It’s not unusual for students and faculty to work together on research. Doctoral students regularly engage in this process while working with faculty on campus.
How does this work for students in online degree programs? In the fully online Doctor of Education (EdD) in Kinesiology program at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, distance doesn’t get in the way of collaboration and support.
Doctoral student Mindy Smith and Dr. Erin Reifsteck developed a research project together that gave Smith an experience comparable to that of on-campus students. In addition to being a student, Smith is employed full-time at another institution, typical for many EdD students. Smith partnered with her professor to implement Moving On! at her school. It’s an educational program that was developed with funding from the NCAA to support student-athletes in making healthy transitions after college sports.
A shared interest in research
Similar research interests brought Smith and Reifsteck together.
Smith, 2015 cohort member, is a lecturer in applied health science and director of Student Wellness at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., where she teaches a health promotion management course. She also teaches Pilates to give student-athletes confidence in a new physical activity they can continue after graduation.
Reifsteck, assistant professor in UNCG’s kinesiology department, helped develop Moving On! Her research focuses on promoting physical activity and health-related behaviors through sport and life transitions.
Smith felt Moving On! merged areas she is passionate about—college sports, lifetime physical activity, and holistic care for others. Her dissertation looks at creating a Pilates program to help senior college athletes transition to meaningful lifetime physical activity.
Value in independent study
The two discussed an opportunity for Smith to implement Moving On! at Messiah.
“We decided it would be a great idea for her to complete an independent study this year to help her gain valuable experiences that would prepare her for implementing her own exercise transition program for senior student-athletes at the college where she currently works,” Reifsteck says.
Overcoming challenges in distance
Collaborating from a distance posed some logistical challenges the pair overcame with regular communication through email, video chats, phone calls, and texts to discuss Smith’s progress.
“Mindy is self-motivated and hardworking, and her enthusiasm for the project made this a very positive experience for both of us,” Reifsteck says.
She mentored Smith through the process—from securing approval to running and evaluating the program. It was a winning partnership.
“Mindy was able to successfully implement the Moving On! program with a group of student-athletes at her institution,” Reifsteck says. “She received Institutional Review Board approval, coordinated the program with the athletics department, recruited student-athletes to participate, and then facilitated the program with them.”
‘From coursework to immediate impact’
Smith says working with Reifsteck was an excellent learning experience, providing feedback that improved her writing and speaking skills, as well as developing skills for program design and evaluation.
This collaboration also created sustainable programming for Messiah. Smith plans to offer group exercise for senior student-athletes in the fall and Moving On! in the spring.
“The opportunity to offer Moving On! confirmed my desire to continue researching meaningful physical activity transition strategies for student-athletes,” she says. “I have been encouraged to pursue areas that interest me professionally, particularly within sport and exercise psychology. I have simultaneously been encouraged in my work, while also being challenged to grow and think more deeply.”
“I love when students find a meaningful topic within their professional field and are able to move from coursework to immediate impact,” Reifsteck says.
Want to know more?
Are you a practicing professional with three or more years of experience in kinesiology or related fields? Learn more about UNCG’s interdisciplinary EdD in Kinesiology program focusing on scholarship and professional practice in leadership, advocacy, and teaching.