Name: Erika Barker
Program: Movement Science
Level or Degree: Senior
What are you involved in on campus?
I work as a tutor for the athletic department. I also volunteer for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC). I’m in M-Swing and the Michigan Ballroom Dance Team and a member of O-STEM, which is Out in STEM, an LGBTQ+ group on campus.
What has it meant for you to be a peer ambassador?
As a peer ambassador, I talk to students who have been accepted into the School of Kinesiology and are curious about the university. When I started at U-M, I was in LSA and didn’t know about Kinesiology. Now, I get to inform people about the different majors and how that can help prepare them for their future careers. It’s a way for me to give back to the school. I get to highlight the amazing experiences I’ve had, what classes look like, how to build a schedule, and what it’s like to be away from home.
How has the School of Kinesiology prepared you for your post-graduation goals?
The School of Kinesiology helped me gain insight into the different fields I’m studying. Movement Science gives you the freedom to pursue outside interests, so I’m minoring in dance and pre-health. While the classes overlap with the pre-health requirements, the degree differs from biology or neuroscience because it focuses on the human body rather than just brain or body cells. If you’re interested in a field focused on how people move and operate, this is the degree to go into.
I’ve also made connections with professionals and alumni in the physical therapy field. I met an alum who is a chiropractor in Ann Arbor, and we spoke about what she did post-graduation. It was a great experience, and I’m thankful the smaller alumni network provides more one-on-one opportunities.
What makes the School of Kinesiology unique?
I would have to say the smaller size of the school. It was a little scary taking General Chemistry with 400 students in CHEM 1800, the largest lecture hall on campus, my first year. Kinesiology’s classes are smaller and allow you to get one-on-one time with faculty. Additionally, professors get to know you on a first-name basis, recognize who you are, and say hello when they pass you in the hallways. You have opportunities to ask them questions about their work and get involved in their research. Finally, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in, and Kinesiology’s exercise physiology, motor control, and biomechanics labs allow you to perform tests that real physical therapists or scientists do. You get practical applications that help you determine the field you want to go into.
I’m also super excited about the new building, classrooms, and lab spaces.
What is your most memorable moment within the school?
I think my favorite thing I have done so far was a lab where we used horizontal shift lenses to look at how the cerebellum corrects movement. We wore the lenses while trying to walk around boxes, and it was eye-opening to watch someone try to walk around and step over something they thought was in front of them, but in actuality was right next to them. It was fun using that experience as a way to understand how the brain works instead of just talking about how the neurons fire off in the brain. Not only did we get a chance to see how the brain works, but we also were able to come up with our own precision and accuracy tests. The labs are great places to do things you wouldn’t get a chance to do in class.
Movement Science gives you the freedom to pursue outside interests, so I’m minoring in dance and pre-health. While the classes overlap with the pre-health requirements, the degree differs from biology or neuroscience because it focuses on the human body rather than just brain or body cells.
Do you have an “a-ha” moment or a time when your perspective shifted?
I took MOVESCI 230: Human Muscular Anatomy with Dr. Melissa Gross (associate professor of Movement Science) and Dr. Michele Bird (Movement Science lecturer). The class was a blast. Dr. Bird did a great job of explaining muscular control and solving problems associated with it. Within that class, you do talk about muscles and bones, but you also learn some of the common things you see with the human body. For example, most people have a tendon that runs through their wrist when they flex it. However, some people don’t, and it surprised me that there was such a large variation between people with one tendon. Learning this helped me realize that I want to work where I can do something physical with people and see their change and progress and talk about how the body works. I don’t want to sit at a desk all day, so seeing Dr. Bird teach and work at the university as a physical therapist has helped push me towards physical therapy and away from medicine.
How have you changed academically, socially, or professionally since your first year?
The culture shift coming from a small town to a big city like Ann Arbor was a struggle for me. I was around people from very different places and in those first couple of classes, I struggled academically because I didn’t understand how to study in college. I went to my professors, and they helped me change my perspective and gave me some strategies to help me excel.
It was also hard because, at the time, I was taking classes I wasn’t invested in, but then I met some people who were in the School of Kinesiology, and I was immediately interested. I took MOVESCI 110: Intro to Movement Science and fell in love with the subject. I knew this is where I wanted to go academically. Within that first year, I was able to change my view of school and learn more about the world while realizing what I wanted to do.
What is your favorite thing to do in Ann Arbor?
There is a trail in Ann Arbor called Border to Border, and I love bike riding down it. Additionally, my favorite place to go is Blank Slate Creamery, which has some of the best ice cream in Michigan. It’s in a good location at the bottom of a hill, so you can walk there and then back up the hill and burn off all the calories you just ate.