May 2021

Meet Mark Urtel

 Mark Urtel, Ed.D., is the Chair in the Department of Kinesiology at IUPUI. He is a youth sport, fitness, and physical activity specialist who works developing comprehensive school physical activity programs (CSPAP) for school-aged youth to become more physically active. Professor Urtel focuses on building and sustaining campus-community partnerships that engage students in service-learning and other high impact practices. Most of these collaborations are preschool through senior year of high school (p-12) and use the Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP) model.

Professor Urtel was also a key member in the creation of the new IUPUI fitness garden located on the southside of the IUPUI Natatorium entrance. The outdoor installment features easy-to-use gym equipment with 33 fitness stations and sets of equipment, picnic tables and benches for classroom use, and greenery. Designed for wheelchair accessibility, the all-weather equipment offers fitness opportunities in core strength, balance, power, and upper- and lower-body exercises.

No matter the age or fitness ability of an individual, they should feel free to try out the fitness garden; it was purposefully designed with access and accessibility in mind.

"It's pretty novel for an urban institution to have a dedicated and robust fitness garden for the community to use," said Professor Urtel. "We're at the forefront of being inclusive and offering opportunities to enhance health and wellness in a very accessible way."

In his free time, Professor Urtel enjoys bank fishing for bass and playing Magic the Gathering.

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If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way  ~ Napoleon Hill.  

Professor Mark Urtel

Research Photos

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Families observing their children participate in intramural sports. Photo courtesy of Mark Urtel.
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IUPUI Student using fitness garden. Photo courtesy of Liz Kaye.
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Fitness garden is located on the southside of the IUPUI Natatorium. Photo courtesy of Liz Kaye.
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Fitness garden features different types of exercise equipment. Photo courtesy of Liz Kaye.
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Fitness garden is accessible for everyone. Photo courtesy of Liz Kaye.
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Fitness garden also features rest areas. Photo courtesy of Liz Kaye.
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Fitness garden also features charging stations for electronic devices. Photo courtesy of Liz Kaye.

Q and A with Professor Urtel

As an undergraduate student, working as a summer camp counselor to help put myself through college I saw, first-hand, the many positive impacts on kids being physically active, participating in informal play and organized sport. 

Currently, in-school physical education and the associated certified teachers are not automatically considered as a prime resource to help students beyond the obvious health outcomes.  I am a part of a national group that would like to recast how physical education can be used comprehensively before, during, and after the school day to help achieve positive behavioral outcomes and academic readiness.  We should not solely focus on health outcomes as when good programming and interventions occur those will come along for the ride.  

By partnering with local schools, we make direct and indirect impacts on both the classroom and community environment. First, by the physical activity interventions I lead with my students we are affording school-aged youth opportunities to participate in comprehensive programming they would otherwise not be exposed to nor have the chance to engage with. At the same time our intentional interventions are promoting Social and Emotional Learning and development which can then be fostered during the school day and ideally will contribute to positive behavioral outcomes, which are never unwelcome. 

Not only thinking we are making a difference but looking at the data and seeing demonstrable differences. 

I ask them how they want to be involved.  Allowing for voice and choice to someone new to research is really helpful.  As such, they typically are trained and co-deliver the interventions. 

As full partners.  From conception to planning to delivery to assessment.  I like to complete research with a community partner, not at or to a community partner.   

Well, I am not convinced scaling up is an essential or ultimate goal for what I do; so, my next steps may be unconventional.  Those next steps usually revolve around deep reflection in and on the project and ensuring there is mutual benefit with all stakeholders. I strive for sustainable and targeted interventions that meet particular needs. The following quote is attributed to many people (Martin Luther King Jr and also Napoleon Hill) and it reflects how I think:  If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.  

Conversation with Professor Urtel

On Friday, May 28, 2021 from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. Professor Urtel gave a virtual presentation about his work on "Examining the Impact of Intramural Youth Sports on SEL (social and emotional learning)."