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Expanding the Team: New HES Faculty!

Want to get to know our amazing new staff? Well, look no further. The Health and Exercise Studies (HES) staff are proud to welcome Dr. JD Lee, Joan Nicholas-Walker, and Macy Rupska to the HES Department.

By Karis Dean

Associate Department Head and Associate Teaching Professor Autumn Belk notes, “It is always exciting to welcome new faculty to campus and to Health and Exercise Studies. We have established HES faculty members serve as mentors to the new faculty as they get acquainted with NC State; however, it is good to note that the learning definitely goes two ways”.

Each new member bringing unique qualities and expertise, they are excited to make an impact here at NC State. New faculty member, Dr. Lee notes, “I want to devote myself to be recognized as a positive addition to the current HES family. As an educator here at NC State, I would also like to see more of myself as a creative and critical teacher for students to ensure that they develop their physical fitness and skills with a lot of joy, but also they take some valuable life lessons such as respect, honesty, dedication, etc”.

Joan Nicholas-Walker dances on stage
Joan Nicholas-Walker dances on stage

Similarly, Nicholas-Walker explains she wanted to get to know her students, establish strong relationships with her colleagues, and create a strong relationship with the triangle dance community. 

The unique backgrounds of these new staff include Dr. Lee’s black belt in taekwondo and purple belt in jiu-jitsu, Rupska’s background as a yoga instructor and personal trainer, and Nicholas-Walker’s experience as a teacher and arts administrator. These backgrounds contribute to the diverse expertise found among the HES staff, aiding in the department’s ability to teach a variety of disciplines to the diverse NC State community.

Belk notes, “The faculty coming into the department are experienced teachers and researchers, and they bring with them to campus their own ideas to improve existing courses we teach and further our departmental mission to educate a globally diverse NC State population regarding the benefits of living a healthy and physically active lifestyle. In fact, two of our newest faculty members have already been working on expanding our curriculum, and students will be excited to see a couple new courses coming to HES over the next year.”

“As a choreographer, my work has been performed by dance companies and college dance programs in the United States and abroad.” – Nicholas-Walker

The diverse professional backgrounds of the new HES staff extend beyond their teaching focus; each new HES team member possesses unique experiences and foundations in fitness in addition to their teaching expertise. Dr. Lee shares, “I served many professional organizations such as the SHAPE America as an academy committee chair, the Taekwondo Journal of Kukkiwon (the World Taekwondo Headquarters) as an editorial member, and the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport as a committee member of the graduate paper award”. Likewise, Nicholas-Walker describes her career as a professional dancer and choreographer, which aids in her expertise in the classes she teaches at NC State. Nicholas-Walker states, “As a choreographer, my work has been performed by dance companies and college dance programs in the United States and abroad”.

The HES faculty are unified under similar goals, aiming to engage their students while promoting a healthy lifestyle. “I love the work we do and everyone’s passion for giving students skills that will keep them healthy through all phases of their life,” states Rupska. Rupska also explains her ultimate goal is to inspire her students to try new fitness activities and to continue these activities after graduation. The unique visions, teaching backgrounds, and professional history, united through similar goals embodies the mission of the HES department. The HES staff is excited to collaborate, while expanding the scope of their department, and they hope students are equally as excited! 

Interested in learning more about our new staff? Visit their new Faculty and Staff pages!