KINections Career Café: women in kinesiology and physical education

iStock image of a woman following a webinar on her laptop with a coffee in her hand

On February 10, students at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE), had the opportunity to hear from seven alumnae about their career paths following their graduation from kinesiology. The webinar was part of a series of career talks with alumni organized through the Faculty’s KINections program, designed to help students stay connected and engaged through the pandemic. 

While the Faculty hosts an annual Career Café that draws a big crowd of alumni to share their career stories with students, Sandhya Mylabathula, a doctoral student at the Faculty, came up with the idea of adding a series of talks featuring specifically women and Black, Indigenous or people of colour (BIPOC) in kinesiology and physical education.

Chelsea Testa Zoomed in from her shift at Sunnybrook Hospital with a mask still covering her face. After getting her kinesiology degree in 2016, she decided to go into radiation therapy, got a degree from the Michener institute of Education and landed a job at Sunnybrook. 

“If you know it’s something you want to do, just go for it, even if you can’t tick off all the boxes in the job ad,” she said. “What’s the worst that can happen?” 

Patricia Clark, who got her bachelor of physical health and education (BPHE) in 1981, also emphasized the importance of following your passion. Clark spent most of her career working in health promotion and is now the national executive director of Active Aging Canada and the Ontario Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. 

“Think about how much time you spend every day at work,” she said. “When you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t feel like work.” 

Patricia Longmuir graduated with a BPHE in the same year as Clark and went on to do a master’s degree in community health. 25 years later, she decided to go back to school for her PhD at the Institute of Medical Sciences and now works as a senior scientist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and an associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Health Science at the University of Ottawa. Longmuir shared she first caught the bug for working with children while doing a research project in her BPHE degree that involved designing physical activity interventions at SickKids. 

Lisa Ann Butcher graduated from the Faculty in 2000 and worked as a personal trainer before getting interested in respiratory therapy. After working at Mt. Sinai Hospital and Credit Valley Hospital, she realized that what she enjoyed the most about her interactions with patients was talking to them and their families about how they were coping mentally. She went back to school and got a master’s in counselling psychology, eventually opening two private practices in BC.

“Taking kinesiology was amazing because it made me focus on the health of the whole person,” she said. “I used everything I learned in my program to start two different careers.”

Angela Furfaro was confident she enjoyed working as a personal trainer, but didn’t think she could do it full time after she completed her BPHE in 2011. It also didn’t help to feel like to the odd one out in a male dominated field. But, after working for others in the industry, she decided to pool her experience and knowledge and start working for herself. She now runs her own successful business empowering women through personal training. 

“I realized that being a woman was my strength because other women could relate to me,” she said. “We need more women who are vocal about exercising for the right reasons.”

Clare Richard graduated the same year as Furfaro. After doing placements with the national women's field hockey teams in her third and fourth year of kinesiology, she got interested in athletic therapy. She did a master’s in rehabilitation science from McMaster University and now works as an athletic therapist and strength and conditioning specialist with Karate Canada and varsity athletes at George Brown College, and also runs her private practice.

Reflecting on what drove her success, she singled out her persistence and professionalism.

Last but not least, Danielle Emmons shared her experience of working with Canada Basketball, coordinating coach education and special projects. Emmons graduated with a bachelor of kinesiology in 2014 and followed that up with a certificate in exercise science and life management. 

Like others on the panel, she spoke about her excitement that more women are getting involved in sport and sport management and advised students to widen their perspective in terms of what they think their career path could be.

Second year kinesiology student Alexandra Dojutrek was among the students who tuned in for the webinar. 

“It was very helpful,” she said. “I got to ask questions about different careers I am interested in, so now I have some helpful information to consider when I’m deciding what to do after my undergrad degree. It also sparked some interest in jobs I hadn’t considered before.

"It was really inspiring to hear about the careers these kin alumnae had forged for themselves."

The next installment of the KINections Career Café webinars is scheduled for February 24 and will feature BIPOC alumni. 

The KINections program is proudly sponsored by U of T affinity partner, Manulife