August 1, 2019 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shawn Arent has joined the Arnold School as chair of the Department of Exercise Science. An award-winning sports scientist with interests in the relationship between physical activity and stress and the implications for health and performance, Arent brings two decades of research, teaching and leadership experience to the role. He joins us from Rutgers University, where he held a professor position in the Department of Kinesiology and Health and served as the director of the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health’s Center for Health and Human Performance.
“Not only does Dr. Arent have an exemplary record as a scientist in the field of exercise science and a clear talent for mentoring students and faculty alike, he brings extensive administrative experience and tremendous energy to the role,” says Arnold School Dean Thomas Chandler. “Though this department already excels in many areas, it is poised to climb even higher. I have no doubt that Dr. Arent will facilitate this growth through his leadership while also contributing to the advancement of the Arnold School overall.”
Not only does Dr. Arent have an exemplary record as a scientist in the field of exercise science and a clear talent for mentoring students and faculty alike, he brings extensive administrative experience and tremendous energy to the role.
-Thomas Chandler, Dean of the Arnold School
From wrestling and football to surfing, skiing and skateboarding, Arent has been a lifelong athlete. But the sport in which he particularly excelled was soccer. After collegiate success at the University of Virginia, where he also studied psychology, he continued his involvement with the sport as a member of the U.S. Soccer national staff for 16 years and worked closely with the women’s and men’s soccer programs (as well as others) at Rutgers.
“I knew I wanted to be involved in sports beyond my undergraduate career because, short of being a professional athlete, this would be the best way to continue to stay involved with what I love,” says Arent, who first considered a career in sports psychology. “Then I took kinesiology classes and realized my passion was exercise physiology so I started looking into graduate programs.”
In 1996, he moved across the country to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in exercise science from Arizona State University before returning to the East coast to accept a faculty position at Rutgers. The next 17 years saw Arent developing his research program to examine underlying endocrine mechanisms and biomarkers related to the HPA axis (i.e., the intertwining of the central nervous and endocrine systems) and inflammation. He is particularly interested in the benefits for resistance training and nutritional interventions for improving functional capabilities, mental health states, and stress responses among special populations, such as athletes, military, adolescents and individuals with chronic health conditions.
Having grown up with his father in the Marine Corps and his mother a former Navy nurse, working with the military became a natural extension of Arent’s work. “When one member of the family is in the military, the whole family is military,” says Arent, who moved around for his dad’s various roles until they settled in Virginia. “It’s been really good to stay involved in that.”
Arent has collaborated with the military in several capacities. He’s participated in performance nutrition summits, worked with special operations, provided educational training and conducted research on soldier health and performance funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. For his contributions, Arent was recognized in 2016 with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.S. Army 3-314th Field Artillery Thunder Battalion, the first such award to be given to a civilian.
Other honors include the 2017 William J. Kraemer Outstanding Sport Scientist of the Year from the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the 2016 Directors Award for Scientific Excellence from Rutgers University. Arent’s service activities include directing the graduate program in kinesiology and applied physiology, holding Fellowship roles in the American College of Sports Medicine and the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the latter of which he leads as president. He is also a representative from the Big Ten to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects and a senior associate editor for four exercise science journals.
My goal as chair is to lead the entire team – faculty, staff, students, and collaborators – in such a way that we optimize our capabilities, build partnerships, make a positive impact scientifically and in the community, and have a lot of fun doing it!
-Shawn Arent, professor and chair of exercise science
Although Arent worked diligently to build his research program, Center, and notable partnerships with groups such as women’s soccer at Rutgers, he jumped at the chance to be considered for the exercise science chair position at the Arnold School. UofSC was already on his radar due to its No. 1 ranked Ph.D. in Exercise Science program and the fact that his wife, Michelle Arent, had graduated from the Arnold School’s master of public health program – going on to become a professional physique competitor and even a sponsored athlete by Brooks Running Shoes and Apparel. More recently, she has worked at Rutgers University, serving as the strength coach and sports nutritionist for the women’s soccer team and director of training and conditioning at the Center for Health and Human Performance (learn more about their overlapping interests with this Rutgers story on the Dynamic Duo).
With spousal support secured, Arent was officially sold after traveling to Columbia for his campus interview.
“In addition to remarkable faculty and phenomenal chairs, this seems like a group of really great people and the kind of environment I want to be a part of,” he says. “Another big selling point was the transparency, attitude and vision of Arnold School leadership. I really respect the job that Dean Chandler and his team are doing.”
As far as his new role goes, Arent is looking forward to taking on the challenge of leading an already top-notch program to even greater heights. “As phenomenal as this department is, there’s tremendous opportunity here too,” he says. “I’m looking forward to facilitating a culture and climate that people value and want to be a part of by reinforcing the areas that are already done exceptionally well and helping grow some other areas of excellence.”
“The experience, vision and energy that Dr. Arent brings to his new role as chair will benefit the department immeasurably,” says associate dean of operations and accreditation and outgoing interim chair Lee Pearson. “I am confident that his leadership will be the perfect complement to the impressive array of talent that exists in the department, and that combined synergy holds tremendous promise for the future.”
“I believe that the most effective leaders are the ones who focus on collective success and find a way to make everyone around them better,” Arent says. “My goal as chair is to lead the entire team – faculty, staff, students, and collaborators – in such a way that we optimize our capabilities, build partnerships, make a positive impact scientifically and in the community, and have a lot of fun doing it!”