Kristi Johnson doesn’t consider herself the traditional kinesiology student. She’s in her third year of the online Doctor of Education in Kinesiology (EdD) at UNC Greensboro, but as a director of dance, her background is in a field that typically aligns itself with theater and music.
And yet, Johnson explains, kinesiology plays an important role in her job at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). She teaches the science behind dance, such as the structural and neuromuscular parts involved in the body’s movement, instead of focusing solely on the aesthetic. She says this scientific approach teaches students the best training methods to enhance their skill and sustain their careers.
“I’m teaching them what bones and muscles are doing the work,” she says. “Instead of telling someone to lift their leg, actually talking to them about what’s working.”
New Courses, New Skills, New Perspectives
Johnson says everything she has learned in the EdD program has made her think and look at her job differently. It has helped her to be more forward thinking, create a larger vision and make that vision possible, and to be more strategic in her leadership role.
Program Design and Curriculum Development courses gave Johnson the skills to design a dance minor curriculum at NCCU, and she plans to continue to develop the program from a dance concentration to a BA in Dance.
“In thinking strategically, I am more thoughtful about what type of dance degree — dance education, dance science, dance performance — would best serve the mission and vision of our department and institution,” she says. “Being a university in the UNC system, there are many dance degree programs to choose from. What would make one at NCCU distinct, but valuable considering our demographic?”
Research Topics, Mixed Methods Research, and Qualitative Research Methods courses gave Johnson the skills to find and interpret relevant research articles for administering evidence-based practices in her instruction. She is currently exploring designing a service-learning course for the NCCU dance education curriculum to provide practical skills beyond student teaching.
She is also using her skills to redesign her community-building nonprofit organization, the Triangle Dance Project.
Learning from Online Experiences
Being a student in the online EdD program has given her own instruction more depth, Johnson says. Although she teaches face-to-face courses, she’s using more multimedia assignments in her courses and using online tools to help students build community.
“I feel like I have more options for them to touch, taste, and feel the material,” she says.
Peers in the EdD program have been valuable to Johnson’s growth. Part of the 2016 cohort, she appreciates the variety in her colleagues’ disciplines, including physical therapy, athletic training, massage therapy, and directing wellness programs. It’s been positive to hear how they approach their jobs and research.
“Sometimes you get in a bubble and you think you’re the only one who does things this way and then, being in a new leadership position for me, thinking you’re the only one who doesn’t understand this,” she says. “I think for me, communing with a lot of them and sharing experiences has been huge.”
Academics and Personal Life Can Co-exist
Being able to balance academics with her personal life has allowed Johnson to succeed. She gave birth six months after starting the program. Now, with a 2-year-old and 12-year-old, life is still busy, but the online program is designed for students like her.
“Sometimes I did feel like I wasn’t going to make it, but they respect the fact that we are adults with jobs and lives,” she says. “I never felt like because my life was so busy I was going to have to choose between my personal life and me pursuing this degree,” she says.
With a newborn, Johnson learned quickly to ask for and accept help from EdD faculty.
“That took a while for me to be able to do instead of trying to pretend I had it all together,” she says. “It is unrealistic to pretend that you can push life to the side and pursue a degree of this magnitude. I now realize how valuable it was for them to always respond and be willing to work something out with me to make sure that I got what I needed.”
Download a brochure to learn more about the online EdD in Kinesiology, which focuses on scholarship and professional practice in leadership, advocacy, and teaching. The program is for practicing professionals with three or more years of experience in kinesiology or related fields.