Welcome Letter from the Chair

Michael G. BembenOur faculty, staff, and students would like to welcome you to the Department of Health and Exercise Science, which is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences. I hope that you are able to use our website to thoroughly explore all of our programs, get to know our faculty, and discover the many research opportunities available through our department. I also hope you will get a feel for the closeness and camaraderie that our faculty and students share. We are very proud of our department and our undergraduate and graduate programs. We have developed an excellent core of faculty in the areas of Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion and we take pride in the fact that all of our faculty are involved with both the undergraduate and graduate programs. We have eight exercise physiologists with expertise in muscle and nerve physiology, body composition, bone physiology, muscle physiology, endocrine function, aging, cardiorespiratory physiology and biological signal processing. We have six health promotion faculty with expertise in designing and evaluating theory-based health programs, prevention of childhood obesity, public health and individual nutrition behaviors, physical activity measurement, tobacco use prevention, social marketing, health disparities, efficacy of health coaching on chronic disease management, impact of historical trauma on diabetes risk and management, social determinants of health, obesity and weight management, and functional movement assessments. Our programs integrate the biological, physiological, medical, and behavioral sciences as they relate to physiological responses to exercise and human health.

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is located in the west wing of the S. J. Sarkey’s Complex and includes modern classrooms, a student computer lab, conference room, and offices for all of our faculty and graduate students, providing easy access to all members of our department. Additionally, most of the Exercise Physiology laboratories which include the Integrated Cardiorespiratory Physiology, Body Composition and Human Performance, Exercise Biochemistry, Sensory and Muscle Function, Bone Research, and Neuromuscular laboratories are housed in the lower floor of the department. There is one additional Exercise Physiology Lab, the Biophysics Lab, located in the Collums Building, as well as a separate teaching lab and four Health Promotion labs that include the Functional Assessment and Behavioral Science Lab, the Community Nutrition and Physical Activity Lab, and the Social and Behavioral Health Lab, all within close proximity to the Sarkeys Fitness Center. For more detailed information about faculty members, their laboratories, research experiences, and current students, please visit the 'Research' section and 'People' sections of this website.

Our undergraduate program attracts students who have diverse interests including exercise/fitness, personal training, strength and conditioning, community and worksite health promotion, medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, public health, and many other areas of the allied health professions. We encourage undergraduate participation in the Honors College, departmental research projects, internships, fieldwork experiences, and membership in professional organizations and societies as a means of enhancing their basic academic preparation. As I mentioned earlier, the HES faculty are readily accessible to students, and we pride ourselves in our attention and concern for our undergraduate majors. Our undergraduate program has a pre-HES track that has an enrollment of about 750-800 students, allowing us to select about 225 of our best students to enter the HES major. Non-HES students can also pursue a minor in Health and Exercise Science and this program has about 175 students currently enrolled. 

Students who graduate from our undergraduate program have been very successful in entering many professional programs like medicine, physical therapy, dietetics, dentistry, nursing, etc. They are also very competitive for graduate programs in Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion, as well as finding employment in areas like strength and conditioning, fitness centers, pharmaceutical sales, and wellness programs.

Our graduate program offers Masters of Science (MS) degrees in Health Promotion, Exercise Physiology, and an interdisciplinary degree that incorporates both Health Promotion and Exercise Physiology. We also offer separate doctoral (PhD) programs in Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion. We primarily accept full-time MS and PhD students into our graduate programs, and we support them with graduate assistantships for the duration of their programs. All of our graduate programs have a strong emphasis in research experiences that help develop competent and independent researchers in Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion. Our MS graduates have been very successful in entering PhD programs, entering many of the allied health professions like medicine, physician assistant, etc., and finding employment in fitness and clinical settings. Our doctoral graduates have gone on to post-doctoral experiences in some of the best labs in the country, found academic positions in many excellent universities around the country, or found employment in corporate settings.

Our graduate programs have excellent collaborative efforts with some of the programs at the Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, including Physiology and Biophysics, Gerontological Medicine, Nutritional Sciences, Rehabilitation Sciences, Biostatistics, the Stephenson Cancer Center, and the College of Public Health. There are also a number of collaborative efforts on the main Norman campus with departments like Biology, Industrial Engineering, and Psychology.

The University of Oklahoma, the flagship university of the state, is a doctoral granting research institution. Norman is a great college town with all the amenities of a small town (100,000) and within 30 minutes of Oklahoma City. If you have any questions regarding our programs, please contact our Undergraduate Academic Advisors, our Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Dr. Chris Black (cblack@ou.edu), or Dr. Paul Branscum, Graduate Liaison (pbranscum@ou.edu).

 Michael G. Bemben, PhD
 David Ross Boyd Professor and Department Chair