Department of Health, Sport and Exercise Sciences announces 2021 student award winners

LAWRENCE – The Department of Health, Sport and Exercise Sciences has recognized eight outstanding KU students with 2021 student awards.

In order to be eligible, students must be enrolled in one of the undergraduate or graduate academic programs offered through the Department of Health, Sport and Exercise Sciences. Award recipients are selected based on a committee’s review of an applicant’s personal statement, academic awards or honors, scholarly activities, and leadership or professional organization activities.

“In the absence of a formal awards ceremony this year, we still want to recognize the department’s talented students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels,” said Joe Weir, chair of the Department of Health, Sport and Exercise Sciences.

Earl Falkenstien Memorial Student Award

Henry “Hank” Kline is a junior studying physical education plus from Centennial, Colorado. He was a recipient of the KU Distinction Scholarship and has been on the Dean’s List every semester since the Fall of 2018. Falkenstien is a member of the KU Soccer staff and has coached swimming in Colorado. He considers himself a lifelong learner with a passion for health and physical activity. His professional goal is to positively impact young people and reverse negative youth health trends such as obesity, depression, and suicide.

Jack Wolfe Memorial Student Award

Myltin Bighorn is a junior studying physical education plus from Poplar, Montana. He is a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. Bighorn has been on the Honor Roll for multiple semesters and is the recipient of the Billy Mills Scholarship. He believes that students can develop self-discipline through commitment to educational and fitness goals and that sports can provide valuable life skills such as teamwork, dedication, integrity, and leadership. His career goal is to return to Poplar and serve the community’s youth as a teacher, a coach, and a role model.  

Tristan Isbell is an aspiring health and physical educator who is passionate about fitness, outdoor education, and creating a better future. He believes that physical educators can make authentic and lasting changes in young people through movement as learning kinesthetically has been proven to be effective. His goal is to connect with each student, provide a listening ear, a comforting voice of reason, a support system, and a safe place for those who need one.

Don Henry Family Student Award

Gabrielle Talavera is currently studying Community Health under the School of Education and Human Sciences and is also pursuing minors in Health Care Management and in Women, Gender and Sexual Studies. Gabrielle is interested in program planning & evaluation and health education and intends to pursue a Master's of Public Health.

Larry Heeb Recreation Student Award

Sarah Kettering is a senior studying sport management with a minor in business. She is currently working for the Kansas City Chiefs as a fan experience representative and has also worked for the Chiefs as a guest service representative for the previous two years. Kettering has interned at KU Athletics in marketing and fan experience and has also worked as a student supervisor for KU Libraries. Her career goals are to work in event management, fan experience, or marketing for a team in the Kansas City area.

Brett Hammig Exercise Physiology Student Award

Tanner Reece is a first year master's student in exercise science and is studying how resistance training interventions alter neuromuscular determinants of strength in humans in the Neuromechanics Laboratory at KU. Reece is planning to pursue a Ph.D. in neuromuscular physiology and would like to research how the brain controls voluntary movement in populations with neurological diseases and how resistance training interventions can play a role in the treatment and prevention of these ailments. He has recently published a manuscript in the Journal of Neurophysiology titled “An Examination of a Potential Organized Motor Unit Firing Rate and Recruitment Scheme of an Antagonist Muscle During Isometric Contractions” and has received a research grant from the National Strength and Conditioning Association to study the effects of low-intensity resistance training with blood flow restriction on motor unit hypertrophy of the vastus lateralis in untrained males and females.

Wayne Osness Doctoral Student Award
Dimitrije Cabarkapa is a third year Ph.D. student from Novi Sad, Serbia. He is performing research in the Jayhawk Athletic Performance Laboratory and has over 20 research publications related to athletic performance in peer-reviewed journals. Cabarkapa received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from James Madison University, where he was a member of their basketball team and their strength and conditioning staff. After receiving his master’s degree, Cabarkapa worked at Brigham and Women's Hospital-Harvard Medical School as a research assistant prior to arriving at KU. Cabarkapa recently received a grant from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) to study acute influence of resistance exercise on basketball shooting accuracy and mechanics. He also received the NSCA Vitalyon Scholarship Award in 2019 and the NSCA Challenge Scholarship Award in 2020. His career goals are focused on the sports science field of research directed towards the enhancement of athletic performance, and he hopes that his research will help athletes reach optimal performance levels and reveal undiscovered potentials within themselves.

Kelsey Fortin is a third year Ph.D. student studying health education. She received her bachelor’s degree in community health in 2013 and then worked as a research assistant at KUMC and as a health educator at KU before earning her master’s degree in health education and the psychology of physical activity. In 2019 she was awarded the School of Education Thesis of the Year. Fortin is also the owner of a business that is dedicated to improving the quality of the lives of others through health coaching and fitness training. Her recent research has focused on food insecurities, hunger and physical activity and has recently published an article in the journal Nutrients titled “Hunger and Health: Taking a Formative Approach to Build a Health Intervention Focused on Nutrition and Physical Activity Needs as Perceived by Stakeholders.” In recognition of her work, Fortin was a second-place awardee at the 2021 Capital Research Summit competition, a finalist in the 3Minute Thesis competition, and a recipient of the KU Traditions of Excellence Award.

Note, the Stapleton and McLendon awards were not given out this year. 

The Department of Health, Sport and Exercise Sciences is housed in the School of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Kansas.

About the KU School of Education & Human Sciences

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