As the Rio Olympics gets underway we are reminded just how far a human being can push their body to shave off ¼ second, or jump the extra inch; we tend to envision exercise for purely physical benefits such as burning calories, bigger muscles, and a stronger heart. Think about how much more enjoyable it is to play basketball with friends or run with a buddy instead of trudging through mile after mile by yourself.
Our guest this evening sees the physical benefits of exercising, but wants to remind us of social bonding and psychological well-being that can be produced from exercising with a group of people. Jafra Thomas is a Ph.D. student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences focusing on how health should be viewed as a social phenomenon, instead of purely an anatomical process. Not only is Jafra interested in the effects of exercise on the individual, but also how these activities can strengthen the social fabric with our peers, how values can develop from these experiences, and how this can promote a positive personal identity.
Think back to your (probably very awkward) early high school days, some may have been on the dance team, band group, or some other sports team. Your very first practice was really scary because you were not physically ready and you’re surrounded by lots of new people you don’t know! Fast-forward to the end of high school you realize what you learned about team-bonding, inclusion, perseverance, and hopefully developed a life-long personal identity through those long and grueling practices.
While going through his undergraduate degree at the University of Pacific in California, Jafra spearheaded a program to encourage community members of diverse backgrounds to participate on a rowing team. This rowing program helped the participants overcome some of the many barriers that often limit participation in these unique sports. The program made sure to provide equally accessible events and create an inclusive environment so kids can learn more about themselves and others. This is the kind of healthy development we should be promoting in tandem with the physical benefits of exercising.
Jafra has already received some prestigious awards, and in the future plans to become university professor who hopes to strike a balance between research, teaching and service. In the mean time, he’s keeping himself busy by being a part of the Black Graduate Students Association (BGSA), Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching Program (GCCUTP), and recently got back into rowing through the Corvallis Rowing Club.
Tune in Sunday, August 7th at 7PM PDT on KBVR, 88.7 FM or stream live at http://www.orangemedianetwork.com/kbvr_fm/ to hear Jafra’s story.