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Kinesiology & Health Sciences "Outstanding Major of the Year" recipients

At the Kinesiology & Health Sciences department's graduation ceremony, two students, Kyle Horst and Sarah Todd, were awarded the "Outstanding Major of the Year Award." They each received a check for $500.00 from the Borgenicht Endowment, a certificate and a medal. Below is the introductions given by the Chair, Ken Kambis, and the students graduation speeches.

Kyle Horst

Kyle Horst is a double major in Kinesiology & Health Sciences and Neuroscience and member of Phi Beta Kappa. Working in Prof. Harris' Molecular & Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory, Kyle received competitive research fellowships for two summers: a national American Physiological Society Summer Research Fellowship and a William & Mary Howard Hughes Medical Institute Summer Research Fellowship. Kyle has presented her work at the 2009 Experimental Biology meeting in New Orleans. In addition, Kyle graduated with honors in Kinesiology & Health Sciences for her thesis titled "Effects of Cdc37 overexpression and silencing on eNOS phosphorylation and activation in endothelial cells." Following a brief break for the summer Kyle will be attending the University of Virginia Medical School next year.


Kyle HorstFriends, family, faculty... and football players, I'm honored to represent the Kinesiology & Health Sciences department as one of your Majors of the Year. Joining the Kinesiology department was the best decision I almost never made. If you know anything about me, you know that I am painfully indecisive. If a plan is not laid out before me, I have been known to sit paralyzed for hours with such daunting decisions as hmm.. "lengthening or volumizing mascara?".... "cheese shop or chipotle?" "William and Mary or...." Well, actually that was a really easy decision. Both of my parents are William and Mary alumni, so my blood has run Griffin-green & gold since the day I was born. I also always knew I wanted to be a doctor, so pre-med was a no-brainer. With pre-med I knew I'd have to do some research, so I approached Professor Harris about joining his lab. When he told me that I would have to join the department first, yet another life decision had practically been made for me.

            Looking back, I'm so thankful for that fateful day. When I chose to join the Kinesiology department, I got more than "the study of human movement" (which I'm pretty sure is what kinesiology means for those of you out there who were still unsure). I also learned life lessons that I will treasure for years to come, and I'd like to share five of the most salient with you this afternoon.

  1. I've learned that the skin is crucial for the protection and survival of the body (as well as for water resistance, which was beneficial in skinny-dipping the Adair pool). Similarly, in Professor Kohl's class I've learned the true practical value of having a thick skin.
  2. From Professor Deschenes, I have learned that double pepperoni pizza is a super-food which can be successfully applied to any concept in human physiology.
  3. When I came to college, I wasn't sure what to expect in crossing the Mason-Dixon line. Professor McCoy taught me all about tractors and Nascar, but also anatomy and biomechanics. He showed me that there is a wealth of grey matter behind a red neck.
  4. Professor Looft-Wilson, our cardiovascular physiology professor, has taught me by example how nutrition applies to heart health. From her, I've learned to be appropriately terrified of the 134 grams of sugar that go into my nightly 41 oz Slurpee.
  5. Last but certainly not least, is my mentor Professor Harris (or Harrizzle, as I like to call him). Harrizzle, I know that I was supposed to be learning about research and cardiovasculature in your lab, but quite honestly all that I remember learning is that gangster slang is appropriate in any and all situations, and that Lance Armstrong is a demigod with the heart of an ox.

            On top of these things, I've learned that the Kinesiology & Health Sciences department is filled with faculty and students who are immensely helpful, brilliant, and dedicated to their passions. In my time as a Kinesiology major I have been given opportunities that I never imagined possible, including 2 years researching year-round in Professor Harris' Molecular and Cardiovascular Physiology lab, traveling to New Orleans with faculty and fellow students to present my research, and achieving departmental honors. More important than these opportunities, though, is the unique closeness and warmth of this department. Some of my favorite memories not only of kinesiology but of college in general involve departmental bar-b-qs, pot lucks at professors' homes, pool parties, and conversations with my professors and peers.  I credit most of my undergraduate accomplishments, awards, and most rewarding relationships to this department, and I hope and know that many of you can say the same. We have something special here in Kinesiology & Health Sciences, and I am proud and grateful to have been a part of it for 4 years. Congratulations to everyone, and thanks to the department!


Sarah Todd

Sarah Todd worked for 1.5 years in Dr. Robin Looft-Wilson's research laboratory and, during this short time, she was awarded a competitive summer undergraduate research fellowship from the American Physiological Society and the national Bruce award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research from the American Physiological Society for the research poster on "Acute sheer stress does not increase phosphorylation of eNOS at S1179 in mouse mesenteric arteries" she presented at the national meeting of Experimental Biology - she is the first William & Mary student to receive this award. Because of her outstanding accomplishments while at The College of William & Mary as a Kinesiology & Health Sciences major, Sarah has been elected to the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.


Sarah ToddThank you, Dr. Kambis. I am extremely grateful and honored for the privilege to stand before you here today and be a part of this ceremonious event. I'd like to start with a quote from Jon Stewart's 2004 commencement address. He said: "The truly exciting thing about your life is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective. The paths are infinite and the results uncertain." Four years ago, many of us did not have a path or a plan and some of us still don't, but we've worked hard to be here-we the graduating class-but also you, your parents, friends, and teachers. And today we are commemorating, celebrating, and remembering our past four years together.

It is ironic that I am addressing you all today given my beginnings in the Kinesiology Department. The first class that I took and know that most of you all have taken was "Motor Learning" with Dr. Kohl. You may or may not remember that he did a lot of reaction time demonstrations where he did crazy things such as throw chalk at the clock or sometimes people. For these demonstrations he always wanted someone to start him by saying, "ready...set...go." One of the first classes he asked for a volunteer to do this, no one volunteered, and I averted my eyes. Of course then, he picked me, the shyest person with the softest voice in the class to start him. After that, any time that he did a demonstration he would always ask "where's my starter" and I had to say "ready...set...go." Inevitably he would tease me and say that I wasn't loud enough or enthusiastic enough and made me repeat it. I'm surprised that I didn't run away from the Kinesiology Department when I had the chance, but something attracted me to it, perhaps the same things that attracted you, and I feel lucky because being a Kinesiology and Health Sciences major has defined my undergraduate experience by providing me with opportunities such as researching in a lab, attending a national scientific conference, and meeting wonderful people.

At the end of freshmen year, I was introduced to Dr. Looft-Wilson and the Vascular Physiology lab. Right away I felt a connection to her and knew that I want to do research in her lab. About a year and a half later, I started a research project that has proved to be one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences that I've had at William and Mary and I am fortunate to have had Dr. Looft-Wilson to guide me through it. There is a proverb that says, "Tell me and I'll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand." The Kinesiology & Health Sciences Department is really great at getting students involved and research enriches the classroom experience two-fold by making students more independent and active learners, and putting what is learned in the classroom to use. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that "all of life is an experiment" and I found that there are a lot of lessons from lab work that apply to life. One that Dr. Looft-Wilson demonstrated to me is to be persistent and persevere. Do what you think is right and do not give up even in the most frustrating moments when nothing seems to go well. Another lesson is to be passionate about your work. If you can't be then it is probably not the right job for you or you are not ready for it yet. Also, it is important to be critical and to not believe everything, even if it is published in a top scientific journal. Lastly, keep in touch with the people that you have come to know, whether they are students or professors, because they will be there to support and help you take that next step.

I once talked to Dr. Halleran and he asked if I had a magic wand what is one thing that I would change and one thing that I would keep about William and Mary. Right away I said that I would not change the Kinesiology professors because they are extremely encouraging and supportive of the students, they are enthusiastic and passionate about what they teach, and they engage and challenge students to grow and learn. Most importantly, they make an effort to get to know the students and make them feel like a member of the Kinesiology family. So when I reflect on my years here, perhaps what I will remember the most is not what I learned in class, but the messages exemplified in the character of our professors: that life is to be lived with passion, commitment, integrity, curiosity, and a sense of humor.

I imagine that by now Dr. Kohl is probably thinking that this is the longest that he has ever heard me talk at one time and timing so that he can tease me for speaking ten minutes instead of five. So on that note, I'll close now, but I will be eternally grateful to the Kinesiology & Health Sciences Department, especially to Dr. Looft-Wilson and Dr. Kohl because I attribute a lot of my successes at William and Mary to them. Also, thank you to my parents for their continuous love and support. To the Class of 2010, I wish you luck as you find your path in life and I think that it is only fitting that my parting words to you as a farewell tribute to honor Dr. Kohl and to begin your life in the world beyond W&M are...ready...set...GO!


Kyle and Sarah