Pharmacy Professor Jennifer Bryant, Ph.D., is the subject of our Friday Faculty Spotlight! Read on to learn about how Dr. Bryant’s passion for leading a healthy lifestyle has led to both the creation of a pharmacy elective course and a parallel life as a competitive ninja warrior (you may see her on television sometime soon!) We hope you enjoy meeting Bryant in her full Friday Faculty Spotlight Q&A!
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How long have you worked at Shenandoah and what attracted you to the university?
I’ve worked at Shenandoah since 2006 and there are multiple things that attracted me to the university. I attended a small college for my undergraduate education and treasured the relationships I built with my professors. I knew I wanted to teach at a place where I could have those types of relationships with my students – and I found this at SU! I also love living in the Shenandoah Valley; there are so many wonderful outdoor activities here in which to participate.
What are your areas of research and how do they influence you as an educator?
My research interests have changed over the years I’ve been at SU. I’ve always been interested in the remodeling that occurs in the heart after a heart attack and have one research project I am working on finishing up related to the different types of collagen involved in this remodeling process.
However, over the past few years, my interests have changed to educational research and how teaching and learning can be improved in the classroom. A project that I am working on currently is a survey to assess my pharmacy elective course (Lifestyle Modifications) to determine how this course influences the students’ knowledge about lifestyle modifications and how it has affected their own health and well-being.
When did you introduce your Lifestyle Modifications course and why?
I started this course in 2018 and have taught it every year since then. I have a passion for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and sharing this with others. I felt that this would be beneficial and of interest to our student pharmacists both personally and professionally.
I believe that there are many different ways to maintain health, and this combination can look different for each individual. My goal with this course is to expose the students to a large variety of lifestyle modifications that can be used to improve health.
– Pharmacy Professor Jennifer Bryant, Ph.D.
My hope is that they walk away with knowledge in these areas to aid in counseling their future patients and personal experiences that will help them maintain their own healthy lifestyle. The student pharmacists in my elective course have a project in which they choose a lifestyle modification to implement in their own lives for six weeks of the semester and then present on their project at the end of the semester. I have been very impressed with the students’ results from this project and have loved seeing their physical and/or mental health improve, which I hope will have a lasting influence on their lives.
Your lifestyle includes an interesting, highly active component: you do ninja warrior competitions. How did you get into the activity?
My love of ninja started about two years ago when my son Zayne and I went to a ninja open gym together while in Ohio visiting family and then found out there was a local place here at which to train. We both tried a competition for fun and really enjoyed it. After a few months, we were both able to qualify for and compete at the National Ninja League World (NNL) Championships in February 2020. When everything shut down in March 2020, our local ninja place to train did too and is now no longer there, so we had a ninja course built in our backyard and hung some grips in our basement. Zayne and I have both competed in three different ninja leagues over the last two years and made some great progress. Zayne and I have gone on so many ninja adventures together and even traveled to Las Vegas this past summer to compete in the Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association (UNAA) World Championships. My favorite part is that Zayne and I have created such a bond over this sport and this year my younger son Wade even started competing too. I have made some wonderful ninja friends along this journey and have been so inspired by the talented and strong women with whom I compete.
I promised my son Zayne that I would apply for the “American Ninja Warrior” TV show this year, and, despite not feeling ready, I kept that promise. To my absolute disbelief, I got a call last week asking me to compete on “American Ninja Warrior”!
– Pharmacy Professor Jennifer Bryant, Ph.D.
Where do you practice and how often do you compete?
I practice mainly on our backyard ninja course (weather permitting) and occasionally travel to other ninja gyms to train. It is definitely difficult to train for ninja during the winter since there isn’t a local gym to attend, but sometimes my sons and I will even set up balance obstacles in our family room inside at home. I do many activities to build up strength and endurance, which ultimately helps me with ninja – I run, lift weights, practice yoga and aerial yoga, and play basketball. My sons and I compete as often as we can throughout the year depending on their other extracurricular activities and travel time to the competition. We usually have to travel at least two hours (one way) to get to most local competitions and further for regional and world championships. Some months we may only have one weekend with a competition and other months we will be competing almost every weekend.
What keeps you going as an educator?
It is definitely the interactions with my students that keep me going. I always want to better myself in order to help them learn more and therefore better themselves. I also have some amazing colleagues here at SU who continually impress and motivate me.
What do you hope your students take away from their time with you?
I hope that my students learn the foundational knowledge that will help them become the best pharmacist they can be, but I also hope they learn that life is about balance and that being “busy” doesn’t necessarily equal success. I hope they learn to take the time to prioritize their health and time with their loved ones.
Photos: Jon Hart, 2021 National Ninja League World Championships