Health and fitness have become more than just hot topics in today’s society – they’ve become movements. Between the boom of wearable heart rate technology, the increase in popularity of at-home workouts, and all the talk about body inclusivity, exercise and sports science (ESS) experts are needed now more than ever to cut through the noise and separate the truth from the fads.
Meredith has benefitted from the increased interest in the ESS field. In fact, it’s one of the College’s fastest growing programs – with enrollment numbers increasing by 52% since 2011.
Meredith ESS alumnae have a track record of success in graduate school and beyond, so there’s no question why the program has seen such growth. Through the hands-on approach the program fosters in the human performance lab, campus fitness center, student-led exercise classes, and internships, ESS majors gain the skills and experience they need to thrive and become thought leaders in this fast-growing industry.
ESS graduates have gone on to careers in physical therapy, teaching and coaching, training, and more. Here are just a few examples of Meredith women who are working to improve lives and transform society through their work in the ESS field.
Mary Woessner, ’11
ACSM-CEP, Clinical Trial Project Coordinator, Adjunct Research Fellow, Lecturer – Australian Catholic University and Victoria University
Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology
When Mary Woessner began her undergraduate education at Meredith in 2007, she had her heart set on majoring in psychology or English. But after walking on to the basketball team and taking an introductory course in ESS just for fun, she was hooked and her path changed. With the help of her professors, Woessner discovered that she could turn her passion for sports into a career.
After finishing her degree at Meredith, Woessner knew she wanted to teach in the field. “I was supported by my amazing professors who always pushed me to be the best I could be,” she said. “And because of my education at Meredith, I was accepted into one of the top master’s programs for exercise physiology at UNC Chapel Hill.”
After completing her master’s, Woessner took her education a step further and received a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.
Today, Woessner still lives in Australia and works in many roles. Not only does she now teach at Victoria, but she is also a certified clinical exercise physiologist (ACSM-CEP), a clinical trial project coordinator, and an adjunct research fellow across several research projects. Right now, she’s working on a major clinical research trial focusing on examining the effects of a nutritional supplementation intervention on bone health in post-menopausal women. She’s also conducting research on violence against children in sports, a project sparked by her love for sports and exercise and wanting to make sure it is accessible and safe for everyone.
“I am driven by a strong passion for encouraging and promoting exercise for high risk populations,” said Woessner.
When asked what is most exciting about her work, Woessner says it’s two-fold: she loves the balance of research, where she can develop new knowledge; and teaching, where she can share that knowledge. “My teaching makes me a better researcher as it helps me see the gaps in practice, and then research makes me a better teacher because I can bring the real world into the class-room,” she said. Additionally, Woessner finds that her students benefit from her research, too. “When I’m working on a research project and have a really interesting case study, it’s a great opportunity to bring that work directly into the classroom and have the students workshop it.”
Woessner’s best advice for students considering ESS is simple: “Take a class and see if something sparks.” She also encourages students to think outside the box about what they can do with their degree. While many students go into careers of personal training or physical education, an ESS degree can open the door to a variety of careers. “Follow your passion,” said Woessner. “There is a depth and breadth to this field that I never knew until I really got out into the job force.”
McKenzi Edwards, ’15
Occupational Therapist, UNC Hospital
As captain of the basketball team and supervisor of the campus fitness center, McKenzi Edwards was deeply involved in exercise and sports science far beyond the classroom during her time at Meredith. Years later, she says her experience in the ESS program laid the foundation for her to pursue a career as an occupational therapist (OT). “At Meredith, I received the foundational knowledge regarding the human body and its response to physiological stress,” she said.
As an OT at UNC Hospital, Edwards works with patients in the acute care unit. She helps sick or injured patients regain independence in the areas of bathing, grooming, dressing, and toileting as well as functional mobility and endurance. From there, she evaluates patients and recommends a safe discharge plan and any necessary equipment to improve their safety.
“The most exciting thing about my career and the acute care setting is that every single day is completely different. There is no getting bored,” said Edwards. “I meet many amazing patients and get to see them progress in skills and areas that are most important to them.”
In five years, Edwards hopes to become a clinical specialist, with even deeper knowledge about OT. She advises other students with a passion for ESS to pursue the field with an open mind because it’s filled with opportunities for a solid career. “Some of my peers in the ESS program have become physical therapists, physical education teachers, coaches, cardiac rehab therapists, nurses, and more.”
Ashley Allen, ’16
Clinical Trials Associate, Clinipace
The decision to major in ESS came quickly and easily for Ashley Allen. As a freshman, she began to take ESS courses alongside her general education requirements. While she didn’t have a clear career path in mind just yet, she never had any doubts that the ESS program was the place for her. “ESS allows you to explore a lot of different avenues,” said Allen. “I was given a great deal of freedom and tools to make the best decisions regarding my professional career path.”
After graduating from Meredith, Allen was able to use her bachelor’s degree to begin working in the field as a fitness trainer while she pursued her master’s in healthcare administration. Now, she works as a Clinical Trials Associate (CTA) at Clinipace, a role in which she works closely with clinical researchers to manage the timeline of various studies.
What inspires Allen most about ESS is the impact that women are making in a field that has historically been male dominated. “Women not being afraid to stand their ground in these professional atmospheres where they may be deemed inferior, that’s what inspires me,” she said.
Specifically, Allen is inspired by women like Katie Sowers, the first female coach in Super Bowl history. “We are seeing women come into male dominated fields and make themselves known,” she said. “This is such an important time for us to witness women taking charge and breaking barriers.”
Allen’s advice to other hopeful ESS students is to get in the field as early as possible. “Don’t wait until your junior year to seek out internships or volunteer opportunities,” she said. “Getting out there early will help you determine what path you want to take.”
Cheyanne Moxley, ’19
Exercise Physiologist, Duke Center for Healthy Living and Owner of Moxley Fitness
For Cheyanne Moxley, Meredith’s ESS program was crucial in helping build confidence in her knowledge and skills related to the field – confidence that she felt she lacked after not being admitted to Meredith on her first try.
As a transfer student from Wake Tech, Moxley had her heart set on Meredith, so she worked with transfer counselors to strengthen her chances on the second try. Once she arrived on campus, she dove head first into the ESS program and everything it had to offer. She worked in the Lowery Fitness Center and served as a group fitness instructor for the employee and student wellness programs. “The ESS program gave me an abundance of hands-on experience with techniques related to fitness assessments, group exercise, and exercise prescription,” she said.
Those experiences were pivotal in helping her get to where she is now as an exercise physiologist at Duke Center for Healthy Living and as the owner of Moxley Fitness.
In her full-time role at Duke, Moxley works primarily with geriatric patients conducting fitness assessments, teaching exercise classes, and responding to patients’ clinical needs such as taking blood pressure and heart rate.
And for Moxley Fitness, Moxley works as an online personal trainer and fitness coach to help clients reach their fitness goals. She’s passionate about helping people understand their health isn’t centered around the number on the scale and that “healthy” or “fit” doesn’t look a certain way on the outside. “The best thing you can do for yourself when thinking about changing your eating or exercise habits is to do your research, or meet with your physician or dietitian,” said Moxley. “Social media is so powerful in today’s world, and unfortunately not all of the information you find there is accurate.”
What Moxley finds exciting about her career is the intrinsic gratification she gets from helping others. “It’s work that feels important and has a positive impact on people’s daily lives.”
Moxley sees many possibilities in the future for her career. She’s considered graduate school but for now, she loves working with her clients and patients at Duke. “I’m open to ideas and excited to see what the future holds for me,” she said.