Lisa Sprod, wearing bike helmet, riding bike through wooded area.

January 28, 2020 

As a college athlete, Lisa Sprod thought her career would center on helping fellow athletes run faster or gain strength. A graduate school opportunity to work with cancer survivors changed her focus. 

“Seeing how exercise could completely transform a person’s quality of life changed my trajectory,” said Sprod, associate professor of exercise science in the School of Health and Applied Human Sciences. “Although I appreciate the value of improving performance in athletes, I am more passionate about helping everyone have a more satisfying life through participation in physical activity and exercise.” 

Part of that commitment means finding ways to expand students’ perspective. One of her favorite ways to do that is through study abroad opportunities. Sprod, who grew up in Colorado and loves the outdoors, leads trips to “Blue Zones,” areas of the world known for the longevity of their people. 

Destinations have included Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; and the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. The trips are open to students of any major. “We learn about lifestyle factors that contribute to these healthy lives and longevity,” she said. 

Beyond the academic value, studying abroad contributes to students’ personal growth, she said. “It opens the world to them,” said Sprod, a recipient of the 2018-19 Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award. 

In addition to her other duties, Sprod is coordinator for the newly created yoga studies minor. She and several College of Health and Human Services colleagues saw a natural fit including yoga, with its emphasis on balance and gradual, deliberate movements, in the exercise science discipline. UNCW is only the second national public university with a yoga studies minor (the first was Utah State). 

Knowledge of yoga will give exercise science students another tool to work with clients, but there is another benefit, Sprod said: students completing the yoga minor are eligible for certification as yoga instructors, providing them a source of income as they continue their studies. 

A Friends of UNCW grant helped purchase bolsters, which help support yoga practitioners in certain poses. As the college and the field of exercise science grows, Sprod said she is happy to have found a university that supports innovative ideas. 

“We are given the ability to be creative, and to create really cool experiences for our students,” she said. 

-- Tricia Vance