training program design. Design, implementation, and demonstration of appropriate resistance training routines and proper lifting technique for a variety of populations. Content knowledge aligns with requirements for completion of certification as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Prerequisite: ESS 330 or instructor permission.
ESS 380 - Biomechanics (3 credits)
Investigation and analysis of human movement. Basic mechanical principles of force, motion, and aerodynamics as related to fundamental physical skills and their application to exercise, sport, and physical activity. Prerequisites: ESS 181, ESS 185, ESS 201 or BIOL 372, completion of the University Mathematics course requirement.
ESS 382 - Management of Sport and Fitness Facilities (3 credits)
A study of principles, guidelines and recommendations for planning, construction, and the use and maintenance of indoor and outdoor sports, physical education, recreation, and fitness facilities. Prerequisite: Junior Standing.
ESS 385 - Program Design for Physical Activity Settings (3 credits)
A focus on the principles of behavior modification and how they apply to program design and implementation in physical activity settings. Comprehensive behavior modification programs within exercise, wellness or sport settings are designed.Prerequisite: ESS 185.
ESS 392 - Methods of Secondary Activities (3 credits)
For students planning to obtain licensure in physical education. A variety of curriculum models (e.g., tactical, sport education, social responsibility) are used to present individual, dual and team sport activities. Lesson and unit plans are developed, implemented and assessed in keeping with Colorado and NASPE standards as they relate to secondary physical education. Prerequisites: 2 of the following: ESS 210, 211, 212, 213; ESS 290, minimum junior standing; Prerequisite or corequisite: ESS 350
ESS 395 - Methods of Elementary Activities (3 credits)
Units covered may include apparatus and tumbling, dance, and games. Each unit breaks down into sub-units, and progressions are emphasized. Lesson and unit plans are developed, implemented, and assessed in keeping with national standards and as they relate to elementary physical education. Competencies in the basic skills of each unit are also tested. Prerequisites: two of the following: ESS 210, 211, 212, 213; ESS 290; and minimum junior standing; Prerequisite or corequisite: ESS 350.
ESS 396 - Methods of Alternative Physical Education (3 credits)
Units covered may be: Nordic skiing, rock climbing, orienteering, camping, mountain biking, and adventure activities. Lesson and unit plans are developed, implemented, and assessed in keeping with national standards as they relate to secondary physical education. Prerequisites: ESS 290 and minimum junior standing.
ESS 410 - Assessment and Exercise Prescription (3 credits)
Students work with assessment formats, appraisal techniques, and metabolic calculations to gain information needed to construct exercise prescriptions designed to meet individual needs for different segments of the population. Prerequisites: ESS 331and ESS 298 or instructor permission.
ESS 430 - Topics in Clinical Exercise Physiology (3 credits)
A study of diseased populations, including, but not limited to, exercise therapy in cardiac and cancer patients. Course content focuses on the etiology and pathophysiology of disease, electrocardiogram and diagnostic stress test interpretation, specialized exercise prescription, and other topics at the discretion of the instructor. Prerequisites: ESS 330 and ESS 331.
ESS 450 - Risk Management in Physical Activity Settings (3 credits)
A focus on risk assessment and management for physical activity professionals. Topics covered include risk assessment, standard of care, negligence, forms to limit liability, constitutional law as relevant for physical activity professionals, development of a risk management plan, and risk reduction strategies. Prerequisites: junior or senior standing.
ESS 490 - Sociology of Sport and Physical Activity (3 credits)
A focus on the social organization of sport and physical activity and their relationship to the institutional structure, cultural patterns, and dynamics of American society. Students use different sociological approaches/theories to analyze sport and physical activity and to analyze current issues and problems in sport and physical activity settings. Prerequisite: minimum junior standing.
ESS 495 - Senior Seminar in Exercise and Sport Science (3 credits)
A capstone course required for all ESS majors addressing issues, ethical considerations, problem-solving and decision-making, leadership and communication in the discipline. Students integrate content from their course of study, write and speak in discipline-specific formats, and complete a comprehensive self-assessment in preparation for graduate school, internship, or entry-level job. Prerequisites: ESS 181, ESS 185, senior standing. Students are encouraged to take this course during their final semester.
ESS 498 - Internship in Exercise and Sport Science ( credits)
An opportunity for in-depth work at a professional site in an area of exercise and sport science. The internship must meet standards of the department and the University, including completion of a pre-internship checklist. Prerequisites: Satisfactory grade in ESS 405, overall GPA of 2.750, department advisor permission, and senior standing.
Exercise & Sport Science students learn how to promote healthy lifestyles and enhance performance in exercise, sport and physical activity settings. Graduates pursue entry-level careers in teaching, fitness, sport and wellness in addition to professional certifications and graduate degrees in physical therapy, exercise physiology, cardiac rehabilitation and other allied health fields.
- The Standard major is the most flexible program and is designed to be paired with a major or minor in another discipline.
- The Clinical Exercise Physiology emphasis is for students planning to enroll in the High Altitude Exercise Physiology 3+2 program.
- The Clinical Exercise Science emphasis gives students hands-on lab experience with clients and experiential opportunities to learn physiological components of exercise.
- The Health & Fitness emphasis is for students interested in developing and executing workout routines.
- The K-12 Licensure emphasis prepares students for careers as Physical Education (PE) teachers and includes coursework in classic scientific environments and community schools.
- The Sport & Fitness emphasis focuses on the business aspect of sport and fitness, including marketing, events and facility management.
- The Sport Psychology minor explores the psychological underpinnings of sport and exercise while giving students a powerful skill set for handling the mental challenges of everyday life.
- Western Colorado University and Palmer College of Chiropractic 3+1 program: Students spend their first three years taking undergraduate courses at Western. In their fourth year, students start their coursework at Palmer College of Chiropractic (PCC). Upon successful completion of the first year of studies at PCC, a maximum of 30 credits is transferred toward completion of the Bachelor of Science from Western.
Careers & Opportunities
Graduates pursue graduate degrees and careers in:
- Accelerated nursing
- Athletic training
- Cardiac rehabilitation
- Exercise physiology
- Occupational therapy and other allied health fields
- Physical education
- Physical therapy
- Physician assistantship
- Special education
- Sport administration
- Sport psychology
- Wellness coaching
Reach out to Lance Dalleck, Ph.D. for more information.