By Darren Johnson
While CUNY colleges were mostly shuttered during the two-year peak of the pandemic, Queensborough Community College made the best of a bad situation and used that time to totally renovate their fitness center while it wasn’t in use anyway.
The new and vastly improved fitness center had a soft opening in the spring and now is fully open on weekdays noon to 6 p.m., except Fridays, which are noon to 5 p.m. Any student, faculty or staff member can use the facilities for free. The center is also open to the public for a fee, via non-credit classes as a part of QCC’s Continuing Education division.
I spoke with Dr. Andrea Salis, Chair of QCC’s Health, Physical Education and Dance department, which handles the overall operation of the center, as well as for-credit courses and programs that involve physical education and dance.
She said that they are trying to get the word out to students, especially, about the changes, which include brand new equipment and renovations to the Olympic-size swimming pool, basketball courts, table tennis, volleyball and badminton, among other spaces and equipment. Spaces are also being configured for new fitness trends, such as pickleball.
Many in the campus community may have gotten out of the gym habit during the pandemic, while at the same time the pandemic has led to many people losing their physical conditioning, so at first attendance was light. But Salis said, now that more classes are live, an increasing number of people have been coming to the new center before or after their classes meet.
“Everything is brand new and it’s a much more enjoyable experience now,” Salis said. “It’s been very lively, and we’re thrilled to be seeing more and more students coming in.”
The Health, Physical Education and Dance department is more than just a gym. Many majors at QCC require students to take at least two physical education courses over their two years of study.
The community college also has a partnership with York College to provide transfer students with a Movement Science major. Students can either stop with the two-year degree and bolster their careers in fitness and training, or go on for a four-year degree.
Salis said that her department’s programs are not just about physical health but also mental health. “The two go together,” she said.
QCC also has a nationally accredited program in Dance, and it is one of the best two-year programs in the Northeast. “It’s incredible performance training at a very high level,” Salis said, noting that instructors are tops in their field and also exemplify the college’s mission of diversity. But even non-Dance majors can take lower-level courses, which count toward QCC’s physical education requirement.
Salis said it’s important for new students, especially, to get into the habit of visiting the fitness center, and avail themselves of physical education offerings at the college.
“New students are a great population to come to the gym, talk to the fitness staff and learn how to use the equipment properly,” she said. “We’ll help them set a schedule.
“Maybe just try three days a week, 30 minutes each time. We have a very welcoming environment. There’s no judgment. We’re here to help.”