Although kinesiology and online education may initially not seem like a natural fit, Montreat College is working to make that a reality. The school has established an online kinesiology program that is effectively addressing a growing demand and need at both the bachelors and masters level.

Kinesiology, broadly encompassing physical activity, health, sport and performance outcomes, serves as an umbrella term for the domains of physical education and  exercise science. Beyond the application of scientific principles, kinesiology emphasizes the practical implementation of science in particular educational or sporting contexts. Unlike many other kinesiology programs, particularly those delivered online, Montreat’s approach emphasizes not only robust scientific knowledge but also the crucial aspect of leadership skills often overlooked in similar programs.

Dr. Meaghan Howard is the Program Director and Assistant Professor of Kinesiology for Montreat College.

Many students in the kinesiology online bachelor’s program are current student-athletes or students who have previously participated in athletics. In addition, more than 50% of students currently enrolled in the Master of Science in Kinesiology through Montreat’s School of Adult and Graduate Studies (AGS) aspire to a career in coaching or education, and many already serve as graduate assistants in college athletics. Consequently, Montreat’s program aims not only to instill technical expertise in exercise and sport but, more importantly, to develop leaders capable of making a significant impact on communities upon graduation.

“More than earning a generalized kinesiology degree, our program has a bent toward leadership in kinesiology,” said Dr. Meaghan Howard, Program Director and Assistant Professor of Kinesiology. “One of the things we kept seeing pop up was students with great skills in fitness and an understanding of exercise, but what they lacked was leadership skills necessary to direct community programs or leagues  or oversee educational outreach opportunities. They might not understand the dynamic of managing and understanding people. To me, that’s foundational to what a teacher or a coach does.”

A Pay-It-Forward Profession
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a yearly demand for approximately 1,200 careers related to kinesiology, anticipating a growth rate of 10% that significantly outpaces the 3% average for all occupations. While job security is an attractive feature of the profession, Montreat’s AGS program appeals to students seeking to positively influence younger generations through role modeling.

“As you look across the fields of teaching and coaching, there’s a huge deficit across the nation, especially with teachers,” Dr. Howard said. “Most students in kinesiology have been greatly impacted by a coach or a teacher, and they aspire to do the same. They think, ‘I want to coach the way I was coached. I want to teach the way I was taught.’ So, they see it as if they can impact lives similar to those who influenced them, then they’ll know they’ve done well.”

Hands-On Integration
Given that many students are already actively engaged with students and athletes, Montreat’s program integrates coursework seamlessly into their careers. The emphasis is on real-world application, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical experience.

“Right now, we have a couple physical education instructors, and we ask them, ‘How does your everyday experience in middle school PE translate into what we’re learning here?’ For students who aren’t in a school, we encourage them to look for places where they can connect in their local community,” Dr. Howard said.

Nourishing the Soul
Montreat College’s commitment to integrating faith and learning is a foundational aspect of the kinesiology program. Primarily, Montreat seeks to produce graduates who can excel in their professional capacities and embody Christian discipleship. Our students want to do this in classrooms and in sports.

In their profession, we want students to do more than simply instruct someone in principles related to sports, exercise, and healthy living. We want them to learn to address the whole person,” Dr. Howard said. “That’s a big deal in both exercise principles and coaching principles. For example, if an athlete is having a bad day and it’s affecting her performance, how is that impacting the whole team dynamic? I think too many times, we try to separate the secular and the sacred. In our field, that happens all the time. Working out is over here and the sacred is over here, but life’s not like that. God created us mind, body, and soul, so it’s not just about our bodies being healthy. It’s also about how being healthy feeds our soul.”

Personalized Connections and Support
In addition to offering distinctive Christian principles, Montreat’s AGS program distinguishes itself through smaller class sizes that foster personal connections, even in an online learning environment.

“At Montreat College, you’re not just a number,” Dr. Howard said. “We care about you. We care about your development. We care about you doing well in courses. We are unapologetically a faith-based institution that welcomes students and cares about them. For students, they see the value in their education when professors care, so that’s a driving force behind what we do.”