New MSU-Meridian degree program announced, enrolling students

MERIDIAN, Miss.—A new kinesiology program with an emphasis in clinical exercise physiology is underway at MSU-Meridian. 

Last November, the local Riley Foundation awarded an $11 million grant to the university in support of the new degree program to be located in the Kress Building, the campus’ downtown facility. The grant also provided financing for needed renovations and required equipment, furnishings and technology infrastructures.

“With Meridian serving as one of the state’s best regional healthcare destinations, bringing a program such as kinesiology to the area is ideal for the missions of not only Mississippi State, but the Meridian Campus and The Riley Foundation as well,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “We’re very grateful to The Riley Foundation for helping us increase educational options for our traditional students and adult learners in east central Mississippi. It’s good to see the program launched.”

Though the Kress project won’t be complete until next year, 12 students already are enrolled in the program. They begin classes this week at the College Park campus while renovations are on-going.

Associate professor Ben Wax is leading the program. A native of Smithville in Monroe County, he holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in kinesiology from MSU, as well as a doctorate in exercise science from the University of Mississippi. He joined the MSU faculty in 2008.

In addition to expressing excitement about the program’s launch, Wax emphasized that “the single focused emphasis on clinical exercise physiology will result in a student focused learning environment that prepares our students at a high level to enter and make an immediate contribution to our local workforce, as well as be prepared to enter more advanced health areas.”

Laura Hilton of Long Beach will be joining him on the faculty. She received a kinesiology degree from MSU in 2010 and a master’s two years later. As a graduate assistant for the kinesiology department, she taught laboratory courses in exercise and sport physiology. 

As instructor of exercise science and director of clinical exercise physiology laboratories at MSU-Meridian, Hilton also will coordinate clinical internships for the academic major.

“I am very excited about the opportunity I have to help expand and develop the new kinesiology program in Meridian alongside Dr. Wax,” said Hilton. “This region is a health-care hub with multiple hospitals and clinics that should result in a variety of good strong internships providing our students with excellent experience within the field of kinesiology.”

In explaining the field of kinesiology—and the specific academic concentration being offered—Wax said exercise physiology addresses the short term biological responses to the stress of physical activity and how the body adapts to repeated bouts of physical activity over time. 

He said several career pathways are available to students, in including work with healthy clients in non-clinical settings such as private fitness centers or YMCAs and similar community organizations. They also may supervise clients dealing with heart and lung diseases, cancer, medically supervised weight-loss programs for the severely obese and other such chronic illnesses, he added.

Wax said many individuals interested in pursuing professional or graduate programs in such disciplines as physical or occupational therapy, medicine and dentistry also enroll in the program.

He invited potential students to visit or email for additional information on the program.

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