University adds new master’s program

Students who are looking to pursue a master’s degree in sport and exercise science need look no further than the registrar’s office at Gannon University.

Jason Willow, Ph.D., assistant professor of sport and exercise science, has launched the program, which will premier in Fall 2013, so the students can gain hands-on experience applying the knowledge that they were exposed to in their undergraduate education, and mastered at the graduate level, in real-world settings.

“Traditionally, bachelor’s degree programs teach you the ‘what’ of a topic, meaning that you learn about the way things work, what theories govern behavior, etc.,” Willow said.

Willow said the program offers advanced education in all aspects of human performance including physiological, biomechanical, nutritional and psychological principles that are essential to maximal human performance both in sport and in physical activity in general.

Willow said the reason he developed the graduate degree was to encourage students to pursue the graduate degree in hopes of improving their chances of good employment.

“In the past, an undergraduate education allowed you to find a good-paying job and to raise a family comfortably,” Willow said. “Today, the undergraduate education is similar to the high school education 30 years ago.

“We – in the Sport and Exercise Science program – recruit and advise students with the following mantra, ‘you can find a job with an undergraduate degree in our field — if you want to find a career, you will need advanced-level education.’”

Students who enroll in the program will be able to choose either a thesis or a non-thesis option. In the thesis option, students complete 30 credits of coursework as well as six credits of research-based scientific study.

The thesis option will most likely be popular with students who aspire to pursue a doctorate degree in the program.

Students electing the non-thesis option will be required to complete an academic year-long internship, – the  equivelent of six credits – many with one of the university’s athletic teams.

The graduate program, unlike most other programs, gives undergraduate students the option of starting their graduate coursework during the senior year of their undergraduate studies.

“Highly qualified students will be able to apply for graduate admission during their junior years,” Willow said. “Students who meet the criteria for early admission will be permitted to take graduate courses in conjunction with the fourth-year undergraduate courses, removing some of the course burden during the graduate year.”

Regardless of the course prospective students choose to follow, Willow said all students will be required to take or show evidence of competence in several prerequisite courses, most of which are science-oriented.

In addition, highly qualified high school students who apply for the program’s undergraduate degree can also guarantee their spot in the graduate program, granted they maintain their excellence through their junior year.

Willow said the increase in size and scope of the department necessitates the hiring of a new faculty member for the program. Phone interviews have been completed with on-campus interviews scheduled to take place starting Friday.

Sarah Deck, a senior sport and exercise science major, said applying for the new graduate program would be an option if she chooses to continue her studies at Gannon.

“Gannon is definitely an option for me next year, now that it is offering my program,” Deck said. “I have enjoyed my four years at Gannon, so I am comfortable here, and a lot of my friends are here, so it is a top choice.

“Since I know most of the teachers already  and like them and their teaching styles I expect the program to do well.”

Deck also said possible candidates for the new position at the sport and exercise science department will be teaching in one of her classes starting Friday and every Friday for the next two weeks.

“The sport and exercise science staff are awesome,” Deck said. “I know that they will choose a professor that fits well with them and the students and it’s nice to know we have an opinion too.”

Willow said the department  hopes to greet its newest faculty member by spring break.

Willow said he felt very excited about the program and the opportunities it brings.

“We’ve seen our undergraduate program grow from a student count of 23 and faculty of one in 2002, to a student count of over 200 and a faculty of six in just 10 years,” Willow said. “We are anxious and excited for what the next 10 years hold with this new Master of Science degree program as well as other graduate level initiatives that we are planning.

“We feel that our faculty are experts in our respective field and felt that a graduate program here at Gannon was the next logical step in the growth of our program.”

 

HIBA ALMASRI

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