December 19, 2013
Jalyn Ingalls created an individualized major at Albion College to merge her interests in management and kinesiology.
Now in her senior year, the Ellsworth, Mich., native is bringing the academic disciplines together as the research for her thesis examines whether she can develop leaders with the combination of small group training and practical experience.
“The question is what it’s going to take to get kids to be physically active,” Ingalls said. “My younger brother is a lump on the couch until he’s inspired to be active when my other brother gets home. I wonder where the children in Albion receive inspiration to engage in active lifestyles.”
Inspired by her family background and her experience assisting Kinesiology professor Heather Betz to get Albion Public Schools students active last school year, Ingalls devised her project. She presented nine weeks of lessons in leadership qualities—topics included confidence, communication and teamwork—to two to four students from each of the fifth- and sixth-grade classes in the Albion Public Schools during the fall semester. The students were selected by their teachers as ones who have demonstrated leadership qualities or who would benefit from leadership training.
The students will then use the leadership training to encourage their classmates to increase their physical activity during recess twice a week for 30 minutes.
With assistance from faculty in the Psychological Science and Economics and Management departments, Ingalls will use an assessment to provide measures about leadership skill development.
Ingalls maintains that while the study could help with the problem of childhood obesity, the intent of the work is to provide leadership skills and determine the ability of the student leaders to get their classmates engaged in physical activity. She noted some of the small group leadership development sessions became “bounce-back activities” where the group tried to answer why the general student body didn’t respond well to an activity.
“Leaders realize they are not the most talented, but they are strong-willed enough to get people to step up,” said Ingalls, who serves as president of Albion’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was a volleyball team captain this fall. “The leaders don’t need to be the most athletic in the group. They need to know how to inspire others even if they aren’t the best.”
Betz added, “This is a different look at school-based intervention [for physical activity]. The project has a simple goal to develop leaders who are excited to get classmates active. We are not measuring changes in fatness. We are tapping into classmates helping classmates.”
Betz noted the project will be beneficial to Ingalls whether she pursues a career in public health or management.
“The project has a nice basis in health and a good understanding of business,” Betz said. “There are lessons that come out of management that apply.”