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Shaping a New World

Students Earning Unique Doctorate

They’re in unchartered territory, they’re making history, and they’re changing the athletic training profession. And best of all: it’s happening right here in Idaho.

The inaugural class in the doctorate in athletic training program at the University of Idaho is the first of its kind, and it’s ready to go.

“This type of doctorate, specific to athletic training, doesn’t exist anywhere else,” says David Ruiz, a doctoral student from Rancho Mirage, Calif. “We all want to make people better, to be their best and become more extensive in our practice and profession.”

The unique program focuses specifically on athletic training and emphasizes academic work with hands-on experience during residency programs over a two-year, six-semester period.

Ruiz and six classmates met in Moscow over the summer to begin their coursework. Most had mere days between their acceptance in the program and the start date, but that didn’t diminish the experience -- it only proves their dedication.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for this program nationally,” says Jeff Seegmiller, co-director of the program. “We’re the first to introduce this doctorate program, but there is a recognized need in the discipline for further education specifically for athletic trainers.”

The class reflects this national interest, with students from Pennsylvania, California, Florida, North Dakota, Massachusetts and Tennessee already enrolled. They met on campus for four weeks, with long days in the classroom. The benefit of this group, Seegmiller says, is that they are academics and athletic training practitioners, so they could jump right into the coursework.

“It’s an intensive learning environment from the beginning,” says Alan Nasypany, the program’s other director. “It’s doctoral education the way it’s supposed to be done. We’re looking at theory and practice, and we’re jumping right in.”

As Nasypany, Seegmiller and their students pave the way through unchartered territory, the nation is watching Idaho to see if a doctorate program is the right direction for the athletic training industry.

“It feels like all eyes are on us. If we succeed, then the program succeeds,” says Wendy Dietrich, doctoral student from Stroudsburg, Penn. “We also have the opportunity to help shape this program and others that will follow it.”

Blending practice and academics makes sense at Idaho. The program’s co-directors have complementary credentials: Seegmiller is an assistant professor in both the athletic training and the Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho Medical programs, and Nasypany is the athletic training education program director.

“With the right mixture of academics and advanced clinical experience, we are poised to effect positive change in our professional lives and our profession with this program,” says Rusty Baker, Riverside, Calif., doctoral student.

Students will keep in touch via the Internet until they return to Idaho next summer for another intensive on-site session. The six-semester course runs yearlong.

While five students headed home at the end of summer to work on the clinical portion of the degree, two students have stayed in Moscow as teaching assistants in the athletic training program.

Under Seegmiller and Nasypany’s tutelage, the program is gaining ground not just on the doctorate level. With the addition of two teaching assistants working on the doctorate, finishing touches are being put on the University’s master’s in athletic training program, which will accept its inaugural class in the spring.

“We’ve got a lot going on in our program; it’s an exciting time,” says Nasypany.