March 23, 2022

Fostering athletes, world-class research, and career-relevant skills

Kinesiology has proven useful in unexpected ways for student Eliza Dawson

At first glance, Kinesiology may seem like the ideal stepping stone for physiotherapy, or a plan B for an aspiring athlete. However, UCalgary’s program offers research, volunteer and practical experience for students of vast interests.

Eliza Dawson, a fourth-year undergraduate, has embraced UCalgary’s diverse academic and career development opportunities.

“This whole degree is the phrase, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know,’” says Dawson.

For her, Kinesiology has proven useful in unexpected ways. From fostering career relevant skills like coaching and instruction, to becoming aware of broader sociocultural issues regarding the body, to time management as a student athlete.

Volunteer work and research

Like many current undergraduates, Dawson spends her free time volunteering in Kinesiology’s array of exercise programs and research initiatives.

Recently, Dawson volunteered in Active Living’s Joint Effort program – which helps to improve functionality and strength in individuals affected by hip and/or knee osteoarthritis.

Dawson also discovered her interest in neuroscience after taking KNES 251 and 351 and contacted her professor, Dr. Tyler Cluff, inquiring how she could gain experience in the field. Cluff offered Eliza the opportunity to conduct research in his lab for an honours thesis—which Dawson accepted. The focus of her work is on the differences in stretch reflexes between non-dominant and dominant arms during goal-directed tasks.

Becoming a Dino’s athlete

Dawson was scouted for the Dinos’ Track and Field throwing team in her first semester, after skillfully throwing shotput during a Kinesiology lab. She trained with the Dinos’ throwing team and was subsequently asked to try out for Dinos’ Rowing, which she opted to pursue instead.

“Coming from a small town [like Trail BC],” Dawson says being noticed for multiple sports teams was a novelty.

Now co-captain, Dawson and her teammates have traveled throughout North America to row. Recently, they competed on The Head of Charles in Boston, the largest head race in the world. Dawson and her teammates came first this year, after placing third in 2019.

The No.1 one sports science school in North America

Though Dawson is a B.C. native, she chose UCalgary’s Kinesiology program over schools closer to home. The opportunity to access human cadaver labs, over cows or pigs, tipped the scales. She also credits Kinesiology’s No. 1 position in North America, for the third time, and number No. 10 out of 460 schools globally.

When asked to describe the faculty, Dawson calls Kinesiology “fun.”

“Everybody loves movement… promoting mental health… and it’s close knit. You know everyone in the class before it’s started—plus [The Kinesiology Student Society gives out] snacks!”

Moreover, alumni of UCalgary’s Kinesiology program can hold the title of registered Kinesiologist, rather than be degree holders only, if they become a member with the Alberta Kinesiology Association post-graduation.

For students considering this degree, Dawson recommends Kinesiology to applicants who are interested in health sciences and are passionate about being active or come from a sports background.

However, she notes, the degree can be a stepping-stone into medical school or other science related careers. So, Dawson claims it’s important applicants lean into what they see in their own future.

“It’s a really fun place to be, if you’re interested [in the healthcare field],” says Dawson.