Luther announces changes to the Health and Physical Education program

February 13, 2019

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that from 2016 to 2026, employment in the health education sector will grow 16 percent and healthcare occupations generally will grow 18 percent – both much faster than the national average for all occupations. With this growth in mind, the Luther College Board of Regents unanimously approved multiple changes to the college’s Health and Physical Education Department, including renaming the department to Health Promotion and Exercise Science to better reflect changes to the program.

Luther’s new HPES program will include a health promotion major/minor, an exercise science major/minor, an allied health sciences major and an applied leadership studies minor.

“The HPES Department is very excited about the new opportunities and experiences offered with the revised curriculum,” said Brian Solberg, HPES associate professor and director of Luther’s athletic training program. “The new majors and minors address the growing need for professionals in healthcare, human performance and leadership at the community and national levels.”

As the cost of healthcare rises, government, nonprofits and private businesses are placing increased value on preventative health promotion. Luther’s health promotion major and minor will provide an entry point to this field and equip students to help individuals, families and communities live healthy lifestyles. A wide range of classroom and real-world experiences in this program will prepare students to work with diverse populations, educating and empowering them in an effort to reduce disease, disability and premature death while increasing quality of life. Students who complete Luther’s health promotion major will be eligible to sit for the Certified Health Education Specialist examination.

Luther’s HPES faculty proposed the new exercise science major and minor in response to increased student interest in the field of human performance. Students in the program will gain foundational knowledge and practical skills that prepare them for a professional career in exercise science or for graduate studies in areas such as kinesiology, biomechanics and human performance. Coursework in the major will prepare students to satisfy requirements for American College of Sport Medicine certification and National Strength and Conditioning Association certification.

Luther’s allied health sciences major will ready students to enter a robust and growing segment of the workforce. Allied health professionals make up nearly 60 percent of the healthcare workforce. They work collaboratively with physicians, nurses, dentists and pharmacists to provide comprehensive, patient-centered care that includes helping with the prevention, evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation of diseases and disorders; dietary and nutritional services; and health systems management. Completion of the major will also prepare students for graduate studies in fields such as athletic training, physical therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic care, prosthetics, perfusion therapy and clinical exercise physiology.

The applied leadership studies minor will not be limited to students interested in health promotion, health science or exercise science. Instead, it will complement major fields of study through multidisciplinary engagement and will teach students to apply principles of leadership to personal growth, activities and vocational interests. The curriculum will include initiative activities, guest speakers, formalized internships and adventure education opportunities that leverage the greater Decorah community and the regional attributes of the Driftless Region. Through guided experiences, the minor will provide an opportunity for students to develop leadership capacities that reflect confidence and purpose.

The overall changes to Luther’s HPES program are designed to equip students to thrive in a rapidly changing world. “We are excited for our graduates and their ability to handle the challenging and ever-changing health and exercise environment in public and private settings,” said Solberg. Learn more at

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,005, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs.