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How Kinesiology Students Juggle Career, Life, and Earning a Doctorate

March 08, 2018 by Karen Grossman |

Photo of Michael Hemphill, Erin Reifsteck, Diane Gill, Pam K Brown outside TIDE sympopsium in Durham, NCIf you are like most people, the idea of earning a doctorate while maintaining a busy career and family life may seem like a far-fetched notion. Students and faculty from UNC Greensboro’s online Doctor of Education in Kinesiology (EdD in KIN) are proving it’s not.

At the 2018 SHAPE America National Convention & Expo in Nashville, Tenn., students and faculty presented “Keep Your Career, Earn a Doctorate, and Have a Life,” where they discussed balancing doctoral study with work and life demands, as well as how they incorporate new knowledge into their professional practice.

Finding that work-study balance

So how is this balance possible? The students from the panel admit it’s not easy. With careers, kids, second jobs, and social activities, it’s a juggling act.

“Managing this work-life balance was quite difficult, but I set a schedule for myself to focus on doctoral work every evening, Monday through Thursday,” says Dave Jones, elementary PE teacher for Wake County, NC, schools and personal trainer. He reserves weekends to relax and de-stress.

Students have made some sacrifices. Teri Schlosser may have missed some of her kids’ dance classes and ball games to meet a deadline, but this degree will help her come closer to the future she has always envisioned for her and her family.

At the end of the program when you are working on your dissertation, the work load is more spread out, says Schlosser, elementary and lead PE teacher for Rockingham County, NC, schools. She has created a routine that helps her get work done. Her hard work will pay off when she graduates this summer.

Misti Wajciechowski focuses on the future to manage the challenge.

“What keeps me going is knowing and looking forward to contributing positively to my profession through my research,” says Wajciechowski, assistant professor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Education. “I want to earn my doctorate degree to provide myself with potential opportunities in higher education that I believe are currently not possible with a master's degree.”

Cohorts become family

One of the things that helps the students succeed is the sense of community and unique relationships they form within their cohorts.

They’ve gotten to know one another through group projects, program socials, and group chats, discussing school-related challenges along with personal issues, like staying up late with a sick child or professional travel that may keep them from course work. They check in with each other online.

“You might have had a rough day, you might have gotten some bad feedback, you might be tired,” says Craig Parkes, an instructor at Penn State University. “We might just crack a few jokes over Google and check out what everybody’s doing. It’s like a little family.”

Students have built valuable friendships. Jones talks to friends from his cohort daily. Wajciechowski has planned trips with hers. Parkes and Jones say they will maintain friendships they’ve made long after graduation.

Schlosser says she’s come to rely on those friendships. “I value their feedback, I value their input, and I value their ear when I’m frustrated or have a question about something,” she says. “That’s been my saving grace, having those connections.”

Distance program makes collaboration possible

The flexible, online program is designed for practicing professionals desiring a doctorate focused on professional scholarship and practice in leadership, advocacy, and teaching.

With two jobs and a family, Parkes says he couldn’t have gotten his degree any other way. “Without this program, I’m not sure I would have been able to continue my academic career and get any further than the master’s level,” he says.

The online format allows students not only to work whenever they’re available — during kids’ naps and on weekends — but also to collaborate from anywhere.

“Jenn, she’s in California, so when I’m done working in the nighttime, she’s probably just getting home from work and starting on the project,” Parkes says. “So you can collaborate, make comments, edit, and you can all be working on it at the same time or at different times.”

Using skills right now

A benefit of working while earning a degree is applying that knowledge on the job. Parkes has tested skills from his grant writing course and earned more than $10,000 in grant money for Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development.

Through his research, Jones has created recommendations to increase students’ physical activity in high-poverty schools. He helped enact a schoolwide policy requiring daily physical activity in the classroom, and he hopes to implement other measures to get kids more physically active, including a grant for a running club and a track.

Learn more

Are you a kinesiology professional interested in furthering your career? Learn more about UNCG’s EdD in Kinesiology program.


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