Exercise Science

Exercise Science

Pacific Union College’s department of exercise science serves the campus community by providing opportunities for career development in sports professions, for instruction, and for participation.

Fast Facts


Each individual is encouraged to achieve a high level of total fitness and neuromuscular coordination supporting a wholesome lifestyle.


The department runs one of the largest intramural programs offered by a school of our size on the West Coast, and the #1 intramural program in the nation as ranked by College Prowler.


Thorough instruction is provided in the requirements for participation and leadership in sports activities.


A wide variety of suitable activities in and out of the classroom environment are provided to support Christian values.


  • Teaching/coaching
  • Health & fitness industry
  • Sports medicine
  • Physical therapy
  • Corporate wellness
  • Sporting goods retail
  • Recreational programs
  • Professional training at the university level

Alum Erica Davis, Para-athlete, Inspires Students

Erica Davis

The Pacific Union College church was full to capacity for the college’s Convocation ceremony as PUC alumna and para-athlete Erica Davis encouraged the student body to set high goals for themselves and have determination and faith. Davis, who became paralyzed from the waist down soon after graduation, is an accomplished para-athlete and the first paraplegic woman to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. She now works with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, encouraging other athletes with disabilities to reach for their full potential.

“There is always a way to figure it out and do something,” Davis said, referring to her determination as she tries new sports from rock climbing to open water jet skiing. “That’s why I don’t like the word can’t.”

After sharing her lifelong passion with sports with the gathered faculty, staff, and students, Davis told the audience about the only race she has ever quit: a cross country running race she participated in as a PUC student, a decision she regrets to this day. She then recounted her recent experience at the Paratriathalon World Championships in rainy London; though the slick roads made moving her handcycle challenging and caused other racers to give up, Davis finished in the top six internationally in her division.

Davis is the first paraplegic woman to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak.

Davis graduated from PUC in 2004 with her teaching credential and bachelor’s degree in exercise science. She was living an incredibly active life when an unexpected spinal hemorrhage caused her to lose the use of her legs. Spending 46 days in the hospital in 2006, Davis tried to hide her fears from her family. “However positive I tried to be during the day, I was scared,” she related. “What’s going to happen to my life? Sports were such a big part of who I was, and now I couldn’t even move my big toe.”

What got her through those dark nights was faith. Though she wanted the “delivering faith” that would immediately turn her situation around, it was a sustaining faith that told her the best was still to come. “I believe that God is in control and knows what He’s doing in my life,” Davis explained.

After recounting her many successes in the past seven years as a para-athlete, from summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro to setting records and beating male para-athletes in various types of races, Davis encouraged the student body to set high goals and believe in themselves.

“I was sitting where you are sitting nine years ago. And I can tell you that God is putting the pieces together and working behind the scenes because He has plans for us,” Davis said. “Trust God, have faith, and know that He is your biggest fan.”

The message was a motivating start to the year for the campus community. “I thought it was really inspiring because there are people with full ability who don’t think they can do what Erica does, but she does it despite the extra challenges,” shared Yolanda Noriega, a freshman who graduated from Lodi Adventist Academy, the same high school Davis attended.

Dr. Paulson and the Packed Gymnasium: Intramurals at PUC

Bob Paulson

It’s a Wednesday night—8:30 p.m.—and the gymnasium is packed. The fact that it’s a weeknight doesn’t stop students and faculty alike from flooding into the Covered Wagon to participate. Team schedules constantly rotate, players hoping to advance after each game.

This is intramural rec—the program that recently reached the number one spot on College Prowler’s list of the top ten intramural programs in the nation.

PUC’s intramural program gives players a place to compete in a number of different sports and leagues. Not only do current students participate in this popular program, but many faculty, staff, and alumni are also active participants.

“The focus on what we do at intramurals is to give people a place where they can physically participate with their friends in an environment where they will get some exercise, they’ll make some friends, [and] they’ll get some stress relief to maintain balance in their academic life,” says Robert Paulson, professor of exercise science, health, and nutrition, and the director of PUC’s intramural program.

“The best part for me is just the camaraderie with all the guys and the girls—all the teammates,” says senior accounting major Daniel Monnier. “It’s a lot of fun, just to be able to take our minds off studying and just do something different, relax for a bit, and play sports. That’s really what I value most.”

The program started long before Paulson arrived at PUC in 1994, and though it still faces a number of challenges—new students who are unfamiliar with the program, academic schedules that prevent participation, and the absence of outdoor lights on the athletic field—it continues to thrive.

“The focus on what we do at intramurals is to give people a place where they can physically participate with their friends in an environment where they will get some exercise, they’ll make some friends, and they’ll get some stress relief to maintain balance in their academic life,”

Involvement among faculty and staff continues to prove an important part of the program. Lary Taylor, associate professor of business administration, has been involved with the program for over 25 years. Taylor began teaching at PUC in 1978 and has been involved in the intramural program from the start, playing football, basketball, and baseball. He has since stopped football and basketball, but still enjoys playing baseball. “In football we had a faculty team so I was interfacing with faculty but we played against a lot of students that I would have not had in class,” says Taylor. “That’s one of the big things, I think. I got to know a lot of students that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

As a holistic institution that focuses on mind, body, and spirit, PUC aims to touch on all three factors in any given activity, Paulson explains. “We want people to learn a variety of things,” he says. “It’s not as heavily cognitive in value as, say, linear algebra, but when you can learn how to deal with people in a pressured setting, it’s a good thing.”

Alluding to the spirit aspect of the holistic philosophy, he says, “I’m a big fan of the Christ-like learning environment. I think it’s through that kind of behavior that people understand and develop a relationship with Christ.”

When it comes to directing the program, Paulson makes an effort to be open minded. “My driving force is not to say, ‘Why?’ but to say, ‘Why not?’” he says. “If I can’t come up with a good ‘why not,’ then we need to try it.” For example, last year during the springtime, a student asked him if kickball could become an intramural sport and it was only a matter of minutes before he agreed.

“If you think about it, you get people who have a wide variety of skills, running around, hanging out with their buddies, enjoying time together, playing a sport,” he explains. “[It’s] something that we need to do.” So, this upcoming spring quarter, PUC’s intramural program will include kickball.

As a four-year participant in the program, Monnier responds to Paulson’s abilities as intramural director. “He does a great job with the program,” says Monnier. “I’m really impressed with it.”

Paulson compares the experiences he’s had with intramurals to his days coaching high school athletics. “The most enjoyable part of what I did as a coach was always seeing improvement, whether it be skill improvement, psychological improvement, or just plain development of knowledge,” he recalls, relating it to what he sees in intramural participants.

Alumni who participated in intramurals have contacted Paulson post-PUC, saying that some of their fondest memories at PUC were during intramurals. One such alumna is Kristina Ranzolin. “My overwhelmingly positive PUC experience is what it is because of my participation in the intramurals program,” she says. She was involved in every sport the program offered during her PUC days. Except volleyball, that is. “I could never get into volleyball,” she says.

“I wish there were more intramural programs in post-PUC life,” she admits. “I'm not a jogger, I'm a team sport kind of girl.”

“Intramurals was an opportunity to spend time with your friends and peers (and sometimes your professors) in a non-academic setting,” Ranzolin explains. “It forces you to organize a group of your friends—or even sometimes strangers who will become friends—and do something together. Exercise is always good. Competition is almost always good. Intramurals is a win all around, for everyone involved.”

Years after its beginning, intramurals continues to be a popular extra-curricular program at PUC. Students enjoy the program for the stress relief and exercise it provides, but according to Ranzolin, “the best part of intramurals are the relationships you build.” The memories that graduates have of their participation and those that current students are making are those lasting memories that their PUC experience just wouldn’t be the same without. “I’m proud of the fact that we get to be part of that,” Paulson notes with a smile.