Health and fitness department flourishes under experienced chair

By Pryce Jamison
October 13, 2020

The Iadarola Center, where nearly all of her taught coursework takes place
The Iadarola Center, where nearly all of her taught coursework takes place

Cabrini’s health and exercise sciences department has greatly evolved over the past two decades and is continuing to do so with Dr. Maria-Elena Hallion as the Chair.

“For the longest time it’s been just two faculty, but finally we just added our third faculty,” Hallion said. Dr. Gifty Key joins assistant professor, Dr. Anjuli Gairol, who joined Hallion several years ago.

Students engage in interactive, hands-on coursework to prepare them for many career options relating to health care, nutrition, fitness and rehabilitation, and even though that isn’t the case now with all of the COVID-19 mitigations in place, she and all of her faculty are hard at work to try and replicate what these students need to get involved with to get them ready for their preferred career paths. In Hallion’s time here, three new majors have also been formed, which are public health, nutrition and health science, which has opened the doors for many more students that have similar ambitions as she did when she was in their shoes.

The Iadarola Center, where nearly all of her coursework taught. Photo by Scott Beadenkopf.

Ever since her days in high school, Hallion has been fascinated with and has known that she was going to do something relating to fitness or some aspect of human health. Something else that really helped her confidence around this time was that the fitness industry was notably growing and was becoming more and more commercial throughout the nation, which meant jobs and interest in the field were rapidly increasing.

She went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in exercise sciences from West Chester University, a master’s degree in exercise physiology/cardiac rehabilitation from East Stroudsburg University and doctoral degree in health science from Temple University, but even during the midst of her academic endeavors, she had no idea the impact she would have on Cabrini’s institution in years to come.  In the past 22 years that Hallion has been a part of the faculty in the department, the university has seen more room made for a larger number of students to be involved in coursework regarding health and exercise sciences in the school of Natural Science and Allied Health. 

In the spring of 1998, after gaining experience in a handful of related health and fitness jobs, she joined Cabrini and from the start she knew it was the environment meant for her. Antoinette Iadarola originally hired her as a fitness director, and Hallion would operate daily in the Dixon Center, which was finished being built a week before she was hired. After a few months of getting settled into the school, she was appointed to faculty and has been here ever since, while at the same time investing her time in other health-related endeavors. In 2015, she became the chair of the department.

Her recently published book, Health Matters. Photo presented from Barnes and Nobles.

Her main pursuit that she’s mostly known for is childhood obesity, and it’s a topic she’s been advocating for years. Hallion is also an author of a quarterly health column for The Record Today, a publication serving the areas surrounding her hometown of Gibbstown, New Jersey, according to her biography page on Cabrini’s Website, and has recently released a book, Health Matters, on Barnes and Noble that consists of a collection of a number of her newspaper columns from over the years. What has truly bonded her with this University is that she also commits her life to the social justice mission Cabrini continues to uphold, and that her advocacy for social justice is also a part of her impactful life that has greatly affected many students with health and fitness ambitions.

Pryce Jamison

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