physical fitness health science courses

Connecting People to Places: New Health Science Courses Focus on Physical Fitness and Outdoor Leadership

by Eric D. Lehman, Associate Professor, Communications Specialist 

Two exciting new courses offered by University of Bridgeport’s (UB) Health Sciences program will prepare students for fitness coaching and outdoor leadership.

Both HSCI 324-HB: ACE Personal Trainer and HSCI 329-HB: Outdoor Recreation & Leadership will be open to all UB students as electives. They will be taught by Professor Bren Harrison, the Pre-Professional Coordinator in the College of Health Sciences, School of Health Professions.

Originally from New Orleans, Prof. Harrison earned a B.S. in Exercise and Health Science from Kennesaw State University and an M.S. in Human Performance from Southern Connecticut State University. She is currently working on her doctorate in Health Sciences at UB and teaches full-time in the Health Sciences Department. Her courses include Introduction to Exercise Science, Biomechanics, Kinesiology, Strength & Conditioning, Fitness Assessment, and Health Sciences Research. In her spare time, Harrison enjoys marathon running, MMA, cycling, yoga, Pilates, boxing, and rugby, which she played for over 20 years. Her research focuses on biomechanics and performance in rock climbers, surfers, adventure racers, mountain bikers, and kayakers.

That research led directly to her creation of these two new Health Sciences classes. The first option will be a four-credit course that will help UB students get their ACE Personal Trainer Certification. Until now, students prepared on their own or took an online course in exercise science related principles before sitting for exams. It costs a lot to take those exams, and most students don’t pass on the first try. To make sure that UB students have a better shot, Harrison has partnered with the American Council on Exercise to verify the course content.

“A lot of people embark on personal fitness goals without an evidence-based background on how to begin and what type of exercise would be the most beneficial,” says Dr. Michael Ciolfi, Dean of the College of Health Sciences. “This class will provide our students with the background to help individuals accomplish their fitness goals.”

With a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on training in the Wheeler Recreation Center, the course will give UB students the knowledge and understanding necessary to prepare for the ACE Personal Trainer Certification Exam and become effective personal trainers. After the class, students have 60 days to sit for the exam. If they pass, they will earn their ACE Personal Trainer Certification and be eligible to work in gyms throughout America.

The second class, HSCI 329-HB: Outdoor Recreation & Leadership, is a comprehensive introduction to outdoor activities including hiking, camping, paddling, cooking outdoors, and survival skills. Students will learn how to manage risks and safety outdoors, develop outdoor leadership skills, and learn to adventure outdoors while leaving no trace. “Evidence has proven that spending time in the outdoors improves both mental and physical health,” says Dr. Ciolfi. “For those who want to challenge themselves in this environment, it is important to know how to ensure you are safe and confident.”

Professor Harrison co-taught UB’s Bio Survival course last summer and has years of experience in outdoor education. “I grew up with access to the mountains in Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas, in a family that hiked and camped every year,” she says. “As an undergraduate at Kennesaw State, I helped found the NatureBound program and as a professor I wanted to bring something like that to our campus here at University of Bridgeport.”

Students will be swinging on the Discovery Park ropes course, biking on the Farmington Heritage Canal Trail, and kayaking on the Saugatuck River. The highlight is a backcountry camping trip to learn orienteering, safety, and survival skills. The costs of these expeditions are built into the course itself, including equipment from Teton Sports. Takeaways will include practical skills like first aid and water safety, and ethical concepts like sustainability and mindfulness.

Harrison plans to grow this course in future years. “I’m excited to add white water rafting and other exciting options,” says Harrison. “We are going to get UB students into the wild.”

Interested students should contact their advisor or reach out to Professor Bren Harrison at