Rachel Kowal

Instructor, Kinesiology and Physical Education

Rachel Kowal

What year did you start working at NIU?
2021

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
My hometown is Sterling, Illinois, and my current town is St. Charles, Illinois.  

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
NIU: undergraduate degree in kinesiology
NIU: master’s degree in exercise physiology 

In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education

What do you like about working at NIU?
I enjoy working with students and teaching them hands-on skills they can take with them into their chosen fields. I also thoroughly enjoy my department. We all have a great time while working together. 

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
To persevere. Life will always throw challenges in your way and it may seem impossible at times, but it's the challenge that makes you grow. 

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
The students in our department love to get as many hands-on opportunities as possible. I piloted an online personal training opportunity for our advanced exercise prescription class. During lecture, the students took turns leading a 20-minute exercise session with an actual client via video chat. It was fun for everyone. 

What do you hope students take away from your class?
I hope that one day, when my students are training a client or with a patient, they’ll remember something I said in class that will help them help others. 

What is your favorite campus event?
I love when prospective students come to tour our labs. I am really proud of what our program has to offer, so I love when I can show new students the possibilities of our program. 

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
My favorite memory of NIU is graduation. Not only mine, but watching my students graduate. There is something so special about that moment for students, faculty and staff. 

Who has influenced your professional path?
I was greatly influenced by all the professors here in the kinesiology department, most notably Dr. Peter Chomentowski and Dr. Clayton Camic. I have learned so much from them. I hope to be as good of a teacher as they are someday. 

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I wanted to be an accountant when I was young. I graduated from Sauk Valley Community College in 2001 with an associate degree in accounting. I took my first job in an accounts payable department for a large manufacturing company. I immediately knew that this was not the path for me. Then, I wanted to be a personal trainer, as I always participated in athletics growing up. I ended up being a personal trainer for almost two decades. I finished my undergraduate and graduate degrees in exercise science so I could influence the next generation of personal trainers. 

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am member of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise (ACE). ACSM sets the guidelines for exercise for general populations and clinical populations. These guidelines are how we determine exercise prescription for all. 

What community organizations are you involved in?
I participate in my daughters' school organizations. I try to volunteer for any event that is within my schedule. I also like to volunteer for anything that will work with my schedule here at NIU. 

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I recharge myself by hiking in nature. 

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