What is experiential learning?

Experiential learning will help you turn theory into practice while building confidence, connections, and collaborations.

Experiential learning with HHP can be anything from internships, applied courses in HHP, study abroad, and research. These activities are the perfect chance for you to take what you've learned in the classroom and apply it to real-world situations.

Experiential learning gives opportunities to turn theory into practice while building confidence, connections, and collaboration

All HHP students should consider exploring experiential opportunities during their time at Iowa. Experiential learning with HHP can be anything from internships, applied courses in HHP, study abroad, and research. Students should consider learning from these different opportunities because it provides real-life experiences that cannot always be gained in the classroom. Experiential learning is the perfect chance for students to learn by doing; to take what has been learned in the classroom and apply it to real-world situations.

Study abroad

Study abroad for undergraduates in Health and Human Physiology can bring a more global understanding of health education, health promotion and wellness or other professional fields in health care by exposing students to diverse populations. Taking HHP faculty led observation courses abroad can teach students about other models of health care outside of the United States standard.  

You can learn more by visiting the Health and Human Physiology Major Advising Page (MAP) on the Study Abroad website. This MAP focuses on the Health & Human Physiology BA and its three tracks, as well as the Human Physiology BS. Future MAPs are planned to address students in the Sports & Recreation Management and the Therapeutic Recreation programs.  

After reading through the MAP, you can visit the steps to studying abroad  page to learn about Discover Study Abroad sessions and how to start planning your time abroad. Ideally, you should begin to plan your study abroad experience at least two semesters in advance of your departure date. Be in touch with a study abroad advisor and your advisor in the Health and Human Physiology Department early in the planning process. 

Internships and practicums

Internships and practicums allow you to work for organizations and programs to gain experience.  

Internships and practicums can: 

  • Be paid or unpaid 
  • Done for course credit or for no course credit 
  • Be in-person or virtual 
  • Be local, national, or international

  • Must have a qualified supervisor (determined by the industry) 
  • Must be approved by HHP Internship director if they are being done for course credit 
  • Must meet academic requirements of 45 hours of service/outreach for 1 hour of academic credit 
  • Students need to be in good academic standing with the University of Iowa

Internships are a fantastic way to get experience in careers that match your academic and personal goals. This allows you to try out your professional interests and build on your classroom knowledge with industry experience.

While securing an internship can at first seem like a daunting task, following these four simple steps makes the process easier for everyone. Remember, internships are found by students, not handed out by faculty.

Step one: Find your passions
  • I have joined clubs at the University of Iowa that seem interesting and fun. 
  • I have taken a skills assessment test to learn about my strengths, weaknesses, and passions.  
  • I have researched potential careers, discussed options with my academic advisor, and communicated with professionals in my future job field for advice.  
  • I have chosen a major that aligns with my values and future career goals.  
  • I have created a LinkedIn page to start building my network and to learn about opportunities that I could seize.
Step two: Build your skills
  • I have completed coursework that aligns with my goals and helps to prepare me for my future career.  
  • I have volunteered at places that help me get hands-on-experience. 
  • I have created connections through LinkedIn and listened to LinkedIn Learning Videos.
Step three: Identify your opportunities
  • I have worked with HHP Internship Director or Career Advisor to explore possible sites.  
  • I have spoken with my academic advisor about credit versus noncredit and paid versus nonpaid internships. 
  • I have updated my LinkedIn page with a picture, biography, resume, and achievements.
Step four: Continue your pursuit
  • I have three professors, previous bosses, or professionals to serve as references on my behalf.  
  • I have applied to several internships and provided the needed documentation (ex. resume and cover letter).  
  • I have prepared for interviews for each respective internship.   
  • I have a system for tracking completed applications and interviews. 
  • I have landed my internship and emailed the Internship Director about registering my internship for course credit.

Applied courses

Faculty guided experiences in and outside the classroom to further apply the content of the course to the real-world. Applied learning includes specific courses, field experiences, and guided practicum. 

Applied courses

Step 1

Check the list of applied courses listed in the table below and see what ones you may be interested in. 

Step 2

Once you determine what courses you are interested in, make sure that you have completed all required prerequisites for that applied course. Prerequisites are listed below for each applied course.  

Step 3

Follow these specific steps to apply for your internship and/or practicum. 

  • HHP:3820 Community Wellness Guided Practicum 
  • HHP3930 Practicum in HHP
  • HHP:4365 Internship in Health Coaching
  • HHP:4930 Health and Human Physiology Internship
  • TR:4197/DST:4197 Practicum in Therapeutic Recreation: Special Olympics Iowa Winter Games, 3 semester hours (Open to all majors)


Work alongside faculty in a lab setting to explore how research is designed, conducted, and measured. Research also includes honors thesis projects that can offer students opportunities to design and conduct their own research. This is an arranged project between a faculty member and a student.  

Students interested in earning credit have the option of enrolling in HHP:3994 Undergraduate Research or HHP:4500 Undergraduate Independent Project.

Gaining experience in HHP Labs is a great way to build skills in research methods. To gain a position in an HHP Lab, explore the HHP Labs and connect directly with lab staff.


Provide support for research by conducting experiments, investigations or evaluations. Collect and analyze data and perform operational duties associated with the laboratory (bench and field), animal or human subjects research, or theoretical investigation. Research in the natural, health, physical and social sciences is included in this job family. Incumbents in this job family typically are involved in one or more aspects of conducting research or may manage/direct staff responsible for conducting research. Requires scientific and research expertise.

  • Read and understand protocols
  • Perform research activities based upon protocols developed by the research team
  • Analyze literature to develop hypotheses for discussion
  • Set up and operate research materials or equipment
  • Recruit, consent and enroll research subjects
  • Adhere to safety and compliance guidelines
  • Collect, record and consolidate data as directed by the Principal Investigator
  • Track progress of research activities
  • Adhere to Quality Assurance protocols to maintain validity and integrity of research data
  • perform data entry for reports and maintain records of methods used
  • Prepare bibliographies and abstracts for publications
  • Assist in the preparation, calibration, and maintenance of laboratory and facility equipment

Health coach pathway in health and human physiology

Health and wellness coaches partner with clients seeking to enhance their well-being through self-directed, lasting changes, aligned with their values. In the course of their work, health & wellness coaches display an unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their capacity for change, honoring the fact that each client is an expert on their own life, while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental.

Source: https://nbhwc.org

  • Clinical coaching more present in medical model
  • Growing industry 
  • Support continuing education of our health care professionals
  • Evidence-based approach to influence health care outcomes

  • Behavioral health focus and expertise
  • Established and growing partnerships with UI Hospitals & Clinics
  • Research opportunities
  • Built infrastructure within HHP

Step one: Complete course work
  • HHP:3030 Lifestyle Medicine, 3 semester hours
  • HHP:4020 Health Coaching, 3 semester hours
Step two: Practical skills exam

AFTER completing both courses, students are required to conduct practical skills exam and will receive feedback from the Health Coach Faculty. After practical skills assessment is complete and student passes, paperwork to NBHWC is submitted. The Practical Skills Exam is done in a virtual meeting with the UIowa Health Coach Faculty.

Step three: Practice (50 coaching sessions)
  • HHP:4365 Health Coach Practicum
  • Independent coaching
Step four: National Board Exam

Apply to sit for NBHWC. Visit https://nbhwc.org to submit application and identify exam dates.

If you're a...

  • Current UIOWA student AND current HHP major or minor
    • Course enrollment:
      • Complete HHP:3030 and HHP:4200 as part of your degree plan
    • Tuition:
  • Current UIOWA student BUT not a current HHP major or minor
    • Course enrollment:
      • Complete HHP:3030 and HHP:4200 as part of your degree plan (Get instructor approval if prerequisites are not met. Must have similar courses)
    • Tuition:
  • NOT a current UIOWA student WITH health experience or degree

When are courses offered?
  • Courses are offered with the academic semester at the University of Iowa. See academic calendar. Typical start dates are mid-January for Spring Semester, Mid-May for Summer, and Mid-August for Fall semester.

Where and when are courses located?
  • Courses are offered at the University of Iowa campus located in Iowa City, IA. Courses may be offered via Zoom if that format is being offered that semester. To see times and locations, visit your dashboard on MyUI and look up HHP:4020 and HHP:3030.

Does the health coach pathway appear on my degree transcript?
  • No–the pathway is a training program. Upon completion of both courses and a successful practical skills exam, participants will receive a training certificate. This certificate is required to submit to the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches when applying to sit for the board exam.

What if I decide I want to be a coach after completing both courses rather than deciding before or during the courses, can I still apply?
  • Possibly–attendance and a grade of 77% or higher is required in both courses for eligibility, so if your attendance and performance meet pathway requirements, then you can submit coaching sessions for review. You will then schedule the practical skills exam with health coach pathway faculty for final evaluation.

University resources

Undergraduate research

Gain hands-on experience by participating in the research and creative discovery of faculty and staff.


Build on-the-job experience while connecting and networking with professionals in your field.

Study abroad

Enhance your degree, stand out to employers, shape your own perspective, and transform into a global citizen.

Community-engaged courses

Apply your academic skills and knowledge to help community partners solve real-world problems.