New RMPE chair hopes to further outreach efforts

Christina Beals, Reporter

The new Beaver College of Health Sciences’ Department of Recreation Management and Health Education chair plans to continue motivating and collaborating with faculty and students in her new position.

RMPE associate professor Melissa Weddell was named the department’s new chair on Feb. 22.

Weddell has worked at App State for nine years. She was the recreation management program director from 2017-18 and the interim department chair for nine months.

As chair, Weddell said she hopes to continue the RMPE department’s outreach efforts within health sciences, App State and the community.

“I think that our department within the college is really the foundation of health, whether it’s as kids learning physical education, the importance of physical activity, a healthy lifestyle, or health education and wellness,” Weddell said.

Brendan Hoekstra
Melissa Weddell has been named the new director of the Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education. Though different disciplines, Weddell intends to put a lot of energy into both.

Weddell said she thinks there is a national crisis concerning mental health, obesity and people not going outdoors enough, and the RMPE department’s work is critical now more than ever.

There was a 5 percent increase in American adult obesity rates between 2017 and 2018, from 29.9-31.3 percent, according to the United Health Foundation’s annual report.

In 2018, 40 million American adults suffered from a mental health condition, according to Mental Health America.

“One way we are helping is through our general education wellness literacy that all students have to take,” Weddell said. “Also, we have PE faculty that works with the homeschool program in our region. Every week, home-schooled kids come in and get their physical activity requirements for their curriculum.”

While working in the RMPE department, Weddell was part of the Faculty Senate for six years.

Faculty Senate is an organization that considers and acts on university matters, and consists of one member from each academic department.

Weddell said her involvement with Faculty Senate allowed her to meet faculty from all over campus and see how each department runs.

“Those networks are really great for support, or learning to call someone if you need suggestions, or guidance,” Weddell said. “That was probably the most valuable experience for me.”

Weddell attended the Academic Leadership Development program during the 2016-17 academic year, which she said helped her prepare for different leadership roles.

In 2017, Weddell won the Excellence in Research Award from the Resort and Commercial Recreation Association for her contribution to the study “Nomadtopia: Emerging Tourism Markets,” which focused on families that live in RVs full time and travel across the country.

“My line of research involves full-time families living on the road, or couples and individuals living out of their vans—which is a component of rural tourism—how people come to these different communities,” Weddell said.

Marie Huff, dean of the Beaver College of Health Sciences, selected Weddell as the final candidate of a national search and was her direct supervisor when Weddell was interim chair.

“(Weddell) is definitely very pleased that she has the ability to be a strong leader within the department and works in a very collaborative way with the faculty,” Huff said. “She’s also a strong advocate for her students.”

Huff said she knows Weddell will support the progress the department’s programs have already made.