Banner Year for Kinesiology Students

October 17, 2023

With the unwavering support of faculty, Department of Kinesiology students excelled during the 2022-23 academic year. Their scholarly work and commitment to teaching earned them local and national recognition.

Here are just a few of their accomplishments:


Brooks stands in a gym, smiling at the camera with her arms crossed. She wears a yellow blouse. Her dark hair is long and flows about her shoulders. She wears dark-rimmed glasses.

Doctoral student Darice Brooks received an Outstanding Student Paper Award by the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA). Her paper, “Exploring the lived experiences of people in adapted sports programming,” examined the advantages and obstacles persons with disabilities face when engaging in the Michigan State University Adapted Sports and Recreation Club (MSUASRC).

Brooks and her research team conducted a qualitative study by interviewing community members and students who belong to the MSUASRC. Research participants were asked about their favorite parts of the club, prior exercise or sport history, physical activity tracking and overall club interest.

The findings revealed recurring positive themes surrounding the impact MSUASRC has on the lives of its members — all of whom have a congenital or acquired physical disability. Brooks and her team learned transportation logistics and a limited amount of practice time serve as barriers for some of the study participants.

According to Challenge Athlete Foundation, only 23 colleges across the country host adapted sports and recreation programs — one thing Brooks hopes to change down the road. “I want to understand the organizational aspects of starting a program, compare it to other clubs and be able to apply it to my model of potentially starting a program in the future,” she said.

In June 2023, Brooks presented her research at the annual NASPSPA Conference in Toronto, Canada.


Burke stands outside of IM Circle, smiling at the camera with his arms crossed. He wears a white button down shirt and an tie with a blue and black diamond pattern. His dark hair is cropped short.

Of the 29 students who presented their research in the Kinesiology category at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) on April 14, 2023, Christian Burke was awarded first place. 

His poster presentation, “The association between peak ground reaction force and knee cartilage thickness in division one female athletes,” was the culmination of research conducted by Burke at the college’s Athletic Injury and Rehabilitation Labs (AIR Labs) with supervision from Assistant Professor Matt Harkey.

Burke spent the 2022-23 academic year examining 40 female athletes from the university’s basketball, soccer and field hockey teams. He conducted a jump-landing assessment and knee cartilage ultrasound. According to research cited in the presentation, female athletes face a “higher incidence of lower extremity injuries.”

His research suggests that there is a direct relationship between peak landing force, which is the maximum amount of force experienced by an individual upon landing, and knee cartilage thickness in the left leg, but not the right leg – and that the association is likely due to limb dominance. 

According to Burke, the opportunity to conduct research with faculty mentorship while pursuing an undergraduate degree molded the trajectory of his career path. “My plans since starting at MSU have changed astronomically,” said Burke, whose original plan was to pursue medical school. 

Now entering the final chapter of his undergraduate education, Burke plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in Kinesiology or a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.


Meredith stands outside of doors, smiling at the camera with her arms on her hips. Her long blonde hair falls about halfway down her torso. She wears a red blouse and a black cardigan.

2023 Ph.D. graduate Meredith Wekesser received an MSU Excellence-in-Teaching Citation award. Each year, the university presents the award to six graduate teaching assistants who have demonstrated exceptional dedication and proficiency in fulfilling their classroom duties with attentiveness and expertise.

“We – students, staff, and faculty in the Department of Kinesiology at MSU – have greatly benefited from, and truly appreciate, Meredith’s many teaching-related contributions over the last four years,” said Professor Nicholas Myers, who nominated Wekesser for the award.

As a former collegiate swimmer at Truman State University, Wekesser suffered a serious shoulder injury, which ultimately led to her discovering the field of sport psychology and subsequently pursuing her Ph.D. in Kinesiology at Michigan State University.

Wekesser taught 12 physical activity and lecture-based courses during her time at the college. “Teaching has been one of the activities I’ve looked forward to the most in my Ph.D. program,” she said

Wekesser’s research focuses on positive youth development through sport, specifically looking at relationships between coaches and athletes and how a coach’s behavior can support positive experiences in sport.

During her research, she developed a questionnaire that measures athletes’ perceptions of their coaches’ behaviors – a tool that carries scientific validity and will serve as a resource for other scholars. 

Wekesser is also a recipient of the Outstanding Student Paper Award by the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA).


Aaron stands outside of The Brain Lab at MSU. He wears a navy blazer over a white button down and blue tie. He has red hair cropped short and a beard.

Aaron J. Zynda capped off his doctoral pursuit by receiving the American Kinesiology Association’s (AKA) National Doctoral Scholar Award. The annual award recognizes the top doctoral kinesiology student in the nation by way of leadership and academic record. 

While conducting research with the Athletic Injury and Rehabilitation Labs (AIR Labs), Zynda examined the recovery process following concussions – specifically how athletes’ sensorimotor skills and performance are affected, and how lingering deficits can lead to subsequent injuries.

He recently joined the Concussion Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center as a postdoctoral fellow. Reflecting on his time at MSU, he is grateful for the mentorship provided by Professor Tracey Covassin. “MSU became the perfect place for me to do my research. Dr. Covassin gave me the freedom to focus on areas that I was most passionate about,” said Zynda.

Long term, he hopes to continue his research and develop a series of targeted treatment and rehab programs for athletes following concussion.

“Zynda’s receipt of this prestigious award not only acknowledges his impressive academic accomplishments but also highlights his exceptional leadership abilities and commitment to the field of kinesiology,” said MSU College of Education Dean and MSU Research Foundation Professor Jerlando F. L. Jackson.