University of Southern California

USC Student Affairs and Campus Life

Charlene Zalenski

Facilities and Fitness Coordinator at the Health Sciences Campus (HSC) Fitness Center, Recreational Sports

By Lillian Insalata

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With a long list of healthy hobbies ranging from spinning to stand-up paddle-boarding, Charlene Zalenski makes fitness a priority. Now, in her new position as the facilities and fitness coordinator at the Health Sciences Campus (HSC) Fitness Center, she can share her enthusiasm for exercise with USC students, faculty and staff.

In addition to managing all aspects of HSC Fitness Center operations, Zalenski motivates fellow Trojans through her lunchtime spinning, body sculpting and circuit training classes. Her goal is to get desk-bound, stressed employees and students onto their feet — even if only for an hour.

“I love being able to interact with people and see their progress,” she said. “Having them get involved in being more active and having a work-life balance is really important to me.”

Zalenski played sports growing up, and explored the academic aspects of fitness as an undergraduate at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Though she initially wanted to major in occupational therapy, an adviser steered her toward recreation and kinesiology. After graduating with a degree in recreation administration, she launched her career with the city of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, where she managed summer camps and sports leagues.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with people from Cheviot Hills to people in very low-income areas,” she said. “It’s really given me the ability to be very empathetic and versatile.”

Eventually, she moved to the Beach Cities Health District in Redondo Beach. As assistant general manager, she oversaw the fitness center and classes for seven years. When she heard about the opportunity to do similar work for USC, she jumped at the chance to be in the university environment.

“There’s always been such a buzz about USC and so much USC pride throughout Los Angeles,” she said. “I thought, I’d love to be part of that organization.”

In her new role, Zalenski is focused on garnering attention for the HSC Fitness Center, which opened in 2011.

Arvin Varma, director of the HSC Fitness Center, credits Zalenski with improving the center through her new fitness programs.

“Charlene has brought the latest training techniques to HSC, and we are now offering these classes as part of our workout,” he said. “CrossFit is one that she teaches, and I can tell you from first-hand experience — it is fun and challenging.”

Ultimately, Zalenski hopes to foster an environment where health and fitness are central to everyone’s lives.

“My students talk about skipping staff meetings to go to my classes,” she joked. “I love getting feedback, knowing that I’ve helped them out. That’s exciting!”