The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has granted formal approval of a new master’s degree program at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

UAM has received approval to offer the master’s degree in physical education and coaching, an online degree program designed for individuals who want to coach in college, and public school coaches as well as those in an athletic-related field who want to increase their knowledge, earning potential and career options.

“We are pleased by the Higher Learning Commission’s decision to approve this new graduate degree,” said UAM Chancellor Jack Lassiter. “The ability to offer more options in graduate education to the people of this region is vital to our mission of serving the needs of our constituents.”

The degree requires completion of 30 hours of online course work covering topics such as strength and conditioning, risk management, laws that guide athletics and protect athletes, and current issues and trends in athletics. The program is designed to be completed in one year plus one semester with the final semester used for conducting a capstone research project.

The program does not include or require a recommendation for state teacher licensure. Persons who enroll in the program must have a baccalaureate degree in education or an athletic or physical education-related discipline such as kinesiology, exercise science or recreational activities.

“There is not another institution in this region that has a graduate degree for people in coaching or physical education,” said Dr. Peggy Doss, dean of the UAM School of Education. “There are similar degrees but none addressing both physical education and coaching or with this curriculum model. There was really no option for another degree of this design in the UAM service region. If they didn’t have a teaching degree and license, they had no other graduate degree options.”

R. David Ray, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, called the new program “an exciting addition to our academic offerings. This was a case of the university seeing and responding to a need. This new degree will open doors and increase employment opportunities.”

Prior to implementing the new degree program, School of Education faculty surveyed coaches, teachers and physical education teachers in the region as well as current UAM physical education majors. Faculty members involved in the groundwork were Dr. Donna Hunnicut, Dr. Dwayne Massey, Dr. Kathy King, Barbara Johnson and Memorie Frazer. Seventy-five percent of survey respondents indicated a high interest in a master’s degree in physical education and coaching.

“As an online program, there is the potential for students to enter the program from any location in the United States,” said Doss. “This is a tremendous opportunity, not just for our students and the coaches and teachers in this region, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity for the institution to raise its profile nationwide.”

Chris Ratcliff, UAM’s director of athletics, said the program will “open doors for our coaching staff to employ graduate assistants who can take the program online and work with our coaches in all sports. At small schools with limited budgets for hiring coaches, this is a valuable asset.”

For more information, contact the School of Education at (870) 460-1062.