ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Hardin-Simmons University (HSU) has become the first and only school in the State of Texas to receive accreditation for its Exercise Science program.

Walking into the Dr. Jesse C. & Dorothy J. Fletcher Fitness Center on the HSU campus, the sounds of metal plates clanking against each other rings through the wide-open space.

You may walk up the stairs, get a great view of the indoor basketball courts, soccer field and upstairs walking track. But to the right is the Human Performance Lab.

Inside, you’ll find professor in the HSU Exercise Science Program, Dr. Chuck Ruot, demonstrating various tests to his students, challenging their core strength, flexibility and balance.

It’s all a part of HSU’s hands-on exercise science program, allowing students pursuing careers like physical therapy, chiropractics or personal training to get a real feel for the working world.

“One of the things we like to do in our courses – we teach theory, but then we put them in hands-on situations where they practice the skills of doing that,” Dr. Ruot said.

However, unlike other programs across the Lone Star State, Hardin Simmons’ program is accredited. Officially announced on September 16, it is the first and only accredited exercise science program in the state.

“We’re training them and cross-validating that they are getting the skillsets they need to be good practicing professionals,” assured Dr. Ruot.

Hardin-Simmons senior soccer player, Jessica Boldenow told KTAB/KRBC she’s been a lifelong athlete, and she’s now pursuing a career in physical therapy.

Boldenow said she has been bit by the injury bug since she was a high schooler, leading into her college career, where she frequented the training and said the running joke is becoming best friends with her trainers.

Now, thanks to the exercise science program, she is shifting her perspective from just recovery to injury prevention.

“I’m now thinking through how I’m going to work out. It’s not just running on the field, it’s now how should I run on the field, how should I maximize my time and effort to get the best results out of it,” Boldenow explained.

This student said she’s using the hands-on experience to prepare herself for the working world, wanting to use what she learns at HSU to help others maximize their body’s potential.

“Knowing and being able to teach people how to properly move their bodies so they don’t get to that injured position, that’s a really cool factor,” Boldenow said.

The accredited program encompasses everything from physical therapy and occupational therapy, chiropractics and sports medicine to entry level jobs such as personal trainers.