Program Director Spotlight | Dr. Amanda Blaisdell

Amanda Blaisdell, an assistant professor of Health Education, is director of Longwood’s HPE Graduate Program.

Among her noteworthy accomplishments is a 35-week program she developed for the Southside YMCA. Healthy Living in the Heart of Virginia included six families and focused on healthy living. “I wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to build relationships and support an under-served population,” she explains. 

The 35-week program was supported by STEPS, Inc., Southside Virginia YMCA, FeedMore and Longwood University. “It was an opportunity to serve my community in a completely different way,” Blaisdell relates.

Initially, it was volunteer work that pointed Blaisdell toward the HPE field. “One of our community service options, when I played varsity basketball, was to coach 3rd and 4th graders,” she explains. “It was through this volunteering experience that I realized my love for working with children and helping them achieve their goals.”

After completing her doctorate, Blaisdell chose Longwood as her next step in higher education. “I’m from Vermont, so the rural community that Farmville offered fit the bill,” Blaisdell says. “The allure of a smaller university where I could build relationships across campus drew me in.” 

Blaisdell believes Longwood has been good to her, and she hopes to return the favor. “At the end of the day, people are what matter to me the most,” Blaisdell concludes. “I spent seven years teaching health and physical education and coaching and loved it so much I wanted to work with future teachers in the profession.”



Find Your Fit | Lei Dunn

HPE student was in search of a program that would make her a better teacher - and she found it.

 “I was in search of a graduate program that would help me become a better teacher now and an excellent leader in the future,” Lei Dunn says of her decision to choose the Longwood Graduate Program in Health and Physical Education. 

Dunn, who received her Bachelor of Science in Sports and Fitness Management from Troy University, is an elementary health and physical education teacher at Newtown Elementary School in Virginia Beach. She needed a graduate program that would not only provide real world experience but also fit her busy schedule.

“The Health and Physical Education (HPE) program took down those barriers in several ways,” Dunn explains. “I was able to converse ahead of time with the director of Longwood’s Health, Athletic Training, Recreation, Kinesiology (HARK) program as well as the professors to ask what was involved in each class and how much time would be expected.”

That connection with faculty was another plus for Dunn. “The faculty of the HPE program was just amazing,” she says. “Faculty was always ready and able to offer assistance and encouragement when needed. They also provided many opportunities to participate in university events to ensure that graduate students felt a part of campus life.”

Participating in the Graduate Research Symposium was a highlight of Dunn’s time at Longwood. “Though we were forced to do so virtually because of the COVID-19 quarantine, the faculty and staff ensured that our experience was high-quality and memorable,” she adds. 

Longwood’s fully online program fit perfectly into Dunn’s schedule.

“Taking a fully online course allowed me to decide when to have class and allowed me the flexibility to work ahead, especially if the topic or project was related to something I was doing in school,” Dunn adds.

Dunn, who received her master’s degree in May 2020, is already putting that degree to good use.

“Immediate benefits of my master's degree have been an increase in pay from my employer and the opportunity to apply for leadership roles,” Dunn relates. “In the near future, I will leverage my master's degree to help develop curriculum for the school division that I work for, pursue a doctorate in education and continue research into the connection between the physical health of students and their academic success.”

Dunn believes she made the right decision when she chose Longwood’s graduate program.

“I do feel Longwood’s HPE program allowed me to find my perfect career fit with real world applicable knowledge and topics that I can use,” Dunn concludes. “It’s helped me set my sights on what I want to do.”