Iowa State University celebrates remodeled home for promoting physical activity and healthy living

Faculty News Health and Wellness News Alumni News
By Lynn Meadows

A ribbon cutting will be held April 13 to celebrate completion of a 7.4 million renovation of the Barbara E. Forker Building at Iowa State University. Photo by Ryan Riley

Walk inside the Barbara E. Forker Building on the campus of Iowa State University, and the word “movement” splashed across the building’s bright new cardinal entrance says it all.

Iowa State’s highly-ranked kinesiology program now has a more modern and inviting facility that better matches its mission to promote health and well-being by creating and disseminating knowledge about physical activity and healthy living to improve people’s lives.

“The students have a more clearly defined home for their major,” said Warren Franke, professor and associate chair of kinesiology. “The branding efforts really add some ‘pop’ or ‘zest’ to the building. Visitors comment on the transformation and how inviting the entrances are now. Wayfinding throughout the building is much simpler. Collectively, visitors including potential students and parents get the impression that this department is really going places. We have been doing great things for many years, but that is now communicated with the first impression visitors get upon entering the building.”

Ribbon cutting this month

A $7.4 million renovation of the Forker Building kicked off in fall 2014 and was completed this spring. About 12,300 square feet, or about 16 percent, of the building received major renovations that allowed the Department of Kinesiology to repurpose space that was grossly underutilized. When combined with parts of the building improved by branding and updated heating and cooling, improvements affected about 34,000 square feet of the building.

The facility now includes bright splashes of color, gathering spaces, laboratories, exam and exercise rooms, new faculty offices, and a more modern athletic training room. It is more inviting and comfortable for students, faculty, staff, and visitors. A new teaching laboratory is in the works.

“The splash of color and the subtle images of human anatomy and people in motion reflect our focus on human movement and physical activity across the lifespan,” said Phil Martin, professor and chair of kinesiology. “The renovations and new graphics provide a more inviting space with a modern look. The changes send a message about who we are.”

The renovation created three new spaces for students to study, meet, or get together. It also brought better ventilation. Aging equipment in the Forker Building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) was replaced with much more efficient infrastructure. Several teaching spaces are more comfortable — making them a better learning and working environment for students, faculty, and staff.

Iowa State University leaders will this month join leaders of the College of Human Sciences and Department of Kinesiology in celebrating completion of the renovation, which transformed the Forker Building into a brighter, more functional space to meet the needs of today’s students, faculty, and staff.

A ribbon cutting will be held from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Friday, April 13 at the Forker Building. Remarks will be given at 3 p.m. inside the building’s west entrance by Martin, College of Human Sciences Dean Laura Dunn Jolly, and ISU President Wendy Wintersteen. Tours will be given before and after the short program.

From locker rooms to research labs

The renovation repurposed two large locker rooms that were getting limited use in the Forker Building, built in 1941 with a major addition completed in 1974. In their place are state-of-the-art research laboratories and a new office complex. Two new labs dedicated to exercise intervention and assessment are collectively called the “Exercise Intervention Suite.”

The space includes the Physical Activity Epidemiology Lab, and a new health coaching room. There’s a space dedicated to the freezers and refrigerators needed to store research samples collected by physiologists such as blood, urine, and tissue. The labs provide state-of-the-art spaces to faculty, staff, and students who research physical activity and chronic disease prevention and longevity.

“We now have an excellent laboratory space for doing exercise-oriented interventional research,” Franke said. “Before the renovation, these laboratory spaces were scattered throughout the building since when the building was built, research was not as important to the department mission as it is now. These laboratory spaces are now located immediately adjacent to one another.”

2017 - July - HS Matters - Exercise DC Lee-98-EditThe new labs are key to a five-year, 400-participant study led by Duck-chul “DC” Lee, an associate professor in kinesiology and physical activity epidemiologist who works to prevent chronic diseases and improve longevity through active and fit lifestyle. The project, funded by a $3.4 million National Institutes of Health grant, studies the effectiveness of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and a combination of both in an effort to prevent cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.

“The newly renovated lab and facilities attract top students, faculty, and research staff and contribute to the recognition and reputation of the department, college, and university,” Lee said.

Eight world expert investigators are collaborators on the projects. Lee said current NIH projects in the lab have also created nine jobs — one postdoctoral research associate, three full-time research associates, and five full-time graduate research assistants. The large epidemiological research projects provide a rich and real-world research experience for more than 100 undergraduate students who work each semester on research projects in the Physical Activity Epidemiology Lab.

The lab includes more than $250,000 in state-of-the-art research equipment including a computer-controlled Technogym Wellness System with 24 pieces of exercise equipment and several pieces of clinical test equipment essential for conducting comprehensive health and fitness assessments. A pilot study generated preliminary data, and a new exercise intervention study begins this summer.

“For me, without having the renovated Physical Activity Epidemiology lab, I could not propose and conduct the NIH funded exercise intervention study (Phase III Clinical Trial) in 400 people,” Lee said. “Now, I see over 150 people exercising in the lab every day and it is growing every month until we achieve our recruitment goal of 400 participants who are at higher-than-average risk of developing heart attack or stroke, thus would get the best health benefits from the study.”

Facility upgrades throughout the college

The College of Human Sciences has completed more than $18 million in building improvements over the past five years. Remodeling projects are complete in MacKay and Lagomarcino halls, as well as the Forker Building.

The college is also conducting a financial feasibility study for facility improvements to potentially rebuild LeBaron Hall (built in 1958), laboratories in the Human Nutritional Sciences Building, and original spaces in MacKay Hall (built in 1910-1911 and 1925-1926).

Jolly, the college’s dean and Dean’s Chair, is an advocate for Iowa State’s top-ranked programs being housed in state-of-the-art facilities.

“I am a champion for that,” she said. “Facility improvements support the cutting-edge teaching and research critical to our success as a Research I institution.”

Wellness is a key initiative of the College of Human Sciences. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff of the college work to improve all dimensions of health and well-being — from physical to emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual, financial, occupational, and environmental.

Kinesiology has the third-largest undergraduate student enrollment on the Iowa State University campus, enrolling about 1,200 students. They learn from and collaborate with about 30 full-time and 20 part-time faculty members. Undergraduate students in kinesiology can choose to focus their educational experiences in athletic training, community/public health, exercise science, physical activity and health promotion, physical education teacher education, or pre-health professions.

Key contacts

Phil Martin, professor and chair, Department of Kinesiology, Iowa State University, 515-294-8009,

Warren Franke, professor, Department of Kinesiology, Iowa State University, 515-294-8257,

Duck-Chul Lee, associate professor, Department of Kinesiology, Iowa State University, 515-294-8042,

Jennifer Plagman-Galvin, director of operations, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-1410,

Lynn Meadows, communications specialist, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-3689,

By Lynn Meadows