Reshaping the Perception of Health and Movement

As Dr. Tao Zhang uses his projects to impact the local community, he brings his students and peers quality service and a global point of view. With experience in Global Education, Dr. Tao Zhang is using his experience as a global educator to impact his community. His passion for kinesiology has helped him to shoot for the stars, using the art of movement as a vehicle for healing work on a local level. Within his research, he’s channeled his passions and educational involvement into his teachings with aspiring kinesiologists. Zhang obtained his PhD in Kinesiology at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He also received his Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Kinesiology at the Shanghai University of Sport, which has enabled him the ability to provide quality service to his students. 

While attending Shanghai University, Zhang’s day-to-day was compact with busyness and determination. Because of his family’s high expectations for academics, he kept his head in the books, with his overall goal and purpose at the forefront of his mind. 

“I was born in China and when I was a boy, I was trained as a professional athlete. After more than 10 years of training, I pursued my academic education at the Shanghai University of Sport in Shanghai,” Zhang said. “Then I went to pursue my advanced degree in kinesiology. So I applied for graduate school at Louisiana State University. I got the offer, completed my Ph.D. education within four years, and then I joined UNT as a faculty member. I have been here for almost 15 years.” 

Zhang’s big move from Shanghai University was inspired by his vision for infusing big-picture, global education styles into Western, American academic settings. At Lousiana State, his passion for kinesiology was nurtured by professors who helped him blossom in his academic studies. 

“As I mentioned, Shanghai is an international city, it's very modern. But I did want to get my global education experience. I wanted to have an international perspective to analyze physical activity and health promotion,” Zhang said. “Louisiana State University has a leading program, in kinesiology, and my former major professor, Melinda Solomon, was a school director over there and she was a big shot in the field. So that's why I study kinesiology.” 

After receiving his accolades and degrees, he was led to UNT’s campus to teach kinesiology. At the Physical Education Building, he stands alongside his students, guiding them and instilling his worldwide knowledge at the College of Education. 

“I want to share my knowledge and experience with my students. I also want to support this research field to move forward,” Zhang said. “I noticed UNT is a good fit for me because there are so many local resources, and joining UNT as a professor was a good transition for me. I like my teaching, my scholarship, and I also want to contribute to the local community, as I mentioned.” 

Amongst Zhang’s many accolades, he is also founder of the Project MOVE, a program that assists young people with physical activity, encouraging them to be active and reshape their understanding of health and wellness. Through his extracurriculars, he has made it his intention to impact local communities.  

“So based on a federal grant, we can provide our own resources and expertise, to serve the local community, especially low-income families and children.”  

A day in the life of Zhang is spent with students, doing the gritty work to uplift them at the College of Education. Aside from the many projects that he works on, he is very much tuned and tapped into everything related to academics.

“Our research lab has conducted different types of research projects. We have multiple doctoral students and postdoctoral research fellows. I met each of them on a weekly basis and then we moved our research projects forward,” Zhang said. “So, based on my interaction with my students, and my current understanding of the college's kinesiology field, I think it is a golden opportunity for us to make a good contribution toward our research field, toward the local community, and also help our students to be successful.” 

Through the spreading of knowledge on health and physical movement, Zhang continues to reshape the perception of health and movement. As his impact furthers, we can understand kinesiology and health as a nutrition that can help us feel more fulfilled in our day to day. 

“We believe in well-being. Physical activity can be a very important component of our health. So, based on my current knowledge and expertise I want to make sure everybody can understand that physical activity is a medicine,” Zhang said. “We conduct different types of research projects and programs to support all these low-income families and children to be healthy and  physically active.” 

At home, his passions are intertwined with his family. For Zhang, Kinesiology stands as more than just a career- it’s a holistic passion that spills over into every facet of his life. He infuses his practices into his family life and home, inspiring his kids to stay active and feel supported in all that they do. 

“I like to play with my children at home because my daughter and my son play different sports- they have such personal passion for tennis and volleyball,” Zhang said. “As a dad, I need to be a good role model for them, so I always want to provide a good energy source, support them, and provide resources for them to be outstanding.”