Oregon State University logo

The impact of IMPACT

Program celebrates 35 years of learning, laughter

Oregon State alumni share many of the same experiences, and for thousands of them, a defining experience is IMPACT.

A community-based service and real-time learning lab, IMPACT is a noisy, joyous program providing children with physical and/or intellectual disabilities the opportunity to move their bodies, play with peers and develop a passion for lifelong physical activity.

For the more than 300 diverse undergraduate students from across the university who staff the program each year, IMPACT provides hands-on experience and valuable training whether they are future researchers or practitioners.

One such student is Graduate Student Coordinator Laynie Case, from San Diego, California. She was involved with the program as a master’s student and then spent two years working at the Chico State Autism Clinic before returning to OSU. “My favorite thing is when the kids find something that they really enjoy, you get to see more of their awesome and unique spirits,” Laynie says. “It makes it that much more special to us that they are enjoying being physically active.”

There are benefits for faculty as well. “We can test a method or practice assessment, use a behavior management technique or teach a skill,” says Associate Professor Megan MacDonald, who has been involved in the program for seven years.

“Each week during IMPACT, I am reminded of the importance of this work in disability, public health and physical activity. I can see students develop relationships with participants, as well as form innovative ideas. This is why I do what I do. And this program was a huge reason why I came to Oregon State.”

IMPACT was created 35 years ago by John M. Dunn, Ed.D., then chair of Exercise and Sport Science, and graduate student Paul Maguire, who called it the OSU Special Physical and Motor Fitness Clinic. It began with 11 children, and John says he knew “we were on to something” when parents as far north as Hillsboro began attending.

“I recall fondly when John Byrne, the president and his wife, Shirley, visited the clinic to see for themselves. We knew then that we were helping to spread the word that OSU is indeed a very special place! The addition of Dr. McCubbin was key to sustaining the program as I moved from department chair to assistant dean and the last five years as the university’s associate provost.”

Today, this first-of-its-kind program serves about 90 children and has been key to training at least 3,000 undergraduate student volunteers and 50 PhD students from around the world, and inspiring dozens of similar programs across the country. In addition, hundreds of master’s degree students have participated in the program and now work in public schools across the county improving the quality of physical education.

Former College of Public Health and Human Sciences (CPHHS) Executive Associate Dean Jeff McCubbin became involved in IMPACT in 1988 and left an indelible impression. “Our faculty provided in-service training opportunities and consultation with schools all over the state, our parents learned more about their child’s educational rights, and we advocated to help create an add-on endorsement – one of the first in the country – to acknowledge those teachers who had additional educational and experiential skills in the area of adapted physical education. The impacts go far beyond the participants and OSU students there in the Women’s Building on Friday nights.”

Professor J.K. Yun, IMPACT for Life endowed faculty scholar, now leads the program he has been involved in since 1999. During that time, IMPACT expanded to support physical activity opportunities in the Corvallis community to youth over 21 as part of IMPACT for Life.

“I sometimes feel I’m the one who benefits most from IMPACT,” JK says. “It gives meaning to what we study and why we study adapted physical activity. IMPACT helps support an inclusive community and enriches everyone in the process. It allows us to practice what we preach.”