Dr. Mark Baldis’ deep connections to Fresno State began in 1971 when he was just a precocious 13-year-old. Long before many of the infrastructure changes at the University, Baldis was already building roots on campus as the son of a dedicated professor.
“After school, I would get on my bicycle and ride out to Fresno State and hang out in the back of my mom’s classroom and do my homework,” Baldis reminisced. “In fact, I’ve taught in the same classroom in the Lab School, right next to my mom’s former office.”
Baldis would later earn both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in kinesiology (exercise science and physical education) at the University, in addition to a doctorate in health promotion and wellness from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions.
Today, Baldis is a longtime lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology, a role he began in 2000. In addition to the Department of Kinesiology, Baldis has also lent his expertise to the Departments of Physical Therapy, Biology, Public Health and Food Sciences and Nutrition.
Baldis’ dedicated service to the Fresno State campus recently earned him the Spring 2022 Provost’s Award for Outstanding Lecturer, as announced by Dr. Xuanning Fu, Fresno State’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. It is an award that runs in the Baldis family. His mother, Bette Baldis, received a similar award while she was teaching at Fresno State when Baldis was in high school.
“I can remember how honored she was and how proud I was of her,” Baldis said. “I never thought that I would follow in her footsteps as a faculty member at Fresno State, let alone be nominated for the same type of award. I can’t imagine how proud she would be of me today.”
His mother, Bette, was among the pioneers of the deaf education program at Fresno State. Her teaching legacy was profound and left Baldis inspired to also teach at the same University.
His teaching career began in his forties by chance. At the time, he was a physical therapy assistant at a local clinic when he received a call from Dr. Catherine Jackson, a longtime kinesiology professor (now retired). She was looking for someone to teach part-time in “Kinesiology 118: Fundamentals of Exercise Physiology” and thought Baldis was the perfect person for the job due to his extensive exercise science and teaching background, combined with expertise in personal training.
That one-part time course turned into three courses in the spring semester and later evolved into a full course load with Baldis teaching full-time. He went on to teach in various areas, including physical therapy, physical education, athletic training and exercise science at the undergraduate and graduate level. For the past 12 years, he has led the highly popular exercise science program as its director and also leads the Human Performance Lab on campus.
“I realized that I could actually affect a lot more people by being a teacher,” Baldis said. “I can teach 50 students and those 50 will go out and work with potentially hundreds of others. By teaching, I can reach thousands of people in that way. Being in front of the classroom lecturing and asking questions is only 10% of what I do, but teaching — it’s my favorite part of the job. So, yeah, so that was the thing that really kind of attracted me to the profession, in addition to my parents once being teachers, as well.”
Providing internship opportunities for his students is something Baldis is particularly passionate about. In total, he has directly supervised over 100 internships. Most notably, he spearheaded a cardiopulmonary rehabilitation internship in partnership with Saint Agnes Medical Center, which has led many of his former students to work within cardiac rehab programs all over the state.
From teaching to mentoring to coordinating internships, Baldis’ impact has been immense, according to many of his former students.
“An outstanding lecturer can motivate their students to educate themselves and pursue their dreams, while connecting with their students personally. Dr. Baldis represents all of these values,” said Vassillios Dimitriopoulos, a 2022 alumnus of the exercise science program. “Not only does Dr. Baldis educate his students with his thoughtfully planned curriculum every day, but he also inspires his students during these lectures.”
The Department of Kinesiology’s exercise science program averages 650 students a year, making it one of the biggest options on campus. To cater to the demands of the popular program, it will soon transition from an option area to a degree program in the fall of 2023. Baldis has led the charge on the expansive project, working closely with the Office of the Chancellor and University officials to coordinate new and existing curriculum changes and onboard new faculty.
Much like his mother and Jackson did, Baldis is intent on paving the way for the next generation of faculty at Fresno State.
“I’m looking at the future of the exercise science program,” Baldis said. “I want to mentor and create new faculty who will eventually take over.”
His commitment to the program, even long after he retires some day, is what makes him stand out, said Dr. Michael Coles, professor of exercise science and Baldis’ longtime colleague.
“Year after year, Dr. Baldis continues to set the standard for what an outstanding lecturer is and what all faculty should strive to be,” said Coles. “His dedication to student success is obvious and well documented, having developed student internships that have directly led to employment opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. He has demonstrated sustained and exceptional teaching effectiveness, and has made incredible contributions to the department’s curriculum.”
In 2015, Baldis was influential in the exercise science program’s recognition as an internationally recognized education program for the professional preparation of strength and conditioning professionals. The recognition, by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, has been in effect ever since.
Baldis has also received other important accolades, including the College of Health and Human Services’ Faculty Mentor Award in 2012 and the University’s Campus Advisor’s Network Outstanding Adviser Award in 2008, for which he was nominated seven different times. He has also been trained to serve as an adviser for the University’s Project Safe Suicide Prevention Program.
Aside from academia, Baldis is active in professional organizations including serving on the National Certification and Registry Boards Credential Committee for the American College of Sports Medicine, as well as being part of the medical team for the Central Valley Fuego Futbol Club.
Baldis is among two faculty from Fresno State to receive the 2022 Provost’s Award for Outstanding Lecturer. The awards were established in 1993 to recognize the outstanding teaching, research and service that is central to the mission of Fresno State.
Honorees provide students with a stimulating environment that fosters learning and affirms the University as an intellectual and cultural leader in the Central Valley.
Learn more about the Provost’s Awards and learn about this year’s honorees at FresnoStateNews.com.