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Justin Ulbright

Anatomy instructor introduces students to adaptive sports

Anatomy & Physiology is a difficult course, but Heath Sciences Instructor Justin Ulbright has made taking it an exciting experience for Whitworth students for 10 years and counting.

"I think my biggest strength in respect to engagement is my energy levels," he says. "I teach lecture at 8 a.m., so I have to come in pumped up each morning."

The personal connections he makes with students help keep them engaged as well. "I make it a goal to learn all of my 140-ish students by name by the third week of class," Ulbright says. "It's not easy, but I feel like it is important."

Ulbright cherishes both the relational aspect of teaching and his subject matter. "My passion for teaching A&P stems from the desire to unveil God's creation that is the human body," he says. "As a Christian scientist, I hold the belief that faith and science are complementary and not mutually exclusive."

Ulbright is also passionate about sharing his love of exercise outside the classroom. Around the time he started teaching at Whitworth, Ulbright began volunteering for ParaSport Spokane, a nonprofit sports program for athletes with physical disabilities.

"I had the desire to use my health and fitness knowledge and skill set to assist athletes with physical disabilities in achieving their athletic goals," he says. "I saw a need and felt God's call." 

As ParaSport Spokane's strength and conditioning coach, Ulbright has created opportunities for Whitworth students to get involved with the organization as well. Many students have served as volunteers and interns, gaining valuable hands-on experience. And through Whitworth's Community Building Day, each year dozens of health science and nursing students have learned how to maintain the organization's wheelchair basketball chairs.

It's a mutually beneficial partnership. "Regardless of their desired career path, my students as future professionals need to have skills working with people with physical disabilities," Ulbright says. "At the same time, ParaSport Spokane needs quality, dependable and consistent volunteers." 

Students who have interned with ParaSport Spokane have received special opportunities like traveling with teams to Paralympic competitions, Ulbright says. This has often led to "aha" moments as interns have learned how adaptive sports work and how people with physical disabilities navigate the world.

Ulbright not only works with ParaSport Spokane interns, but with all Whitworth health science students as they complete their required internships. As the internship faculty advisor, he enjoys a unique perspective. "I get a front-row seat to witness self-reflection, realization and growth," Ulbright says. "Students share with me not only what they've learned professionally, but personally and in many cases spiritually. I get to be there to help them process these thoughts and feelings."

What stands out the most to Ulbright about teaching at Whitworth is the quality of relationships he has built in all of his roles – as a teacher, colleague, mentor, advisor and "sometimes a workout buddy."

"Teaching at Whitworth has allowed me to serve awesome people," he says, "and, in return, allowed them to shape me too."

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