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UW-Eau Claire to offer new master of science in exercise physiology degree program in fall 2024

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: The new master of science in exercise physiology program plans to enroll approximately 75 students and graduate 51 students by the fifth year.

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents has approved a new master of science in exercise physiology program at UW-Eau Claire that will begin in fall 2024. The Board of Regents approved the graduate program on July 7.

The 36-credit graduate program, housed in the kinesiology department, will be taught in person and can be completed over two years. Undergraduate students at UW-Eau Claire also will have the option to simultaneously complete requirements for the undergraduate degree while beginning graduate coursework in their fourth year, earning both degrees within five years.

The program plans to enroll approximately 75 students and graduate 51 students by the fifth year, according to materials submitted to the Board of Regents.

The program will provide foundational knowledge and clinical experiences to prepare graduate students to work with clients in preventative health programs, medically based fitness programs, cardiac rehabilitation and other clinically related areas such as aging, diabetes management, populations with disabilities and cancer recovery, says Dr. Jeff Janot, professor and chair of the kinesiology department.

“The program aligns with many university initiatives by providing experiential learning opportunities and developing innovative graduate programs to meet regional needs, especially in rural health, and builds on existing strengths in student-faculty research that we currently do in the department,” Janot says.

Exercise physiology is the second new high-skill degree program resulting from the $9.4 million Workforce Innovation Grant UW-Eau Claire received from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. in 2021. In June, the Regents approved the new master of public health online degree program.

UW-Eau Claire plans to offer four additional new degrees through the WEDC grant, intended to improve rural health and well-being by offering students new health-related career options.

“The exercise physiology program aligns with the WEDC grant’s objectives of developing new degree programs in high-demand health care fields to train professionals to improve rural health care and well-being,” says Dr. Carmen Manning, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, who helped develop the WEDC grant proposal. “This program would serve populations traditionally underserved in both the Eau Claire community and rural areas by training students in aspects of therapeutic exercise application for preventative health, chronic diseases and disability management.”

Students in the program will have the opportunity to collaborate on research projects, including through the UW-Eau Claire-Mayo Clinic Health System research collaboration. Exercise physiology will be part of UW-Eau Claire’s ongoing initiatives to increase interdisciplinary collaboration among health science-focused departments in areas such as curriculum development, research and service.

The new program partners well with two existing undergraduate programs in kinesiology, exercise science and rehabilitation science, and with the graduate programs in athletic training, Janot says. Students will be able to gain in-person clinical experience working with clients through the department’s outreach programs such as cancer recovery and fitness, Parkinson’s exercise program, community fitness and Physical activity and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities in Eau Claire (PRIDE).

The exercise physiology program will meet a growing demand for exercise physiologists, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor projects employment to grow 13% from 2020 to 2030. About 1,700 openings for exercise physiologists are projected each year.