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Not Your Father’s Physical Education




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Growing up in Hagerstown, Maryland, Dana Brooks did not ask why everyone in his elementary school was black. It was the way things were: segregated neighborhoods, segregated restaurants, and segregated movie theaters. “There were no questions,” said Brooks, a child of the civil rights era of the 1950s and ’60s. “We all lived in the same boat. Once we got out in the real world, other things were going on. For example, ‘Why would you have to sit in the balcony upstairs in the movie theater?’ Now you get up there because it’s a better view. Now you have a choice. Back then, you didn’t.”

“We used outdoor commodes and lived in houses that should’ve been condemned. Those around you were of the same race and ethnicity, but you got together with them and went to each other’s houses to eat.”

The concept of “whites only” and “blacks only” would eventually crumble, at least on paper, in America. By the time Brooks reached middle school, he was thrust into a whole new world—a world of integration, where blacks and whites would have to work together, eat together, play together.

At first, integration brought forth a loss of camaraderie and kinship within communities, Brooks admitted. “But it was for a greater good.”

Brooks had to adapt. As one of a few black students at his high school, Brooks found common ground with fellow classmates, regardless of skin color, through the power of sports.

“That was the bridge,” he said. “If you played baseball, if you played basketball, you’re all right.”

With firsthand views from both sides of the fence—segregation and integration—Brooks, now 61, has carried these profound experiences with him throughout his esteemed career at WVU.

“But even more so than technology and new construction, abstract concepts have driven the College further into the future.”

And, perhaps, it has helped the University as a whole leap hurdles and shatter barriers.


As Dean of the College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences (CPASS), Brooks has witnessed the growth of the College—and it’s still evolving under his watch.

In fact, today’s CPASS does not represent your mother’s or father’s physical education program.

And there are more career opportunities than becoming an athletic coach or physical education teacher.

Today CPASS prepares students to work in the global arena in a wide range of jobs including sports performance analyst, athletic training, sport administrator, strength and conditioning specialist, sport marketing, sport and exercise psychologist, and teachers, just to name a few.

In the early twentieth century, physical education and participation in physical activity were viewed as a form of preventative medicine and also prepared America’s youth for military service.

Then in the 1970s, physical education on the college campus began to be recognized as an academic discipline. The field eventually witnessed the establishment of sub-disciplines such as sport psychology and sport management.

Now, the CPASS mission focuses on three pillars, according to Brooks: internationalization of the curriculum, the integration of technology into the curriculum, and faculty, student, and staff success.

By fall 2014, CPASS hopes to move from its current home in the Coliseum to a new $39.8 million, 30,000-square-foot facility that will feature large general purpose classrooms that seat 50 or more students and will be equipped for research via an athletic training room and lab, fitness room, and computer lab. The new CPASS building will support the technology demands of faculty, staff, and students.

“The big challenge is to increase awareness of the breadth and depth of CPASS and its mission,” Brooks said.

The College’s faculty are nationally and internationally recognized teachers, scholars, and public servants, and hold very prestigious leadership positions across the various professional organizations, he added.

“Faculty are committed to student success and to the discovery of new knowledge,” Brooks said.

Even growing up in segregated communities, Brooks did not see his goals in black or white. They were lively, vibrant, and full of color.

“Today we have students and faculty from all parts of the world,” Brooks said proudly of the strides CPASS and WVU have taken with inclusion and diversity. “The expansion of internationalization, diversity, and inclusion is something our college is very proud of.

“Class discussions focusing on diversity and inclusion educate students about the value of social justice and tolerance. This dialogue is critical as we prepare our students to work in a global community. We take for granted the multicultural world we live in. I’ve been part of the civil rights movement and lived through those experiences. My personal journey has enriched my life and my professional career development. We have witnessed some positive changes since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and ’60s; however, the journey continues, and we must continue to be advocates for social justice, diversity, and inclusion, on and off the playing fields.”