What moves you?
Kristy Ballard, associate professor of Kinesiology, talks training and career readiness
When people think about kinesiology, usually physical therapy or sports training comes to mind. But the degree can lead to so much more, and Associate Professor of Kinesiology Kristy Ballard has made it her life’s goal to help students find their own right direction.
I always wanted to be at a place where teaching is the big focus. My mom would tell you that I've always been a bossy little teacher! In first grade I was reading at a higher level than my peers, so my teacher would sometimes let me teach my classmates. My mom finally had to tell her to stop. But, more seriously, I do love teaching. I like watching people get that really big “aha!” moment, not necessarily the moment they understand a concept in class but instead when they realize, “This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
Kinesiology is the study of human movement. There are so many different aspects of the field that you get a great foundation. You can be a teacher, an athletic trainer, a personal trainer or a physical therapist, or you could go into sport management, just to name a few. Lots of disciplines feed into and feed off of kinesiology, too, like biomechanics and exercise physiology. If somebody starts off with pre–physical therapy and then discovers they don’t enjoy the more intense chemistry and physics classes, they can change focus without having to start over from scratch. There’s bound to be a different focus that is better suited for them.
I’m really focused on reflection and introspection. Because there are so many different directions you can take a Kinesiology degree, it’s really important for students to figure out what’s right for them. In my introductory class, I have students write their own personal philosophy and talk about their chosen career field. Many of them say they want to help people, but I ask them, why are you pursuing this particular avenue? I’m also an academic advisor, so for many of them, I get to follow their entire career and watch them change from unsure freshmen to seniors who know what their next step is going to be.
First off, I explain that they're creating their professional networks right here. After they graduate, they will be able to call on each other. I still use my own classmates as a resource. But you've also got to learn how to reach out to people you don’t know. I break my freshman classes into groups and tell each group to bring a guest speaker in a specific work area in the health and fitness field — teaching, coaching, physical therapy and sport management. That becomes another layer of their network because people who are willing to take time to come to our class are often willing to be a resource later on. Some of my students have gone on to get jobs and paid internships because of these connections.
Unfortunately, even though I teach Kinesiology, I’ve got really bad knees, so I can’t be as active as I would like to. My big physical activity is gardening. It’s been a slow process, but now the entire north side of my house is a garden. It’s a mixture of fruits and vegetables and flowers. I’ve even got a grapefruit tree and a lemon tree. It's a way to escape from the real world for a little while, and I guess you could say I like to see how I can help things grow (with some help from God).
By Lauren Liebowitz