Graduate Student Spotlight: Amy and Ashton

Although graduate studies can be rigorous as finals are fast approaching, it is very important to take care of our physical and mental health. Graduate Kinesiology students Amy Symmes and Ashton Smith are two examples of students who balance physical activity with their school work. They recently sat down with us to share their Saint Mary's experience as well as their favorite forms of exercise and how it has shaped who they are today!

Amy Symmes
MA in Kinesiology ‘17
Undergraduate: Brigham Young University
Undergraduate Major: Dance Education

AmyHow did you hear about Saint Mary’s College and what made you choose the Graduate Kinesiology program?

I actually discovered Saint Mary’s when I looked into the MFA in Dance program. I saw that they had a Kinesiology master’s degree and thought that it would help me attain my goals. I came out to visit campus and it was beautiful. The people were nice and I knew that this would be the right program for me. It is also close to San Francisco which is one of the most beautiful cities in the country.

I chose the Graduate Kinesiology program at Saint Mary’s because I thought it would give me the needed experience to further my career, as I hope to run a dance and fitness program and own a studio one day.

What has been your favorite class so far?

My favorite class has been Human Motor Performance with Professor Craig Johnson. We were able to do hands-on labs and the topics in class were things that I was very interested in.

Why do you think the Graduate Kinesiology program is a good choice?

The Graduate Kinesiology program at SMC is great because the classes are small which means you are able to get the help and education you need. You really become a part of a community in this program and are not just a student in the classroom. The program can also be tailored to your needs so you can take a full load of classes and finish the program sooner or take a few classes at a time and keep a full-time job.

How did you become interested in dance?

Dance can be an activity that connects the mind and body. It also gives you rhythm and needed motor control that many lose as they begin to age. Dance not only keeps you fit but can also keep you happy as moving to music creates a positive atmosphere and adds goodness to life. I began dancing in a modern dance class in 7th grade and danced in studio classes with friends. I went on to become the dance company president of my high school dance team, where we were able to travel and compete. When I went to college I completed a degree in dance education. I went on to teach dance in a middle school for two years and put on several recitals in that time. I decided I wanted to further my education and found the Masters in Kinesiology program at Saint Mary's.

Ashton Smith
MA in Kinesiology ‘17
Undergraduate: Fresno State
Undergraduate Major: Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science

Ashton!Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in the Central Valley and moved to Fresno for college. I earned my Bachelors of Science at Fresno State and soon after decided to pursue my Master's degree here at Saint Mary's. I moved to the Bay Area last year to start the program and it has been an exciting new change in my life! I currently teach dance in Martinez at In Motion Dance Center where I work with kids ages 3-15 and love it. I am also doing two internships, one here at Saint Mary's with Campus Recreation and one at Star Pilates and Fitness in Moraga. I enjoy the variety of atmospheres in which I get to work as it keeps things fun and evolving. In my spare time, I love being outdoors, cooking, and traveling!

How did you hear about Saint Mary’s College and what made you choose the Graduate Kinesiology program?

While researching graduate programs in California, I came across the programs at Saint Mary’s. I also have family from Moraga so I was familiar with the college. I was intrigued by the idea of a management program in Kinesiology as it was different from other programs I have seen. I also visited prior to applying and ultimately the area and program were the right choice for me.

Is there any class that you would say is your favorite so far?

That's hard! I am currently taking Applied Concepts in Exercise Science with Professor James Barber and it has probably been my favorite thus far. I love taking the science based knowledge and applying it to my current jobs and internships in client training and management.

Why would you say Saint Mary’s College is a good choice for attaining a graduate degree?

It's hard to beat the small class sizes and location of the campus. The professors want us to succeed as both students and professionals in the industry, and provide endless resources to make that happen.

What made you interested in Pilates?

I think Pilates is a great supplementation to current training or exercise routines. It is low impact, and focuses on balance and flexibility which is often overlooked. I grew up dancing ballet, and Pilates was often incorporated into training to help balance muscle strength and flexibility. In college, I started exploring Pilates classes and training more.

As part of my internship with Campus Recreation, I teach Pilates twice a week as a fitness session. It is my first time teaching it outside of a dance studio and I love experimenting with lessons and exercises. I am also involved in Pilates at my internship with Star Pilates and Fitness. I observe classes, talk to Pilates clients, and take mat and reformer workshops when offered. My goal is to utilize Pilates in teaching dance as well as when working with future personal training clients, so I hope to get certified within the next year.