Jody Rajcula, Co-Chair
Professor Jody Rajcula begins her 30th year of service at WCSU and most recently, her 8th year in the Health Promotion & Exercise Sciences Department. Prior to that, she was a member of WCSU’s Athletic Department where she served as Women’s Basketball Coach for 21 years.
As Chair or Co-Chair of the Health Promotion and Exercise Sciences department for the last eight years, Professor Rajcula guided the merger of the Physical Education and Health Sciences departments into the current department, secured a much needed full time teaching position, created a ‘fast track’ option with the Health Promotion Studies program, and assisted in other department reforms. Professor Rajcula’s main responsibility is to teach the general education physical activity and lecture classes.
At the time of her coaching retirement from WCSU’s Athletic Department in 2002, Coach Rajcula was ranked 10th in the country with 383 wins and ranked 33rd of all active coaches with a .709 winning percentage. Her teams made post season play in 17 of her 21 years and she was named ‘Coach of the Year’ in her conference on three separate occasions. Coach Rajcula has since been inducted into five Hall of Fames for her playing, coaching and outside activities supporting girls and women in basketball. Those hall of fames include: Western Connecticut State University Athletic Hall of Fame, Southern Connecticut State University Athletic Hall of Fame, Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, New England Basketball Hall of Fame and Connecticut High School Coaches Athletic Hall of Fame.
Prior to coming to WCSU, Jody played professional basketball in the first women’s professional league, the WBL. She played two years for the Chicago Hustle, the New England Gulls, the Nebraska Wranglers and the San Francisco Pioneers.
She obtained both her Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Southern Connecticut State University and was promoted to full Professor at WCSU in 1998.
Berkshire 230A, Midtown campus
Dr. Robyn Housemann, Co-Chair
Robyn A. Housemann is Co-Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Exercise Sciences at Western Connecticut State University. She received a BS degree (URI, 1981) in Electrical Engineering, an MPH degree (SLU, 1994), and a Ph.D. (SLU, 2000) in Health Services Research (Behavioral Science/Health Education and Organizational Psychology). She has over 25 years of experience teaching group fitness classes and is an advocate for Holistic and Alternative Health.
Dr. Housemann has been at WCSU since August 2006 and she teaches all of the core courses for the Bachelor of Science degree in Health Promotion Studies as well as the Fitness for Life general education requirement. She was responsible for revamping the curriculum for the HPS degree. In addition to teaching, Dr. Housemann has been involved in the Western Connecticut Community Report Card Project, the Hancock Student Leadership Program, WCSU Hearts Haiti, the HPX club, and is the director for the Institute of Holistic Health Studies.Prior to coming to WCSU, Dr. Housemann participated in several applied research projects and community based interventions. She was the Director of Planning and Evaluation for the New England Division of the American Cancer Society for three years. She spent 10 years working at Saint Louis University (SLU) School of Public Health and six years at Washington University (WU) School of Medicine Master of Health Science Program. Her primary area of focus was in reducing heart disease and diabetes by facilitating community based interventions to increase physical activity, promote healthy eating, reduce smoking, and improve diabetes self-management. These intervention programs targeted change at the individual level and beyond by creating environments that made healthy choices easy choices (e.g. walkable communities, healthy food in grocery stores, smoke-free churches, menu labeling in restaurants) and by increasing social capital within a community by training informal and formal leaders to be health advocates. In her spare time, Robyn teaches Zumba, Zumba Toning and Aqua Zumba fitness classes. She is a Black Belt 2nd dan in Tae Kwon Do and a Reiki level III practitioner. She also volunteers for her son's boy scout troop.
Berkshire 230D, Midtown campus
(203) 837-8638 (fax)
Liz Balk, Assistant Professor
Dr. Liz Balk is an Assistant Professor of Health Promotion and Exercise Science in the HPX department at WCSU.
She completed her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science (2002) and Masters of Science in Education, with a focus in Physical Education (2008) at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL.
Upon graduating from her master's program, she was recruited to design and teach a new career tech program at the Career and Technology Education Center (C-TEC) in Newark, Ohio (2008-2011). The 2-year high school program entitled, Physical Therapy and Exercise Science, trained juniors and seniors in exercise prescription and rehabilitation preparing them to sit for a personal training certification post-graduation.
Dr. Balk earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology from The Ohio State University (2015) with a concentration in Physical Activity Behavior and completed her Registered Dietetic Examination through the OSU Department of Human Nutrition.
Her dissertation evaluated psychosocial factors, rooted in the Social Cognitive Theory, common to treatment-seeking bariatric surgery patients. Her current research focuses on physical activity and diet behavior change in high-risk populations (particularly, severe/morbidly obese patients and bariatric patients), including examining the influence of psychosocial correlates on physical activity and diet behavior change, as well as, the development and evaluation of theory-based interventions to promote physical activity and diet behavior change adherence and maintenance at the in-patient and out-patient level.
She has presented research at conferences for several national and international organizations including the American College of Sports Medicine, North American Primary Care Research Group, and The Obesity Society/American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
Dr. Balk is actively involved in on-going research and dissemination of findings through multiple publications in the Health Behavior and Nutrition fields.
Berkshire 230B, Midtown campus
Main Office #: (203)837-8612
Office #: (203) 837-8985
(203) 837-8638 (fax)
Dr. Emily Stevens, Coordinator of Community Health Option in BS Health Promotion Studies
Dr. Emily Stevens has been a member of the HPX faculty since 2009. She is coordinator of the Community Health Option in BS Health Promotion Studies, the coordinator of the Faculty & Staff Wellness Program, and the HPX Department website coordinator. She is an avid runner, lacrosse player, and soccer player.
Dr. Stevens completed her Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Science at Denison University (2001). She completed her Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in Health and Exercise Science, with a concentration in Health and Physical Activity Promotion, at The Ohio State University (2006). Her master's thesis examined the association between youth sport experiences and physical activity adherence into adulthood. For her dissertation, Dr. Stevens developed and evaluated a theory-based physical activity intervention for high school students living in the Appalachian region of Ohio. Her research focuses on physical activity promotion among adolescents, including an examination of determinants of physical activity, the development and evaluation of theory-based interventions designed to promote physical activity, and the development of methods to measure physical activity behavior. She has presented her research at conferences for several national organizations, including the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Academy of Health Behavior, and The American Public Health Association. She is actively involved in publishing her work and has contributed to several articles already in press.
Prior to coming to Western Connecticut State University, Dr. Stevens served as a Graduate Research Assistant, Graduate Teaching Assistant, and a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Health and Exercise Science Department at The Ohio State University. As a Graduate Research Assistant, Dr. Stevens worked on a federally funded grant aimed at developing, implementing, and evaluating a physical activity intervention in an urban community using a community participatory approach. As a Graduate Teaching Assistant, she taught non-majors courses to undergraduate students in the Sport, Fitness, and Health program run by the School of Physical Activity and Educational Services. Upon completing her PhD, Dr. Stevens spent three years as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Ohio State. During that time, she taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in the Health and Exercise Science Department. She remained active in her research interests through small grants and by advising undergraduate students completing honors projects and doctoral candidates completing dissertation projects.
Berkshire 230E, Midtown campus
Main Office #: (203)837-8612
Office #: (203)837-3903
(203) 837-8638 (fax)
Dr. Jeffrey Schlicht, Coordinator of Wellness Management Option in BS Health Promotion Studies
Dr. Jeff Schlicht has been a member of the HPX faculty since 2000. He is coordinator of the Wellness Management Option in the Health Promotion Studies BS program, asssists students with the campus-wide ROCKyourBODY initiative, and runs community exercise programs for older adults and adults with disabilities.
Dr. Schlicht completed a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of California, San Diego (1988), a Masters of Arts in Physical Education at San Diego State University (1994), and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Sport, Leisure, and Exercise Science at the University of Connecticut (1999). His doctoral dissertation examined the effect of strength training exercise on functional fitness in older adults. He continues to do community research with older adults and has expanded his interests to working with adults with disabilities.
Berkshire 230F, Midtown campus
(203) 837-8638 (fax)
Dr. Virginia Verhoff, Coordinator of BS Health Education Program
Dr. Virginia Verhoff's primary professional responsibility at the University is coordinating the B.S. Degree School Health Program for students aspiring to become State certified health teachers. Her dedication to the teaching profession is to instill upon her students accurate information in the health and education areas of academia, as well as the need to be critical thinkers and life-long learners.
Dr. Verhoff's focus to obtain NCATE (National Council for Accredation of Teacher Education) Certification for the Health Education Program was accomplished in 2009. She is a member of the Connecticut State Steering Committee, which introduced and implemented the Health Education Assessment Project (HEAP) into the Connecticut public schools, and she is a member of the CT State Pilot Program assessing student teaching procedures and evaluation. Additionally, Dr. Verhoff belongs to the CT Education Accreditation/Re-accreditation visiting team for higher education.Dr. Verhoff has served the larger community by working as coordinator of a Substance Abuse Prevention Program; Teen Pregnancy/Parenting Program; and Directed a Shelter for Women with Children who were homeless. Presently, she assists and advises a local coalition against substance abuse through the Drug Free School Grant. As a certified classroom teacher, she taught Biology and Health in grades 4-12 for eight years.
Berkshire 230C, Midtown campus
(203) 837-8638 (fax)
Denise Colaianni, RN, MA: Internship Coordinator
Denise Colaianni has been a faculty member at Western Connecticut State University since September 2001. She completed her BSN in Nursing from City College of New York and her MA in Nursing Education from New York University.
During this period she has served as an adjunct professor, special appointment assistant professor and currently as internship coordinator for the BS Health Promotions program. She has served as faculty advisor to the HPX Club and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, and received the 2001-2002 Adjunct Special Recognition Award from the School of Professional Studies and the 2007 Certificate of Appreciation from the School of Professional Studies.
Prior to her time with WCSU she was an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Fairfield University, Administrator/Clinical Supervisor of Visiting Nurse Service of Ridgefield Ct., Administrator of Roncalli Home Health Care in Bridgeport CT, Assistant Director of Education, Patient Service Manager and staff public health nurse with Visiting Nurse Service of New York and staff nurse at St. Lukes Hospital in New York.
Additionally she has served as Board member of Interfaith Aids Ministry of Danbury, Board of Incorporators of Ridgefield District Nurses, and has been a Girl Scout leader since 1997.
Berkshire 230, Midtown campus
Lara Azzarito Ward
Robert Scott Russell