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Dr. Susan Keith: Shaping Up ASU

January 26, 2009

Dr. Susan Keith sees physical activity and sports as a calling and makes them an integral part of her life while promoting their benefits to others.

An associate professor of kinesiology, Keith also said they are a driving force in her career path.  That is why she is part of a yearlong study that will hopefully lead to the establishment of a comprehensive ASU wellness program that will be available to employees, students and community members.

“Recently, we launched a health risk appraisal for all our full-time employees to complete,” Keith said. “We hope to bring about a level of awareness regarding individual health status among our employee population and then eventually do the same for our students.”

The ASUFit program already has sponsored wellness seminars, a campus survey and run/walk events as it strives to get the ASU community more involved in the wellness initiative. “Bill Cullins has done a fantastic job of spearheading these activities.”

Keith’s involvement in the project is reflected in her teaching career that includes being named the ASU Alumni Association’s 2008 Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award winner for the College of Education.

“To be successful, you have to have a passion,” Keith said.  “Passion is what it’s all about.  Having a longstanding history of physical activity, this really was the only choice for me and it’s the best choice.”

Keith said leading a healthy lifestyle figured into her career choice.

“I just can’t think of a better job to help me stay in shape, to help me be a lifelong learner and to be around bright, fun individuals,” she said.

Keith sees herself as a facilitator in class where she tries to inspire interaction and apply critical thinking skills.  In her health promotion in the workplace class, students work in teams to develop a level III comprehensive worksite health promotion program. By completing this project, students understand the planning, implementation, and evaluation process that will help them in any health-related career they choose, she said.

“Health promotion is part of the exercise science curriculum which teaches how you would improve the social environment of the workplace and what you can do to help employees lead a healthier lifestyle,” she said.

Keith’s interest in a healthier lifestyle also can be traced to her heritage.

“My mother is almost full-blooded Choctaw,” Keith said.  “There are health issues and disparities among underrepresented groups.  Some groups have a predisposition for certain health issues, such as Type 2 diabetes.  In my family, my grandmother and two uncles died because of complications related to Type 2 diabetes. My mother and two of my aunts also have Type 2 diabetes.  However, it still comes down to diet and exercise.”

She said some problems developed for such groups as Native Americans when they changed from their past culture to the contemporary lifestyle.

“Culture has done a number on them as far as the high incidence of Type 2 diabetes,” Keith said.
Through research and opportunities at ASU, Keith said she is able to keep up with professional development and continue to learn about topics to which she hasn’t been exposed.

Keith, who calls Oklahoma home, earned a bachelor’s degree in office administration from Southwestern Oklahoma State University, a bachelor’s degree in physical education from the University of Central Oklahoma and a master’s in education from Baylor University.  Her doctorate in health studies came from Texas Woman’s University.

Keith’s college career was marked by participation in athletics, first at the University of Nebraska where she was a member of the Lady Cornhuskers basketball team.  After she transferred to Southwestern Oklahoma, she played on the women’s tennis team and served as the Army ROTC cadet sergeant major and then cadet commander.

While completing basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., Keith earned expert grenade thrower and sharpshooter status.  Physical injuries prevented her from fulfilling military career aspirations, so she turned to business and then to education.

Her first stop in the education profession was Edmond, Okla., where she was the assistant tennis coach at Edmond High School.  Then, while working on her master’s in education with an emphasis in exercise physiology at Baylor, Keith became a graduate assistant in the Physical Education Department.  

Before coming to ASU in 1997, Keith taught physical education at Kilgore College and was its first director of fitness programs.
Keith’s journey of education and fitness continues with each new semester.

“You always need to have that element of wanting to learn and gain new experiences,” she said.  “You have to be flexible and adjust to the changing times.  Our student population continues to change.  We have to be willing to identify and understand the changes in our student population so we can better meet their needs.”