Q&A with IP staff member Janis Ragsdale

[Janis Ragsdale is an administrator in the International Programs office and teaches Kinesiology at select study abroad programs]

HUintl -When did you first start teaching KINS 119 in our International programs?

Ragsdale – I began working for international programs in 2008. Since that time, I suppose I’ve taught between 400-500 students.

HUintl – What is it like to teach a fitness class in Harding’s International Programs?

Ragsdale -Students may tire of hearing me say, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” I think of the world as a playground and try to open students’ eyes to different activities that are available to them depending on where they are studying abroad in the world. I’ve had the opportunity to workout, and simultaneously motivate hundreds of students, and hopefully have instilled lifetime motivation for physical activity.

HUintl – What are some of the special activities your students have engaged in?

Ragsdale – Students are challenged to get out of their comfort zones and participate in fitness activities that they don’t normally do. If the particular study abroad campus area is conducive, fitness activities may include mountain hiking, white water rafting, horseback riding, canyoning, scuba diving, cycling, snorkeling, skiing, snowboarding, sand tobogganing, and kayaking. Participation in fitness classes, circuit training, cardio and resistance training, power walking, jogging, weight lifting and flexibility are also options for the course. The aim of the course is to encourage lifetime fitness through participation in fitness activities while focusing on developing muscular endurance, strength, flexibility, healthy body composition, and cardiovascular fitness. The course is tailored to each semester abroad, depending on travel schedules and program location.

HUintl – Do you use any special fitness programs or routines?

Ragsdale – The course is designed to be suitable to each of the various campuses. The campus at HUG is highly suitable for this course, as a gymnasium is on-site for students’ use. The facility includes a treadmill, an elliptical, a stationary bike, weight machines, free weights, as well as an area for cardio and/or circuit training. The campus also has a basketball court, bicycles, and swimming pool that the students are able to utilize for aquatic workouts. A ten-minute run to the beach, followed by kayaking in the bay is quite popular in the warm weather. The students are always proud of their hike up to the top of “HUG mountain,” a mountain across the main street from the campus that has spectacular views of the surrounding area.

HUintl – Do you ever get to see your students after their semester abroad?

Ragsdale – I love reuniting with the students upon their return from traveling. They are eager to tell me about their experiences that usually include physical feats of triumph.

HUintl – Do you ever get to travel with our International Programs students?

Ragsdale – Yes! Traveling with the students and having simultaneous mountain top experiences are highlights. It’s important to me to have a relationship with students to encourage, motivate, and share positive energy.

HUintl – Do you think your course improves the fitness level of your students?

Ragsdale – Without a doubt the course elevates their fitness level, especially for the duration of the course. The students are required to complete a fitness log that is comprised of 16 approved, prescribed activities. Not all students begin the course with equal levels of fitness. Therefore, expectations and modifications are made for the diversity of each individual class. I hope they will have fond memories of the course and when faced with a decision, such as choosing stairs vs. elevators, they will remember me.

HUintl – How many students do you typically have when you teach the course?

Ragsdale – Since 2008, I have taught hundreds of students. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to be on the ground with each one because of distance, but I stay in contact with them weekly to ensure they are on top of their game and not sitting on the bench. It’s hard to quantify because I might have 36 students in Athens, Greece and 38 on the HULA campus, but, I usually have at least 75% or more of the program students enroll in the course where it is offered.

HUintl – What special life-based fitness activities do you enjoy?  Are there any unusual or exotic fitness activities you have done around the world?

Ragsdale – My passion is to keep moving, and running is where I can achieve my quick fix. Memorable activities around the world include camping and hiking for 8 days to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania; a 4-day camp-hike on Machu Picchu, Peru; running the Athens, Greece marathon; working out at the world’s oldest YMCA in London; and participating in an adventure race with my brother. While with the HUA students in New Zealand, I went canyoning through the cold waters of the Mount Aspiring National Park, horseback riding through the Lord of the Rings movie set, and for a mental challenge, went skydiving at 15,000 feet.


– Janis Ragsdale received her Master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in Kinesiology from Harding in 2002.

For more information about studying abroad visit our website: www.harding.edu/international


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