Dr. Arya Alami

Finding a home on the Hill

Dr. Arya Alami, Assistant Professor of Exercise Science, knows what it's like to be the "new kid on campus."

He joined the faculty this year after earning his doctorate in Sports Psychology and Motor Behavior at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  He says he applied for several positions, but once he visited LaGrange, his decision was made.

"I came on campus and talked with (Dr.) Chad Harris (Professor and Chair of Exercise Science) about the new program," Dr. Alami says. "I thought I really could contribute and help the program grow."

He says he has been energized working with Dr. Harris in the new department, now entering its second year.

"It's been very rewarding, getting to have a lot of input and autonomy," he says. "Chad has trusted me with responsibilities and he's been very receptive to my ideas. He is very motivating, and it's been nothing but a positive experience."

Dr. Alami says the remarkable growth of the new department has been exciting – and challenging.

"As a liberal arts college, we focus on smaller class sizes and the relationships between students and professors," he says. "Our biggest struggle right now is that we have more students than we have seats in classrooms. But everyone on campus has been great, working with us and helping us find places to have class."

He says he and Dr. Harris have put in a lot of time to make sure they are accessible to all their students whenever they need or want help.

"My door is always open – even when it's not open, it's open," he says with a smile. "I check my email up until 10 o'clock at night, like most of our professors do. I'm always available."

Dr. Alami says the department's growth also offers opportunities for more courses.

"We have two main concentrations – the allied health track and the fitness and wellness track," he says. "We also have two minors – coaching and physical education – that we're working on revamping. Right now, I'm working with the Education Department to sort out credential requirements for teachers who might want to get a minor in PE."

The department also is looking at ways to expand into the community.

"The City of LaGrange has been very open to us, giving us opportunities to work in the community. I think the Exercise Science Department can be another foot in that arena."

For example, Dr. Alami has been working with the local Boys & Girls Club.

"We'd like to get our students experience working with the younger population to get them more active, more physically fit and more health conscious – what exercise science is all about."

He also expressed interest in working in area high schools.

"We'd love to be able to do some summer programs, both in the weight room with strength and conditioning, but also working with the athletes on mental training."

He says he's grateful for the welcome and support he's received from the faculty.

"I think our faculty is outstanding," he says. "They are a very unique group of people who have a great amount of knowledge and passion for what they do. It's a rare combination, and I really enjoy working with them."

But most of all, Dr. Alami says he enjoys working with his students.

"We have a lot of students who have interests in a lot of different areas, and that is very exciting. Exercise Science is field that is growing tremendously, especially with today's emphasis on being healthy. It's great to be involved with this."



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