Kinesiology’s new labs and classrooms open in Gill Center

McDaniel College Kinesiology student in the neuromuscular lab
September 18, 2018

All eyes are on Isabella Mendiola as she squats, wraps her hands around the cold metal bar and lifts — yes, lifts — 105 pounds. Here, in Gill Center’s new Neuromuscular Lab, cheers erupt from the student research volunteers who watch in awe of their friend’s accomplishment.

Then it’s their turn. Mendiola spots and guides each of the students as they push the limits of their strength and skill to 15, 35, maybe 60 to 70 pounds. No one can match Mendiola’s weight level. Yet.

“Check back at the end of 10 weeks and I guarantee everyone will be lifting more than 100 pounds,” says Matt Cramer, a senior Kinesiology major and research assistant for the Kinesiology department’s research study “The Effect of Women’s Only Strength Training on Strength and Psychological Health.” With fellow Kinesiology majors Mendiola and Andrea Magallanes, Cramer is teaching lifting and overseeing the resistance training of the group of 35 McDaniel student volunteers.   

Down the hall in the Human Performance Lab, junior Tim Griest climbs into the Bod Pod, reminiscent of John Glenn’s space capsule, for his classmates in exercise physiology to measure his body volume. Nearby, in the Human Anatomy and Physiology Lab, students explore the crevices and ridges on vertebrae and inside skull bones. Earlier in the day, students worked in groups in the same lab to draw metabolic processes.

Professors come and go — and stop to chat with students — from offices across the hall from the new labs. Upstairs, in new mezzanine-level classrooms overlooking Gill Gymnasium, Kinesiology professors Jennifer McKenzie and Rich Laird teach “Born to Run,” a first year seminar, and “Principles of Strength Development,” respectively.

The newly renovated Gill Center is appropriately bustling with activity. After all, this is the epicenter of McDaniel’s study of movement — the place Kinesiology students and faculty alike are calling home.

Students in this fast growing, popular major returned to campus this fall to a department all under one roof. The three classrooms, three labs, nine faculty offices and a seminar room newly built inside Gill Center support a program that prepares students for careers as health professionals, coaches, athletic trainers, physical education teachers, personal trainers and others whose work centers on the science of physical activity and movement.

“Experiential learning is a cornerstone of the Kinesiology experience,” said McKenzie, who is also department chair and a 2001 graduate of the McDaniel program when it was Exercise Science and Physical Education. “Nearly all of our 2017 and 2018 graduating classes completed at least one practicum, internship, shadowing experience, independent study or collaborative research with professors.”

In the past eight years, seniors completed about 200 capstone research projects involving significant data collection and analysis, and the program has seen 55 Kinesiology majors accepted into graduate allied health programs with physical therapy, physician assistant studies and occupational therapy among the most popular.

Just months before the $6.6 million renovation began in October 2017, the names of the major and department were changed from Exercise Science and Physical Education to Kinesiology to more accurately reflect the program’s focus on science. McDaniel is the only independent college or university in Maryland to offer a Kinesiology major.

The new offices, labs and one of the classrooms were built in reclaimed space under Old Gill gymnasium. Workers excavated more than 3 million pounds of dirt and hauled it away in 200 dump-truck loads.

The mezzanine level of Gill Gymnasium was reconfigured for the additional three classrooms and spectators’ areas that overlook the gym. More than 12,000 square feet of usable space was added, and the project was completed a full 26 days ahead of schedule.

Now, students and professors are no longer pushing equipment on carts across campus to labs in Eaton Hall. A sleek Neuromuscular Lab with performance flooring and a force plate for balance, gait and sports performance diagnostics has replaced a makeshift equipment room for the study of the mechanics and movement patterns of muscles during activity.

The versatile Human Performance Lab serves as the primary research space for faculty, the exercise physiology classroom and the workshop for experiments in conditioning and speed, exercise and chronic disease, and lifetime fitness. Of course, the human skeleton model, which has literally been hanging around longer than anyone can remember, moved right along with the students into Human Anatomy and Physiology Lab.

Kinesiology, the students say, is the same rigorous and relevant program that attracted them to McDaniel in the first place. But now there seems to be a heightened sense of belonging.

“I studied abroad in Budapest last semester and came back to a big pleasant surprise,” said Anthony Crawley, a senior Kinesiology major who fell in love with pediatric occupational therapy last summer during his internship at Children’s Hospital in D.C.

Having his professors’ offices across the hall from lab is incredibly convenient, according to senior Kinesiology major Paul Flagg, who frequently pops in to ask them questions.

Darlyne Atatsi, a senior Kinesiology major who’s headed for grad school in Physical Therapy, opened her arms wide and gestured, smiling, as she looked around the lab.

“We have a place to call our own,” she said.        


The $6.6 million Gill Center renovation project will be funded with a $3 million grant from the state of Maryland and $3.6 million in private donations. Efforts are underway to raise funds to name spaces in Gill in honor of Sam Case ’63 and Dick Clower ’50, members of the Green Terror family who had a profound impact on the Kinesiology department as well as on wrestling.

Kinesiology major and research assistant Isabella Mendiola demonstrates lifting in McDaniel’s new Neuromuscular Lab.