TTU's former P.E. department sees substantial growth from new concentrations, online master's program

Tennessee Tech University’s former health and physical education department this semester has a new name, four more academic concentrations — and more than double the number of new students it had last year.

Seventy-five students this year are enrolled in two different sections of the exercise science, physical education and wellness department’s introductory course, compared with 26 students enrolled in the equivalent course for last year’s fall semester.

“That means we have 75 students this semester who are completely new to our department,” said Pat Jordan, chairperson. “That’s nearly triple the number of introductory students we had at this time last year, so that tells me we’re seeing a significant growth in our department since we’ve made these changes.”

In addition to the licensure concentration already in place for training health and P.E. teachers, the newly reorganized department now also offers concentrations in coaching, fitness and wellness, pre-occupational therapy and pre-physical therapy.

“These are concentrations for which we recognized a significant need, and they’re obviously being well received,” Jordan said.

Of the department’s new concentrations, the one in coaching will prepare students for careers in coaching at the community college, junior college or college level, as well as allowing students the opportunity to work with recreational sports leagues.

Employment options for students in the coaching concentration might also include non-teaching positions at the high school, junior high or middle school levels.

The fitness and wellness degree track enables students to study, measure and evaluate physiological changes that occur with regular training and physical activity. Graduates of the program will be prepared to assess health-related and performance-related physical fitness and create exercise programs and prescriptions to enhance health and sport outcomes.

Possible occupations for students in the fitness and wellness track include youth sports programmers, strength and conditioning coaches, personal trainers, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation specialists and more.

The university already offers concentrations in pre-occupational therapy and pre-physical therapy through its pre-professional program in the College of Arts and Sciences, but offering them also through Jordan’s department will provide students with a greater number of academic options, she said.

“The expanded program offerings increase recruiting potential for the department, and provide an opportunity for us to continue offering even more cutting edge programs,’ she said.

The pre-occupational therapy track provides students with the basic education they will need to help people who have permanent mental, physical, developmental or emotional disabilities achieve and maintain daily living skills.

The pre-physical therapy track teaches students the skills they will need to plan, organize and administer individualized treatments based on each patient’s condition in order to restore functional mobility, relieve pain and prevent or limit permanent disability.

Other program possibilities being considered include sports administration, golf instruction and golf course management and sports broadcasting.

Another successful program in the newly reorganized department offers students an opportunity to study online to earn a master’s degree in physical education.

“The online master’s program began in the fall of 2003, and we started out with eight students,” Jordan said. “We’ve nearly doubled our number every semester and currently have 57 students enrolled in the online master’s program.”

When it began, it was one of the first such fully accredited programs in the country, but many other institutions have since followed suit in developing similar programs, Jordan said.

“Our greatest strength is the students who are enrolled,” she said. “They’re well qualified, motivated, hard-working and enthusiastic about their profession.”

Most of the program’s students fall into one of two categories: teachers who are already working in the field at either the high school, middle school or elementary level and who want to earn a master’s degree, or teachers in another major teaching field who want to become certified to teach physical education.

Because of out-of-state tuition fees, the program’s primary service area is within the state of Tennessee, but approximately 20 percent of the students are from out of state.

It can sustain a total of approximately 75 students based on the teaching faculty and resources it now has, Jordan said.