(Photo: 2022 Lawhead Award winner Kendra Zenisek (left) and Doris Lawhead pose for a photo with Ms. Zenisek’s plaque during the award reception on April 27, 2023)
Core curriculum courses at Ball State University are more than required classes students need to pass in order to graduate. These courses are a significant part of the Ball State educational experience, says Kendra Zenisek, associate lecturer of Kinesiology and coordinator of Physical Fitness and Wellness (PFW) Program in the University’s School of Kinesiology. She teaches several PFW courses which are part of the University Core Curriculum (UCC) program.
“The overall understanding of how exercise can be medicine proactively or reactively is something that we strive to implant as one of those opportunities for students to take care of themselves—regardless of who they want to be and where they want to go from this point forward,” Ms. Zenisek said. “It crosses all majors, career choices and life choices. The more well you are, the more you are able to participate in your life and in the lives of the ones you love, care about, and want to positively influence.”
That belief is at the heart of Ms. Zenisek’s dedication to PFW courses and their place in the UCC, plus her support of the entire core curriculum. In recognition of her dedication, hard work, and support, Ms. Zenisek was recently named the recipient of the 2022 Lawhead Award in General Education. She was honored during the Lawhead Award Reception held April 27.
The Lawhead Award in General Education—made possible by gifts from Vic and Doris Lawhead—recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to Ball State’s UCC program. The Lawhead Award encourages the continued strengthening of Ball State’s core curriculum by rewarding faculty who have enhanced the University’s image as a strong teaching institution. In particular, the award recognizes the person’s contribution to the core curriculum program.
Ms. Zenisek’s view of the benefits UCC courses have for Ball State students goes hand-in-hand with the philosophy of the late Vic Lawhead, dean emeritus of Undergraduate Programs at Ball State, who is survived by his wife of many years, Doris.
“Core [curriculum] courses offer possibilities to students. These courses are good places for them to open their minds to many things. You have to start somewhere,” Ball State graduate Doris Lawhead, BA ‘49 MA ‘53, said in an interview prior to the reception. “Vic believed it would be good to promote core courses and praise educators who support core courses.”
Dr. Thomas Weidner, a George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Athletic Training, nominated Ms. Zenisek for this prestigious Ball State award when he was chair of the School of Kinesiology.
“She has staunchly supported the University Core Curriculum in general, and the PFW Program specifically,” Dr. Weidner wrote in the nomination letter, noting that Ms. Zenisek teaches approximately 650 students each semester. “Kendra has enriched student learning experiences through innovative activities which support the University’s commitment to positively impact students’ quality of life on campus and in their chosen careers.
“Clearly, Ms. Zenisek’s accomplishments demonstrate her transcendent impact on general education and the PFW Program at Ball State University. The students always come first in all that she does.”
Learn more about Ms. Zenisek in this brief Q&A interview below:
What Were Your Thoughts When You Learned That You Won the Lawhead Award?
“I looked at it as an opportunity to highlight the benefits that our program has for the student population and student wellness in general. Instead of shining the traditional spotlight on that, I want to change that to a floodlight. Yes, students take courses specific to their majors, but all students take core curriculum courses. The core is there to provide that base of what else is out there in the world or what else can blossom within oneself.
Having a spotlight on me makes me uncomfortable. But if I can be a prism to show the vast array of all that PFW courses and core curriculum offer students, then I am happy to do that through this award. And I’m honored to receive this award.”
Please Share One or Two of Your Biggest Challenges In Your Life or Career. How Did You Address Those Challenges?
“One of the biggest challenges I faced was the fact that I was a female trying to get into a male-dominated field: athletic training in professional sports. Being a female athletic trainer was not something that happened 20-25 years ago—particularly in the world I wanted to get into, which was Major League Baseball (MLB). I was told, even in high school, to ‘think of something else you want to do.’
Within different parts of my undergraduate college experience, I seized the opportunity to be an athletic trainer intern with a professional team, the Pittsburgh Pirates [MLB team]. I was also an athletic trainer intern with a minor league baseball team, the Delmarva Shorebirds—the Baltimore Orioles’ Single-A affiliate team. Even though I am not there now—and that was my choice not to stay on that track—I learned that just because someone tells you ‘no,’ it doesn’t mean that what you want is not possible.
Fast-forward to 2009. I was diagnosed with cancer just about when I turned 30 years old. I was told by my doctors locally, ‘You’re a rarity; this sort of cancer doesn’t happen in people your age.’ I was disappointed with the treatment options provided. Fortunately, my brother-in-law is a doctor. He was able to refer me to doctors at Sloan Kettering (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) in New York and a treatment plan better suited to my needs. Long story short, I’m here talking about it today. I survived, largely in thanks to my tremendous support system.”
What Do You Like About Ball State?
“What Ball State represents to me is a sense of family, and a sense of belonging.
I came to Muncie in 2001 for grad school with the thought of ‘I’m here for grad school.’ But Ball State and Muncie have become home. It’s where I met my husband (Bill Zenisek, associate lecturer of Kinesiology at Ball State), and it’s where we have continued to make our life together. Ball State brought us together.
As far as my experience with Ball State, particularly with the school in which I work and the people with whom I work, I’ve always felt like I matter.
I’ve always felt that Ball State gave me a chance. I gave Ball State a chance. And we’ve continued to have that partnership over the past 20 years.”