Health, Human Performance and Recreation

Before it joined the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, the HHPR department got its start in the School of Education

Initially part of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation joined the School of Education in 1972, where it remained for 42 years until 2014. Now the department exists within the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, established in 2014.

HHPR graduates enter the job market as athletic trainers, coaches, exercise physiologists, health/fitness specialists, health educators, physical education teachers, and recreation and leisure specialists. The college also provides strong undergraduate preparation in health sciences so students can pursue degrees in physical therapy, occupational therapy, dentistry, medicine, and/or research in exercise, nutrition, and preventive health. The college has the second largest pre-med training program on campus; biology is number one.

“We have very diverse undergraduate programs,” said Dale Connally, who witnessed the evolution firsthand, initially as an entering freshman in 1979 and now as a professor, assistant department chair and director of the Recreation & Leisure Services Program. "We have health science studies, our largest program, which is a pre-professional health track. We have several other tracks — Pre-Med, Pre-Physical Therapy, Pre-Occupational Therapy, Pre-Physician’s Assistant, Pre-Dental and Athletic Training.”

In its early days as part of the School of Education, HHPR, then called Health, Welfare, and Human Performance, focused largely on the four hours of physical activity courses required of all undergraduates — swimming, volleyball, bowling and the like — along with courses offered in exercise physiology and kinesiology. Early graduates were primarily physical education teachers, coaches, and community health workers. A one-hour course required of all students dealing with substance abuse and lifetime wellness meant virtually every Baylor undergraduate passed through HHPR at some point, and the department was huge, with 75 faculty members teaching either full or part time at one point, making it the largest department on campus.

“At that time, too, frankly, we did not have the facilities that the university has now to meet a lot of these needs,” recalled Dr. Robert Cloud, Professor of Higher Education and chair of HHPR from 1988 until 2000. “The Student Life Center was nonexistent. Our swimming pool was in the basement of Marrs McLean (gym).”

In 2014, after more than three years of evaluation and input from Baylor regents, deans, faculty, staff and external entities, the Baylor Board of Regents approved the creation of Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, as emphasized in the University’s strategic vision, Pro Futuris. Robbins College also houses the departments of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), Family and Consumer Sciences and the Department of Public Health. Each area shares a common purpose: improving the quality of life and well-being for individuals, families and communities through interdisciplinary research, creative endeavors, clinical experiences and innovation.

“There’s been a paradigm shift in the focus of our department,” Connally said. “In the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, early 1990s we were built around an education model. We had a strong emphasis on physical education. At one point our health program, which now is a separate department — the Department of Public Health — was called Health Education. So, there was a strong education emphasis up until the 2000s.

“The paradigm shift has moved more toward exercise science, nutrition science, so there’s a general move from education to health and health sciences, which fits the new college,” Connally said. In addition, Robbins College soon will house U.S. Army-Baylor affiliated health programs in nutrition, occupational therapy, orthopedic physical therapy, physical therapy and physician assistant studies, which will move from the Graduate School.

“I believe we’re headed toward promoting general lifestyle health and doing good, solid research that helps individuals and organizations make good choices as they provide healthcare for people, reaching across all of the aspects of health sciences,” Connally said.