UNCG is in the top 15% of colleges and universities that support veterans success and has been named a “Military Friendly” school for the past four years in a row. The EdD in Kinesiology program extends this tradition with some of our own students. A number of the current EdD students have professional positions working with military or retired military, either as civilian contractors or through their professional duties. Their jobs range from mental skills training for soldiers, to faculty at West Point, to counseling veterans, police and firefighters. We caught up with some of them to hear a bit more about what they do and how the EdD program is helping them do it better.
What is your current position?
Jason Suby: My current position is Assistant Professor and Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) in the Department of Physical Education at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. The staff of ATCs that I oversee consists of 4 for the physical education program and 3 for the competitive club program. In addition, there are 17 ATCs working to support NCAA Division 1 athletic teams at West Point. I started at West Point in 2000, providing athletic training services for the NCAA wrestling, soccer, and football program. After 4 years in that position, I transferred over to the Department of Physical Education where I was given the opportunity to teach physical education coursework along with being an ATC.
Jill Wierzba: I work with Soldiers who have a variety of different specialty areas and/or needs, although primarily health care because I am at one of the largest medical installations in the world (for example: nurses, doctors, wounded soldiers, hospital/clinic support staff, communications). I teach and coach mental skills from my background in Sport Psychology to complement the training and work they are doing for the Army.
Katie Thompson: I work as a Cognitive Performance Coach within the Human Dynamics and Performance Department of the Special Warfare Education Group at the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I teach applied sport and performance psychology techniques to Special Operations Soldiers in order to help them enhance and maximize their physical and mental performance within their operational environments.
Joel Druvenga: I work for Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness as a Master Resilience Trainer – Performance Expert where I teach a sport psychology and a positive psychology. We work very closely with the Warrior Transition Units (WTU) across the army. All of the soldiers within the WTU are required to come through our sport psychology curriculum during their transition process. With this relationship with the WTUs, we also have the ability to do some sport psychology work with the adaptive reconditioning (or sports) programs within the WTUs. On the national level, CSF2 supports the Warrior Games by sending a team of MRT-PEs to the Army Trials and the Warrior Games. We assign on MRT-PE to each of the different sports and they act as part of the coaching staff during the Warrior Games. I have been part of the last 3 Warrior Games and have developed some great relationships with the warrior athletes and cadre within WTC. Adaptive sports and the Warrior Games is such a fun thing to be a part of and the relationships that can be built will last lifetimes!
In addition to WTU’s we work with any unit that is interested to improve their performance at their military task. The Army already does a great job with the technical and tactical but not so much with the mental. So we may work with different units to increase Army Physical Fitness Testing scores, Weapons qualification, or my favorite Bradley fighting vehicle gunnery.
Eric Tucker: I work with several military veterans in addition to police “veterans”. I mention my work with police officers, because the clients I work with often present identical symptoms and report similar experiences of the difficulties of policing “urban warfare” opposed to conflicts overseas. Recent stories about negative policing has presented added stress for my officers; the trauma (and fear) that accompanies their work within the context of public opinion has created emotional disturbances that is difficult to conceptualize, and almost impossible for the community to understand.
Steve Mannino: The unique demands placed on the Army Special Operations Soldier requires unique physical preparation and rehabilitation practices. The human performance program which I lead at the US Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School is responsible for optimizing Soldiers from initial entry in special operations through seasoned operators participating in advanced skills training and provides this optimization through strength and conditioning, physical therapy, and performance nutrition. As the Human Performance Program Coordinator it is my job administer the program in a way that allows the ARSOF Soldier to be physically optimized in order defend and protect the United States and its Allies.
How has the EdD in Kinesiology program helped you professionally?
Jill Wierzba: The EdD program has helped me gain a deeper insight and application of teaching strategies, overall wellness & health concepts, and a generally broader perspective of how to best assist our service men and women be at their best when it matters most.
Katie Thompson: The EdD in KIN Online program has allowed me to work on my degree remotely, which has been invaluable considering the demanding hours of my position. The courses offered within the program have been very engaging and I have been able to immediately apply the concepts I am learning in my classes to my professional work. For example, I am currently taking KIN 610 – Statistical Methods in Kinesiology, and have begun to conduct more thorough statistical tests on the performance data that we collect within our organization, which has led to clear evidence of the success of our training programs, as well as increased support for our program within the Special Operations community.
Jason Suby: During the first semester of the online EdD in Kinesiology program, we learned what traits make a good leader. As a leader in my current position, I was able to inventory and utilize some of the information learned in classes to improve on my leadership style. In addition, I have been fortunate enough to be an active member of many academic committees this year, including strategic planning, assessment, and curriculum revision committees. The Fall term of courses in the EdD program included material relevant to being a productive member of each one of these committees. The most beneficial piece of this experience thus far has been writing, writing often, and beginning to write well. Being able to articulate yourself in front of your peers and influence others through writing is a valuable tool that continues to be sharpened by this experience.
Joel Druvenga: The way that the EdD impacts my job is a lot more on the administrative side. My boss is a retired Lieutenant Colonel who’s job is to teach us civilians how the military operates. With his role he often ends up at high level meetings within the Division or Garrison Commands. This is where the highest level of decisions regarding Fort Riley and 1st Infantry Division are made. However, my boss is not an expert in our content areas so he usually has me attend these meetings with him to be a Subject Matter Expert. Even though most of our examples are related to higher education the EdD has given me great insight into how to navigate the politics of headquarters. An example of where the EdD has been helpful is that I am now a member of the Physical Resilience working group. This group focuses on influencing the physical training standards at Fort Riley. One initiative that I have influenced is the Reconditioning Physical Training for injured soldiers. The training had been rather poor previously, but we have developed a curriculum to standardize the training across the division which includes adapted training for different injury levels as well as psych of injury concepts.
Steve Mannino: There are definitely some aspects of the program that I have been able to incorporate into my job. Learning about policy and procedures has come in very handy as I have written several policies lately. Also, as a person who was not formally trained as a teacher, I find that classes that cover educational strategies have helped my educational methods evolve.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Jason Suby: Service to the military academy cadets is an honorable mission that I feel extremely blessed and fortunate to be a part of. The traditional setting for an athletic trainer at the collegiate setting does not typically incorporate student development, service to the department, faculty development, scholarship, and teaching responsibilities. I am grateful that I’ve been afforded this opportunity and I know that both of my grandfathers who served in the military during World War II are extremely proud of the service I have provided at West Point to the Corps of Cadets and the Nation. I am proud to serve the Nation through my civilian position at West Point.