I came to UNF in 2000 to help develop the, at the time, Sport Leadership Program. At that time it was a track in Physical Education and only had a few students enrolled. I was just finishing my PhD in Sport Administration from at Florida State University and was hired to develop the curriculum and promote the program. In 2007, the degree officially became a BS degree in Sport Management and we now have over 300 majors. I saw UNF as the perfect place to develop a sport management program because Jacksonville is such a sports rich area where students are able to engage in valuable field experiences.
How has UNF differed from other universities where you have taught?
I was a P-12 public school teacher prior to going back to get my PhD. I had a graduate teaching assistantship at FSU while I was working on my degree and taught some undergraduate course. When I arrived at UNF I was pleasantly surprised by the difference in the student population. The students at UNF took school more seriously and many seemed to be supporting themselves through college. At FSU I found the students, at the time, to be much more in it for the party.
How would you sum up your program in one sentence to a potential graduate student?
The Athletic Administration program at UNF is designed to prepare aspiring sport leaders, in educational settings, move to the next level of their career.
Having been teaching in higher education for over 12 years, I can almost immediately identify the students who will be the most successful in the field of sport management. It is not necessarily those with the highest SAT or GPA. It is those who come in to meet with me their freshman year and ask how they can get involved and gain experience in the sport industry. Those students who are willing to sacrifice their time to volunteer their nights and weekends to work at sporting events are those most likely to be successful. It is a field in which experience matters.
How do you involve students in your own projects?
For the majority of my time at UNF, I have predominantly taught undergraduate students and have not involved them very much in my research. I have had the opportunity to work with an honors student a few years ago and he conducted a research study on the services academic support offer to its student athletes. We were able to turn his study into a published article. Now that we have a graduate program in Athletic Administration, I have been working more closely with students on research projects. I look forward to more collaboration with students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Having been through Graduate School, what advice can you give a budding academic?
Commit to the experience. I have seen far too many graduate students who are eager to just “get finished.” Those students are missing out on opportunities to really engage with both their fellow-students and professors in meaningful learning experiences. While I understand the desire to finish a degree in a timely manner, too often students take the easy and most convenient path, which is not always the best for them in terms of their education.
What is your favorite class or topic to teach?
I have two favorite areas. First, I really enjoy teaching foundation courses. It is Introduction to Sport Management at the undergraduate level and Foundations of Sport Management at the graduate level. I guess it goes back to my preference for being the Junior Varsity Coach instead of the Varsity Coach. I enjoy teaching the foundational skills needed to be successful in the major and in the industry. I believe this is the best opportunity to make a difference and you see so much growth in the students over the semester. My second favorite is supervising student Internships. Again, it is the amazing growth that you are able to witness across the semester. It is especially amazing to see them go from the Introduction course through Internship – I am so proud of them!
Describe one of your research projects as if talking to somebody who knows nothing about your field.
I have two areas of research on which I focus. The first is professional preparation in sport management. I am attracted to this area of research because I believe it is one of my priorities in my teaching at UNF. I want to discover the best ways to prepare our students to be successful in the sport industry. This means looking at various ways to teach such as distance learning, community based learning, collaborative learning, etc. This also includes processes for field-based learning and the development of community partners. My second area of research is fitness education. I have maintained this line of inquiry throughout my career in education. I am especially interested in strategies for involving our youth in fitness education programs and issues related to body image and eating disorders.
What have you published recently?
I had two articles published in August. The first was in the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance and was an invited Viewpoint article entitled "Can Strong Really Be the New Skinny?" and the other was a peer reviewed journal article entitled "Utilizing the Bicycle for Non-Traditional Activities" which was published in Strategies.
If you had not become an academic, what would you have done?
I started my career working in the fitness industry. I still have a strong passion for fitness and fitness education and it is an area in which I continue to conduct research. So, if not academia, I would have remained in that industry working in some capacity helping others become more healthy and fit.
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