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Rejuvenating Sport Studies

The athletic department is enjoying renewed vigor under a slate of youthful faculty, including alumni Cathy Crosslin, '88, Jeff Northam, '88, and Scott Shields, '91, who have joined the program within the past six years. The department also has a new name — Sport Studies, Recreation, and Athletics. The traditional "physical education" label familiar to earlier generations of students "conjures up an image of a coach running around with a whistle, throwing a basketball out on the court," notes Dunn.

Athletic director Julia Dunn and two of 14 student athletic trainers: Jenn Weiss tapes a player's ankle; in the background is Kendra Salisbury.
Today's curriculum offers two minors, one in sport studies, recreation, and athletics (or SSRA, as it is known to the campus) and one in sports medicine. The SSRA minor is a "natural fit" for Whitman students, says Dunn, since so many students are involved in sports activities of some type. A psychology major, for example, might be interested in the psychology of sport. The sports medicine minor may be an enhancement to premed studies for some students.

"The curriculum is heavier on the social sciences than in the past, partly because of the ‘fit' with faculty expertise," Dunn notes. Courses such as Philosophy of Sport, Culture of Sport, and Sport Psychology have been created by faculty members who are "passionate about their fields of expertise. They have adapted that expertise to the particular needs of students at Whitman College.

Tom Wier, Whitman sophomore and member of the U.S. Canoe and Kayak team: Wier works out on "flatwater" like Walla Walla's Bennington Lake, above, but his real love is wildwater. He has raced in world competitions in Europe and Australia.
"They want to serve students in the best possible manner. Our alumni coaches especially understand Whitman students — that Whitman students are not usually going on into coaching. They probably are going to graduate school, and they are adding sports to their educational mix," says Dunn.

That mix sometimes includes athletic interests outside the Whitman mainstream. In that case, a student may earn credit pursuing a study tailored to his or her own sport. Senior English major Carrington King, for example, an equestrian who competes in dressage, is preparing a paper on the mental challenge connected with her sport. King, who has also played varsity soccer, takes regular riding lessons with the goal of competing not only in dressage but also in stadium jumping and cross-country jumping.