Using Human Science to Improve Lives

August 11, 2016
Two years ago, three anchor academic units – communication sciences and disorders (CSD), family and consumer sciences (FCS) and health, human performance and recreation (HHPR) – came together to form the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences. Together these three departments are united in a common focus – the application of health and human sciences to improve quality of life.

This endeavor takes on many forms throughout the College’s variety of disciplines. CSD students study the brain in a person with language development delays to improve that person’s ability to communicate. Exercise physiology students in HHPR along with nutrition faculty in FCS look at muscle physiology down to the molecular level to see how nutrition, exercise and other factors influence health outcomes. Apparel design majors examine how the texture and material of workers’ uniforms affect their performance and design improved fire-retardant fabrics.

“We have been very intentional this last year as we’ve started to think strategically, as a group of faculty, about who we are and what’s important to us,” said Dr. Rodney Bowden, interim dean of the Robbins College. “It’s all built around health and human sciences and around research capacity, increasing enrollment in graduate programs and creating new ones, strengthening and maintaining undergraduate programs, and creating more international experiences for our students.”

One of the advantages of the Robbins College at its creation was strong, high-quality undergraduate programs. Today, looking at opportunities to expand graduate education and to increase interdisciplinary opportunities, the tradition of accomplishment in its undergraduate fields has been an irreplaceable asset.

“We have a very strong, rich history in undergraduate programs that has been a foundation for the things we’ve been able to accomplish,” Dr. Bowden said.

These successful individual programs are now coming together for highly beneficial collaborations. For example, historically HHPR offered a course in the area of nutrition taught by HHPR faculty. Soon, however, HHPR students will take this nutrition course with faculty from the FCS nutrition sciences program. In a more unexpected partnership, a faculty member from apparel and a sport foundation faculty member have launched a joint research initiative. Even the project lead for the design of the new CSD facilities in Cashion Academic Building is a graduate of Baylor’s FCS interior design program.

“We are bound by tradition and innovation,” Dr. Bowden said. “We’re trying to be innovative in the sense that we connect in ways in which others haven’t thought about and collaborated, like sport foundation and apparel and in research projects that have a team science approach to better understand factors related to cancer, cardiovascular disease, healthy aging and development of individuals and families across the lifespan. Had we not come together, innovative thoughts around how we could partner research-wise may never have occurred.”

Through collaborative research projects as well as internships and practicums, students in the Robbins College gain practical professional experience, all while fulfilling a desire to serve. Whether it’s nutrition, recreation, interior design or other programs, the Robbins College is a community that seeks to improve quality of life through health and human sciences – an aspiration that will continue to grow and develop along with Baylor’s newest college.

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