28 Days of Black Excellence: Karia Coleman
Karia Coleman is the chief executive officer and operating manager of TTari Health LLC, a company that provides exercise interventions for chronic conditions.
Coleman received his master’s degree in kinesiology and exercise fitness in 2014 from the University of Illinois Chicago, and his bachelor of science degree in biology also from UIC in 2002.
Coleman specializes in developing fitness programs that provide preventative and corrective measures for those with chronic conditions such as diabetes and cancer. His clients include professionals, children with neuromuscular dysfunction, clinical research subjects in diabetes trials, cancer survivors, and collegiate and professional athletes. He has a strong desire to see a change in his clients and has dedicated his life to learning and teaching better ways to manipulate the incredible plasticity of the human body through physical exercise. Changing lives through exercise protocols specific to chronic conditions, quality of life, aging or athletics is his life’s goal.
Tariq El-Amin 00:01
Welcome to Black Excellence at UIC Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement with Dr. Aisha El-Amin
Recording of Dr. Martin Luther King 00:09
[Applause] Believe in yourself and believe that you’re somebody.
Clips from 1995 movie “Panther” 00:17
That we study and master a bunch of different things.
Why are you here?
Study and master a bunch of different things.
I’m proud to introduce our new Minister of Information
Aisha El-Amin 00:26
I’m Dr. Aisha El-Amin
Tariq El-Amin 00:29
Welcome to Black Excellence.
Aisha El-Amin 0:35
Greetings, UIC family and friends and welcome to UIC’s “28 Days of Black Excellence.” I am Dr. Aisha El-Amin, UIC’s associate vice chancellor for equity and belonging. It’s my great honor to celebrate the history of Black excellence at UIC with powerful, inspiring and informative conversations with UIC’s alumni, past faculty and past staff. Each day, we’ll have a new guest. And today, I am really excited to learn more about what our guest has been up to, which I know is some really exciting things. Karia Coleman who is a double alumni from UIC, one in LAS class of 2002. And his graduate degree is from Applied Health Sciences and that was 2014. So you have to tell us what you have been up to since leaving UIC, which I know is a lot. So please and tell us about you, like where are you from? And you know, all that good stuff.
Karia Coleman 1:40
Okay, so first of all, thank you, Dr. El-Amin, for having me. My name is Karia Coleman. I was born and raised in Chicago. After military, I’d said ‘Okay, time for me to go ahead, get the education that I always wanted.” That’s why I went in the first place. So, born and raised in Chicago, I came back, I saw some schools that had some degree programs that I really liked. The UIC was one and I said, “Okay, let me go out here and do the biological science degree.” I’ve met a lot of amazing people, you know, I met my spouse at UIC and in undergrad, my best friend, you know, so we had like, a lot of long term relationships that came out of being around our people at UIC. And since then for a couple of decades, I’ve been doing exercise training. I went from working with athletes to cancer patients or survivors and some diabetes work and every and all things exercise. But after all these years, I’ve learned that I change lives for a living, I just use exercise to do it. And it excites me. So that’s pretty much it… being a dad and a business owner…
Aisha El-Amin 3:06
I’m gonna make you plug your business, but I have to back up. So what part of the service? Thank you for your service. What part of service were you in?
Karia Coleman 3:15
Okay, so I did 13 years in the Army.
Aisha El-Amin 3:19
All right. I’m Army. Let’s go.
Karia Coleman 3:21
Okay! That’s right. So yeah, so I can date myself. The year that I was born…You know how CPS and some of the schools have like this cutoff score or cutoff date, when you can enter school, you know, what is gonna be five or six, right? For me, the year I was born, by the time I turned five, I had to be before December 1. Okay, my birthday is on the 30th. So I was a young guy graduated from high school, so I was 17 when I went to military.
Aisha El-Amin 3:59
Karia Coleman 4:00
I had to say that because when I tell people I was 17 and went to military. Oh, man, you must have been a genius. You graduated a year early, like no. [Laughter] I graduated on time. I was allowed to start early.
Aisha El-Amin 4:15
Yes, tell me did your love of everything kind of physical and exercise that come out of that space? Or did it come out of some space at UIC, like where is this love come from? And you gotta give us the play. We get it. Right, like…
Karia Coleman 4:31
I’m gonna do that. So to shorten the 20 plus years of where it came from, my dad used to exercise and he was an athlete. So I used to want to be like Poppy, right? Or be strong like him. So I did go into military, they make you exercise. Then I wanted to be a physician. You know, so that’s why I was pre-med. And it was a doctor when I was at UIC, it was a physician that said, “You know if everybody had to work for $13 a week to get the anything they wanted to do for a living, what would you do?”. I said, “I’d teach folks how to exercise. I’m already doing that for free.” He said, “Why don’t you do that?” So I went immediately after undergrad I went straight into it. And it makes me smile that’s why when I say I love it, it’s like I get excited.
Aisha El-Amin 5:22
You know so we’re very opposite in this sense because exercise is not making me smile [laughter] …I, like you, had to do it when I was in the military. But I appreciate you know that it makes us look good.
Karia Coleman 5:38
What was your MOS when you when you were in there?
Aisha El-Amin 5:40
I was a military police officer.
Karia Coleman 5:42
Aisha El-Amin 5:49
Yeah, well, what was your MOS and when we say MOS within your your job is your military occupational specialty, but what was your job in the military?
Karia Coleman 5:57
Well, initially, it was a petroleum supplies specialist when we set up these fueling systems the size of an airfield, which is the size of a football field for aircraft and then later on I reclassified to let’s just say signal it was like secure signal intelligence is like its signal entail MOS.
Aisha El-Amin 6:20
Nice nice… So I’m going to make you plug your business. What is the name of your company? How do folks reach out to you like when they see this, they like, hey, I want to love I want somebody changed my life to exercise too. And so…
Karia Coleman 6:35
Okay. So you know, I’ve mentioned my birthday is over the 30th? Right. I was looking for a name and there it is, TTari Health, so I was trying to figure out a name, you gotta make sure when you register, you got to make sure its one that nobody else has right now. I’m thinking now these names. And I’m a Sagittarius.
Aisha El-Amin 6:52
Yes, me too. Oh, okay.
Karia Coleman 6:54
I know right. And there’s two Ts in Sagittarius. Okay. Ttari Health, you know, so TTari Health. I’ve started off, you know, personal training and everything. And then I got into more of the clinical exercise when I start working with diabetics and cancer survivors. And I noticed that even when I was on my personal training business that I was getting survivors recommended to me and referred to me. So, Ttari Health you know, I have a TTeri Health page on Facebook and a Ttari Health page on Instagram. I have a Ttari — TTARI.fitness that’s dot fitness, not dot com, we’ll graduate to dot-com, I just thought of being different, trying business areas tend to be different, right? So those are the sites and you know, I post you know, one, I show myself doing exercises. So you see that I’m doing what I preach. And two, I put out information specifically to a community of chronic conditions, you know, chronic diseases and trying to share things that you can do, even when you think oh, I’m too sick to workout. Everybody can do something. So when you come to my sites … the social media sites or website, we’ll put out information that can help. You know.
Aisha El-Amin 8:16
I love it. I love it.
Karia Coleman 8:17
I try to make it fun.
Aisha El-Amin 8:19
I love it. So as we look back on your time at UIC, because you were here for graduate and undergrad. So you came back for reasons. So tell me some fond memories, besides meeting your beautiful wife. I know that’s definitely amongst the fondest.
Karia Coleman 8:40
Yes. So I know students are gonna watch this. And I don’t know if this the best thing to say, but I will be honest with you.
Aisha El-Amin 8:47
Go ahead. Keep it 100.
Karia Coleman 8:50
I’m gonna keep it 100. I was always told, you know, I’m smart. And you know, you got to do well by my aunts and uncles and all this right, my parents. But I didn’t go to school for the education. I went for the education. I didn’t stay for education, that’s not even what excited me. It was the interactions with people. When we had like, we’re not at like a traditional historically Black university. We have to find each other. So there was little areas like, I don’t know, if they, they changed the name, but it was called The Circle. We just called it The Circle over there on Halsted. And you know, after class, you know, the Black students will meet up and we hang out in between classes. And what was really cool about that, you know, when I was coming up, it was cool to be tough. And you know, so, I’m from Harvey, I went from South Side Chicago to Harvey and back to South Side Chicago. So it was cool to be tough. But these were bio majors, engineering majors, my best friend was an engineer, and it was cool to be smart. So I’m hanging around these folks, we’re having all this fun, we might play a little cards, whatever. But there was a lot of BSU, or Black Student Union, and Nesby functions…
Aisha El-Amin 10:02
Karia Coleman 10:03
And it’s like, again, you’re hanging around … Black students organizations, with Black students who are smart. But they’re fun, you know, so well not as you know, we say nerd, you know, and I was one myself didn’t even know it. [Laughter] But it’s like, it’s different now, you know. So being like we had different organizations on campus and everybody worked together even the ones that didn’t care for each other. We still supported each other. And yeah, so that was like the, that was my fondest memories. I had fun in grad school, when we used to do like the muscle biopsies, and we were in the hospital for six hours, but it was the camaraderie. It wasn’t, you know, the histochemistry, and learning these high level things. It was camaraderie. So…
Aisha El-Amin 10:53
You, you might be surprised to hear that that’s most people and I’m on the 26th interview now. People say the exact same thing.
Karia Coleman 11:02
Really? Okay, so I don’t feel bad.
Aisha El-Amin 11:05
No reason to feel bad, because you’re in a community, right, like in a community and so that you’re right on the line with other folks’ fond memories. And with every journey, there’s challenges, right? And so, and our students will go through challenges and maybe walk through them as a watch this. So can you talk about challenges and what that might look like in a journey. And then in your journey,
Karia Coleman 11:29
I thought about this. And when I read, when I knew this question was coming up, and I thought about it, I said, I’ll be honest. When I was going through undergrad, I used to struggle with… I’ve never been diagnosed, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got ADHD. I can remember all the way back in grammar school, scoring high on the IQ exams, but still having those other symptoms. And my parents weren’t as progressive [laughter] as I like to think that I was, you know, they thought, …. you need to have to sit still and stop talking in class and, you know, but that was a struggle.
I was… it feels kind of bad… that one of the smartest ones in the class, but you can’t focus … you start to get tired, you start to get bored, and you got to get up and move around. In grad school I said, “You know what?” My grades were way better in grad school. One, it had to be. Two, I decided to stop trying to hide it, you know, because there’s Black, you know, as Africans, African Americans, we kind of hide that, you know, you crazy, crazy stuff, you got to take medicine, or you got to go see somebody, I said, no. I said, everybody needs a personal training and a counselor.
Aisha El-Amin 12:58
Amen to that one!
Karia Coleman 12:58
It’s coaching, it’s coaching. So, that’s one of the things that I would, I would encourage, because I know, it’s gonna be quite a few who probably saying, that’s me. But you don’t want your … hopefully this generation is different than ours, where, you know, people make fun of you or whatever, or your family look at you crazy. But that was one of the biggest things. And I will say, don’t worry about the embarrassment, because more than likely, there’s others look just like you, look totally different from you, they deal with the same thing. And they just not going to tell you that they’ve been on medications, or that their parents… because I had a buddy who his father was a physician, and he would prescribe or see to it that he got it. So that was kind of way of keeping it quiet. You know, he doesn’t look like me. But that’ll mean anything. It’s like folks who do like me are usually embarrassed. So African Americans, don’t be embarrassed, go get it taken care of. Because your intelligence is usually what makes the teachers and principals overlook it. Like ‘Oh, he’s so intelligent. He’ll still getting an A, he’s still going to get a B.’ So that was one of the biggest challenges. You know, not seeing people like me until grad school that’s, that’s in higher roles, like yourself, and then some of the professors who were researchers that you’ll find, oh, yeah, he looked like me. And he’s one of the who’s who, you know. It was a Dr. Brown who came to UIC, he’s back at Auburn, but it was, …so if we can see a little bit more people that look like us, that’d be another positive. You know, you see that you could do it too. You know?
Aisha El-Amin 14:41
That’s exactly it. I love that. And so as we close out, I could sit here and talk to you forever. …especially look, you got South Side, you’re a veteran, you’re Sagittarius… like I could just keep going on.
Karia Coleman 14:54
See, that’s why I like you. I do. You know, I like oh she’s a Sagattarius…That’s why I liked her as soon as I met her. She’s a Sagattarius, you know, we get each other.
Aisha El-Amin 15:05
That’s right. That’s right. Sag in the house. Right. So as we as we kind of close out our session today, what’s some advice that you would give students today? Or even if you had to go back and talk to yourself, when you first entered. So, you know, in 2000? Or, you know, in the early ’90s, yes, undergrad? Or late ’90s, what would you what would you say? What would be the advice?
Karia Coleman 15:34
The main advice would be, figure out what you want, because more than likely, you kind of know already. Don’t let nobody talk you out of it. And take it. Take what you want. Don’t ask anybody to respect you. Don’t ask… don’t ask like, please don’t hurt us. Because I was I grew up that way. Take what you want, figure it out exactly where it is, and take it. And there’s ways to take what you want legally, morally, and ethically. But I think sometimes we wait for somebody to give us something, or somebody to call us up front, or award us, it’s like take it if that means get up earlier. That means work a little bit hard on something that doesn’t come, you know, as quickly. It’s you. If it has to be is up to me. You know, and that’s not I didn’t create the quote, but that lines of what I’m talking about. Take it.
Aisha El-Amin 16:36
I love it. I love it. And I thank you, thank you for being part of this series. Thank you for sharing your story. And thank you for just your passion that you bring to all the work that you do that to help people in the multitude of ways that you do.
Karia Coleman 16:49
Well, I want to thank you, Dr. El-Amin for one having me. And you might not realize this. I told you this a couple of times, but it excites me when I see you progressing because it’s like if I when I see you or it’s like I see myself like, you know, it’s like, we we you see what I’m saying? Like, I know her and I you know, I get excited. So thank you for continuously going forward and going higher.
Aisha El-Amin 17:17
So we all go together, we go together. That’s right. That’s right. Thank you, we will talk soon.
Karia Coleman 17:24
Tariq El-Amin 17:27
[Music] Thanks for joining us find more inspiring and informative conversations with UIC alumni, faculty and staff at blackresources.uic.edu. That’s blackresources.uic.edu.