slide0018_image033The Iowa State University Department of Kinesiology traces its roots to 1913 and 1924:

  • The Department of Physical Training for Men was established in 1913.
  • The Department of Physical Culture for Women was established in 1924.

Several name changes occurred over the years, but in 1974 the Department of Physical Education for Men (located in the College of Sciences and Humanities) and the Department of Physical Education for Women (located in the College of Home Economics) were merged into a Department of Physical Education and housed administratively in the College of Education.

Dance had always been part of the women’s program and continued under the newly merged departments. Other changes in the same timeframe included:

  • Adding hygiene courses
  • Adding a Leisure Services program
  • Moving intramural sports to the new Campus Recreation Division
  • Moving Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics to merge with the Men’s Athletic Program

The Leisure Studies program was eliminated in 1991, and the department name was changed twice to be more consistent with national trends:

  • In 1993 to the Department of Health and Human Performance
  • In 2007 to our current name, Department of Kinesiology

Majors and programs

An undergraduate major in physical education for men was approved in 1930, but a stand-alone major for women was not approved until 1960. The two curricula merged in the mid-1970s. In the late 1980s and 1990s, this degree evolved into the B.S. in Exercise and Sport Science with options in exercise science, physical education teaching, athletic training, sport management, and exercise and sport studies.

The Community Health Education Feasibility Study/Proposal was approved by the Board of Regents in 1983, which led to the B.S. in Community Health Education with options in community/public health, substance abuse prevention, and wellness/fitness.

During 2001-02 the faculty merged the B.S. in Exercise and Sport Science and the B.S. in Community Health Education into a single degree program. The B.S. in Health and Human Performance included options in athletic training, community and public health, exercise and sport science, health/fitness management, physical education (licensure program), and sport management. In approximately 2005, the sport management option was dropped as the department focused its mission more strongly around physical activity and health.

With the department name change to Kinesiology in 2007, the undergraduate degree program was renamed the B.S. in Kinesiology and Health.

For many years the department has also offered certification programs in athletic coaching and health education and participates in an interdisciplinary performing arts degree with an option in dance.

Graduate programs

During the 1970s a M.S. in Physical Education was approved. In June of 1999 a Ph.D. in Health and Human Performance was approved by the Board of Regents and our first Ph.D. graduate was in August 2002. In the fall of 1999 the department was given approval to participate in the M.Ed. program administered through the College of Education. With the new Ph.D. and M.Ed. programs, the M.S. was limited to a thesis-only option in 1999. Graduate students have the opportunity to focus their graduate studies in biomechanics, exercise physiology, exercise psychology, motor control, physical activity and health, physical education pedagogy, or sociology of physical activity.


The Women’s Gym was completed in 1941 and a new addition was completed in 1974. The completion of the new addition allowed renovations in the older section, including the development of two exercise physiology laboratories. During the 1993-94 academic year, a computer laboratory for students and a motor control and learning laboratory were completed and space was allocated for a biomechanics laboratory. During that same year, the Exercise Clinic was developed in the gymnasium formerly occupied by the women’s intercollegiate gymnastics team. More recent renovations created research spaces for biomechanics, motor control and learning , exercise psychology, physical activity and health, and physical education. The Physical Education Building was dedicated in the name of Barbara E. Forker in 1998. Dr. Forker began as a faculty member in the Department in 1948. She was Chair of the Department of Physical Education for Women from 1958 until the Men’s and Women’s departments merged in 1974 when she became Chair of the newly created Department, a position she held until her retirement in 1986.


The following have lead the Department of Kinesiology since the 1974 merger of the men’s and women’s programs:

2008 — present, Philip Martin

1998 — 2008, Jerry Thomas

1997 — 98, Shirley Wood

1994 — 97, Dean Anderson

1993 — 94, Shirley Wood

1987 — 90, Dean Pease

1986 — 87, Shirley Wood

1974 — 86, Barbara Forker