New Ph.D. program is broad-based, students say

Maria Ball

ISU faculty have developed a doctorate program to prepare students in health and human performance to teach the next generation of college students.”We’re trying to prepare kids very carefully to be good faculty members, good researchers and good teachers,” said Jerry Thomas, professor and chairman of health and human performance.The first student was accepted into the program in fall 1999, and three students currently are enrolled. The program will remain small, he said. “We’ve tried to be very selective and get the program started slowly,” Thomas said. “We only anticipate having about 15 students when we have a complete complement of students in the program.” Students in the program select either the behavioral basis or the biological basis of physical activity as their primary focus, he said. A behavioral focus may include studying the psychological and sociological aspects of sport and exercise, while a biological focus would examine the effect of exercise on the human body. Within their chosen focus, students choose a specialized area to learn about, teach and do research in, he said. They also study a special population — such as the elderly, children or athletes — within their focus area.”The goal of the program is to produce [doctoral] students that can go out and take jobs in higher education positions and be able to do more than just research in one narrowly-focused area,” said Rick Sharp, graduate coordinator of the program. “We want to produce graduates that are ready to take on the responsibilities of being faculty members.”Thomas said Iowa State’s doctorate program is different, because the importance of teaching is emphasized.”In the past, we’ve prepared [students] to be good researchers, but we have not necessarily prepared them to be good teachers,” he said.Students enrolled in the program are expected to teach, do course work and conduct research in their chosen field. This allows them to acquire knowledge and make discoveries, said Sharp, professor of health and human performance.”It goes beyond what they can learn in a textbook,” he said.Greg Brown and Juliane Poock Hernandez, doctoral students in human health and performance, said their days are spent doing research, teaching and studying.”Some days I spend most of my time on research, some days preparing to teach or grading papers, and some days I focus on studying for the classes I take,” Brown said.Hernandez said she came to Iowa State because of its broad-based program.”I chose Iowa State for my doctoral work because of the quality of research in the health and human performance department and the emphasis they place on a broad base of education and experience,” she said.Employers in their field are looking for people with training and experience across many areas, Thomas said. “They want a faculty member who can teach several things,” he said. “We think our graduates will be easy to place with this broader preparation.” None of the students in the doctorate program have graduated yet, but Sharp said he expects them to be in demand.”Our students will compete very well,” he said.