With the world of physical education at her fingertips and a passion for enacting change, physical education Professor Connie Bauman set foot on Wellesley’s campus 39 years ago as the College’s first athletic trainer. As a trainer, she worked to rehabilitate athletes on and off of the field, while also teaching archery and fencing.
Before coming to Wellesley, Bauman studied physical education at Indiana State University (ISU), before obtaining two masters degrees: one in exercise physiology at Arizona State University (ASU) and one in athletic training at her alma mater ISU.
“While I was at Indiana State University, I attended a conference in New Orleans on my spring break. Wellesley was interviewing for a half-time athletic trainer and halftime teaching position. They were looking for someone who could specifically teach archery and fencing, and 38 years later, I teach archery. There’s always a waitlist because everyone wants to be Katniss!” Bauman said.
After arriving at Wellesley, Bauman divided her time between athletic training, rehabilitation in the clinic, going to games and understanding the mechanics of how students were injuring themselves.
“I realized I loved sports, and I loved medicine. This was the perfect marriage,” she said.
About 15 years ago, Bauman realized there were no human anatomy courses for Wellesley pre-med majors to understand more than comparative anatomy, so she set out to make some changes.
“I consulted with some of my science colleagues about my course proposal for a human anatomy course. I partnered with Harvard Medical School for the opportunity for a cadaver dissection lab. There’s a two-to-one ratio of students to cadavers, which is incredible. Students love this culminating cadaver experience because they can touch all the muscles and ligaments that we studied and use the cadaver tools to dislocate the hip to see the labrum or cut the anterior cruciate ligament and test the functionality at the knee,” Bauman said. “I am proud of this course because it greatly benefits many students who are considering medical and health careers. It’s one of the best things I’ve done at Wellesley.”
Bauman also founded an initiative called the Sports Medicine Outreach Class, in which Wellesley students teach a variety of science curricula to young girls who are interested in sports and medicine but may not have the resources to learn more.
“The students from my sports medicine course realized there were no more Sports Medicine courses to take and asked what more they could do to learn more. I told them to take what they knew, go out, and teach it to young girls who are interested in science,” said Bauman. This course was the catalyst for the Wellesley Science Outreach Initiative with Science Club for Girls. “The Wellesley students develop fun, engaging, and creative lab experiments for the girls; they look forward to coming to science class on a Saturday or after school programs.”
The human anatomy course and the science outreach class are just a few ways Bauman has pioneered the integration of sports and medicine at Wellesley. Two years ago, Bauman developed a writing course called “Live and Learn: Understanding Mind and Body Connections” with Jeannine Johnson, director of Wellesley’s writing program.
“I love studying the scientific mechanisms associated with wellness practices, such as exercise, sleep and meditation. I wanted to develop an academic course in which I could pair wellness practices with an academic discipline—in this case, writing,” Bauman said.
‘Live and Learn’ is a unique, interdisciplinary course that has the potential to expand into other departments as well. The class used to have a laboratory component, which allowed Bauman additional time to teach physical skills, such as yoga or tai chi, as well as mental skills, including mindfulness meditation.
Bauman explained that the course offers students a variety of resources.
“We received a Mellon grant which allowed us to purchase fitness technology, such as Fitbits and a subscription to Headspace for meditation, so we could give students feedback on their newly-adopted wellness practices that were being integrated into their lifestyles,” she said. “We need to pair more academic courses with meditation or stretching in order to assist students with stress relievers and attain optimum wellbeing to be the best they can be.”
Bauman believes that the course is critical for the development of students’ healthy and balanced lifestyles at college.
“We hear the word ‘stress’ too often. We need to take action steps to build skills that make students resilient. We are teaching important life skills, and we tell our students that we value their self care as much as we value their academic growth,” Bauman said.
The most important piece of advice Bauman emphasizes for Wellesley students is to have a balance in life.
“Don’t take yourself so seriously, and balance your day with something fun and nurturing. We still have a [physical education] requirement because it was important to the Founder of the College, Henry Durant, and his wife, Pauline. Instinctively, they knew that physical activity was essential to health and wellbeing before we had evidence based research to prove it,” said Bauman.