Doctoral students find new ways to make a difference in this innovative online program.
Students in UNC Greensboro’s online Doctor of Education in Kinesiology program come from a variety of professions, from coaching and teaching to athletic training and physical therapy. But as they learn to translate theory and research into action, these students share a common goal — making an impact in their communities and professions.
“While you’re taking courses, while you’re doing your classwork, you have the ability to take that and immediately put it into practice,” explains Dr. Pam Brown, EdD in Kinesiology program director. “Instead of trying to solve the problems of the world, you’re looking at how do I have a more immediate and local impact?”
Putting Knowledge into Practice
Designed to develop leaders in the kinesiology field, the program focuses on problems of practice. Students are encouraged to draw on their diverse professional backgrounds as they collaborate and problem-solve, and Brown says this diversity is a strength of the program.
“Everyone in the program brings their different experiences, expertise, and viewpoints,” she explains. “That allows people to look at physical activity from different lenses, which can lead to better solutions, broader understanding, and greater impact.”
Here are some recent examples of how EdD students have made an impact in their own communities:
- Implemented an intramural program to improve attendance and academic performance of at-risk students in a rural North Carolina middle school
- Partnered with campus counseling center to provide physical activity to students in counseling to support their mental health
- Developed a set of recommendations for improved community partnerships in dance, making them mutually beneficial to universities and high schools
- Created a partnership that allows people who have cognitive impairments to get more physical activity by working with college students
- Developed recommendations for attracting and retaining athletic trainers from diverse backgrounds
Courses with Real-world Application
Kinesiology courses focus on practical, real-world topics. Brown teaches Online Pedagogy, which explores effective online teaching and the course design process.
“One of our goals for the program is to help people be better teachers, advocates, and leaders, and so this is just one of those classes that seems to have had the most real-world application. Even if they’re not in an academic setting, they find good value in it,” she says.
Another course focuses on grant writing, which develops a valuable skill set that can fund future projects. The course also helps students with their dissertation proposals as they learn to consider the audience, translate research, and find evidence-based solutions.
Brown says dissertation development is weaved throughout the program.
“That’s really what I think helps the students get from start to finish, because it’s not just something they’re doing on top of their coursework, but it’s part of the coursework,” she explains.
Dissertations cover a variety of topics, including these recent examples:
- Addressing Physical Activity Behavior in Early Motherhood
- Mental Skills Training for Ice Hockey Goalies
- Flipping the PE Classroom to Increase Physical Activity
- Effective Use and Implementation of Video Modeling in a Survival Swimming Course
- The Impact of Sports Specialization on Players and Families
- Creating a Culturally Responsive Online Personal Health Course
Program graduates work in a range of rewarding careers, as university faculty and administrators, coaches and athletic trainers, wellness directors, sports medicine directors, and more.
A Sense of Community
The online EdD in Kinesiology is the first program of its kind in the United States. Because research shows that a sense of community is key to student success, the program was built on a cohort model, so that students move from start to finish together. An in-person orientation was added on campus to help students connect, work on team building, and meet their professors.
Brown describes the faculty as caring and creative superstars who want to get to know their students as they challenge and support them.
“They’re leaders in the field, so you’re going to get somebody who’s highly qualified, but yet really approachable, really caring, really interested in student success,” she says.
The program’s dedication to a sense of community includes a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Last year, a student group was formed to find ways to advance EDI initiatives. So far, the group has surveyed current students, participated in a colloquium for kinesiology graduate students, and presented at orientation to let new students know about the importance of EDI to the program and the university.
Connecting and Collaborating
The program’s people-first mentality resonates with students, who quickly set up group chats and find other ways to stay connected and support each other.
“We’re trying to help the students realize that we’re all in this together,” Brown says. “We’ll rely on each other. Everyone’s got different strengths, and that’s actually to your benefit because there will be times you need to lean on someone else, and then that will be reciprocated in the future.”