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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Echo
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Renfrow organizes partnership with WashU

Agreement provides TU students opportunity

The Taylor Kinesiology department and Washington University (WashU) in St. Louis are currently articulating an arrangement to save two spots for Taylor students in each incoming class. 

There is no firm timeline for this project, but Matthew Renfrow, dean of the school of natural and applied sciences, hopes to be finished by Fall 2024.

WashU is one of the top three institutions for physical therapy schooling in the U.S., according to an article from US news.

Renfrow has been working with Steven Ambler, professor of physical therapy and orthopedic surgery at WashU, to build a relationship between Taylor and WashU. In 2019, Renfrow called Ambler to arrange a meeting between the two of them. 

Prospective kinesiology students ask Renfrow about physical therapy programs, so this agreement was a natural step to cultivate more interest in the program. He chose WashU because historically, all students who applied from Taylor have been accepted to the program, Renfrow said. 

Many faculty members attribute  Taylor kinesiology students’ success to Scott Fenstermacher, assistant professor of kinesiology at Taylor. He believes a key way to help students when applying to physical therapy programs is to help with all parts of the experience, not just the application.

“The more graduate programs I'm aware of, the better I can recommend specific students to specific programs based on their fit,” Fenstermacher said. “If I write a letter of recommendation saying this student's going to be a good fit for this program, [schools] can feel confident that they will be because I know their programs.”

Kinesiology students are evaluated by their professors to find out what would be the best fit for them since physical therapy programs are so different at different institutions. For example, WashU has been testing a new grading scale for their physical therapy students. Instead of giving normal letter grades, students are given a color— green, yellow or red— according to how they are doing in their classes. 

It is challenging to prepare undergraduate students for the clinical aspect of physical therapy.Normally, undergraduate students can’t work in a clinical environment, but kinesiology professors at Taylor make up for the difference by starting different programs on campus. 

Programs for kinesiology students include clinical work with members of the Taylor and Upland community. These programs include Fit to Health, Invitation, Cardiac Rehab and Live Well. All programs are supervised by faculty members, but students are doing the work and learning the skills, Brandon Dykstra, department chair and assistant professor of Kinesiology, said.

The Invitation clinic is a diabetes prevention program, where members of the Grant County community are referred if they are at risk for developing diabetes. There, students will work with community members to develop meal plans, physical activity plans and lifestyle plans. Fit to Health is a similar program that takes place on Taylor’s campus, and is exclusive to exercise science students.

The Cardiac Rehab program is a phase three cardiac program, designed for students to do exercises with people going through cardiac rehabilitation or heart disease. 

“Those [programs] are really helpful for students because they're preparing students going into jobs and grad school because the classes are good, textbooks are good, PowerPoints are good, but it’s hard to implement,” Dykstra said. “That's helpful for them when they're going into grad school because once they're in grad school, they are doing clinicals.”

One of the reasons Renfrow believes that Taylor kinesiology students are so well equipped for graduate school is because the program is so evidence-based. Before graduating, students have a firm foundation of research, presentation and clinical skills. Renfrow also sees that Taylor students are caring. 

“I know we have a very compassionate student base,” Renfrow said. “[Students say], ‘I want to minister to their physical needs like Jesus did.’ Through that, [students] can minister Christ's redemptive grace, truth and love.”