Faculty Spotlight | Sean Wright
15 October 2021
With a passion for physical fitness and a strong desire to share his knowledge and experience with others, Sean Wright goes above and beyond as an Harford faculty member. An adjunct instructor in the Behavioral and Social Sciences Division, he teaches a wide variety of courses in the Health, P.E., and Exercise Science programs, including weight training, badminton, cardiovascular fitness, cross training, jogging, walking, hiking, circuit training, contemporary health issues, nutrition, and fitness instruction.
Before finding his way to Harford, Sean worked in both the nonprofit and corporate fitness realms. After graduating from Frostburg with an undergraduate degree, he worked at the YMCA as a personal trainer. Sean then worked for MediFit, which later became EXOS, and shortly after was contracted to work at the Peach Bottom power plant. “There I completed the day-to-day operations, helped establish a second fitness center on site, oversaw the fitness center at the Conowingo Dam, and was in charge of the health and wellness programs on both sites for the employees and contractors,” he explained.
The fact that Sean finally settled into the role of educator is no surprise. It reflects his lifelong commitment to furthering his own education, and the passion he has for sharing it with his students. “Throughout my educational journey, each degree provided a different approach -- whether it was the hands-on undergrad, to papers and presentations with my master’s, to an all-online doctorate. All three were positive and challenged me in different ways,” he said. His own experience as a student provided Sean many insights into how to work with his own students: “I learned to be understanding. Life happens; some things are in our control while others are not. I get that, so one of the things I tell my students is, ‘Help me help you’ – meaning, keep me in the loop when things happen; I cannot help you if you do not let me know what’s going on. Another approach is treating students with respect, equally, as adults.”
He also believes in creating a student-centered approach to education. “I provide the opportunity for students to use their resources to discover the answers themselves versus me telling them. I want them to know that I’m not the only source of information and they can learn from their peers and other resources, and that is okay. Sharing experiences can be much more impactful than reading something out of a textbook. My goal is to prepare students, not for Harford, but for the four-year school they plan to attend, the doctoral program they want to complete, or their dream job. Practicing those skills early on gives them an edge against the competition,” he explained. Sean is working on his dissertation for an Ed.D. at A.T. Still University and conducting an extensive research project that focuses on eating behavior among two-year institution students. The purpose of his research is to understand how cost, convenience, and social context (friends and family) influence eating behavior among students. “Once I graduate, I plan to take some time off and earn another master's degree. Each year one of my professional goals is to obtain some new type of fitness certification,” said Sean.
Recently, Sean worked with his colleagues to develop the Exercise Science program, and was responsible for creating the Fitness Instruction course for that program. “We noticed there was a demand for that degree with the number of students who participated in the high school program at Harford Tech. A lot of our students were completing general studies degrees and then transferring to Towson. We wanted to provide a degree for those who might not have been ready to go off to a four-year school right after graduating from Harford. We also wanted to create an opportunity for students to complete a certificate so they can go right into the workforce if that was their goal,” explained Sean. He and his colleagues are in the process of completing the setup of their Exercise Science lab so Harford students can have some hands-on practice with different types of fitness assessments. “I’m helping to create some new courses -- a care and prevention course, but more specifically, a foundations of resistance training course,” he added.
In addition to teaching, Sean has been the full-time manager of Harford’s Fitness Center since 2016. He oversees its day-to-day operations, hires and trains all the staff and coordinates with athletics, credit classes, and noncredit classes (a homeschool weight training program) to make sure everyone is capable of using the Fitness Center with no overlapping scheduling. “In the Fitness Center, we try to provide health education and awareness through our activity boards. I make sure everyone is working out safely and correctly by providing tips and tricks with workouts. I also attend events on campus such as OwlFest and the Wellness Fair to promote the Fitness Center,” he added. The Fitness Center has two interactive iPads that participants can use to help them with their workouts. The apps can be used for workouts or to explain how to use equipment, such as a foam roller or some yoga poses. “The Fitness Center allows students to go to a safe and welcoming environment where they can let off some steam from a long day or go to reach their fitness goals regardless of whether they are an athlete, regular student, or an employee. We’re here to help them every step of the way. They’re able to meet new people and learn some new things while having a few laughs along the way,” explained Sean. He has also created a partnership between the Fitness Center and the Towson University in Northeastern Maryland’s (TUNE) program which allows the participants to use the Fitness Center. “In addition to TUNE, I work with John Archer to help arrange time for the Future Links students to come once a week to use the Fitness Center,” he added.
When COVID hit, Sean was challenged with keeping remote class workouts fresh and engaging. “Teaching a cross-training class online was interesting, as I had to think of ways to provide good workouts while making sure I did not do the same thing over and over again. To help with this, I turned some of the workouts into interactive games. For instance, with the deck of doom workout or match game workout, students picked cards to determine the exercises. I also explored what items around the house could be used to help provide some resistance since not everyone has weights. For one circuit workout, we did all 12 exercises using either a backpack, a broom stick, or a combination of the two,” said Sean.
During this time, with the world closed down, much of the community was experiencing a reduction in physical activity. Sean was asked to help create workout videos for students of all levels to help maintain their physical fitness. “I took some of the workouts I used for my fitness classes and changed the level of difficulty based on the age group for that particular video. I walked the viewer through a warm up, workout, and cool down while trying to teach concepts along the way,” explained Sean. His series of videos was published on Harford’s YouTube channel and helped our community stay active during a very difficult time.
Sean also encourages his students to make YouTube videos: “These videos have students showing off their knowledge and ability to successfully explain and perform exercises for different skill levels, using random objects around the house and focusing on different populations (e.g. pregnant women, those with shoulder, knee, or back pain) while providing the reasoning. I remind them that these videos can be used on a résumé for a job application down the road as it shows off their abilities and can help with the lack of experience some may have. This also helps prepare them to communicate in different environments,” he added.
In addition to teaching and managing the Fitness Center, Sean has served as the assistant coach for the men’s and women’s Cross-Country teams since fall 2017. His coaching style is hands on, team orientated, and fun-based. Whether they’re doing an 80-minute run or a mile breakdown, Sean is participating with the athletes to help them push through and complete the run. “I try to rotate between all the athletes . . . it’s always easier when you have someone to run with. Ultimately, I always try to help them have fun throughout the season, whether it’s a cross training day using the board game Candyland as the workout, doing a long run and then getting lunch or dessert afterwards, or singing songs on the long rides to the races to help calm any nerves. I want our athletes to know I’ll use all my resources to help them be as successful as possible in the classroom and with running,” Sean said.
He is involved in many College service initiatives, including serving as the Advisor for the Exercise Science Club on campus, member of the Exercise Science Advisory Board, the Title IX Committee and Staff Council, just to name a few. Sean and his colleagues in the BSS division have given a presentation to CETL on campus, the AFFACT conference, and NISOD conference on Collaborative Course Design, where they discussed the benefits of sharing the workload of course creation each semester.
Sean is always willing to combine his love of running with a good cause. He participates in the Catch-a-Pig 5K fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club, the Turkey Trot in Bel Air, and recently in OwlFest, where he volunteered for the dunking booth. “I participated in both the Heather Hurd and Adam Thompson runs in remembrance of our former students and to help with scholarship opportunities. I also participate in the Screech 5k, which is in its third year and provides scholarships for student athletes,” he added.
In his free time, Sean likes to spend as much time as he can with his family. He is happily married with a two-year-old and a seven-month-old baby. “I run a lot in addition to working out, and I like to take the kids for a run in the jogging stroller or to the park and play,” said Sean. He enjoys watching sports, anything running related, basketball or football and is a big Atlanta fan. “I’m always trying to learn something new every day, whether it’s a fun fact, a new word I can add to my vocabulary, a coaching or workout tip, or something to help with the house,” explains Sean. He happily shares this philosophy with his students. “I want my students to have as much knowledge and be as unique as possible so they can set themselves apart in a positive way from others. A goal for each individual class is to have every student walk away learning something new that day -- whether it’s a new theory or something as simple as learning a new type of stretch,” said Sean.
Harford is pleased to recognize Sean Wright for his dedication and many contributions to the College and its students, faculty and staff. His passion for education and his drive to inspire and motivate his students is why Sean was selected as this month’s Faculty Spotlight. Congratulations, Sean!