MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — MTSU professor Helen Binkley along with master instructor Kristi Phillips were committed to transitioning their high-quality undergraduate degree program in Athletic Training to a master’s when new industry accreditation requirements loomed.
“Our options were either to teach out the undergraduate program until the last chance possible before discontinuing AT altogether or take the steps required to move our program to the master’s level,” Phillips said. “We did not want to lose a program that had produced such quality students over my two decades at MTSU.”
To make the transition happen, Binkley, program director, wrote a program proposal and worked together with Sonya Sanderson, chair in the Department of Health and Human Performance, to get it approved by university administration and filed paperwork with the state and athletic training education accrediting body.
“I went back to school to earn my doctorate, so we could meet accreditation requirements, and I pursued my doctorate right here at MTSU,” said Phillips, who serves as program coordinator for the Master of Science in Athletic Training.
Originally from Hoopeston, Illinois, Phillips said the professional master’s degree mirrors a national trend in peer health care professions that increasingly prepare students for professional practice at the graduate level.
“Reasons for the change include the increasing complexity of the current and future health care system, growing need for specific patient outcomes research, and expanding scope of knowledge and skill while striving for depth in athletic training knowledge.”
Phillips said it is hopeful the transition will positively impact the compensation and employment opportunities for graduates.
“It shows that these individuals are truly seeking out becoming athletic trainers and practicing athletic training,” she said. “The intention is that students enrolled are a little older, wiser and more dedicated to AT.”
Graduates will be qualified to work in a variety of settings, Phillips said, from high schools, clinics, colleges, the military, to the performing arts and more.
“Plus, our program has made affiliations with several sites over the years, which enables our students to experience a wide variety of settings when completing practicum placements,” Phillips said. “The network of ATs we have in the area is definitely one of our greatest strengths.”
Those interested in advancing their own athletic training education at MTSU can apply now at https://www.mtsu.edu/applynow. Admissions are rolling from now up until June when the inaugural cohort will start the program.
Sanderson said she was determined to make the master’s in athletic training program a reality when she became chair in 2019.
“I started working with Helen Binkley right away to review her proposal, and here we are today — starting the program this summer,” she said.
Sanderson said she is most proud of her faculty for making the program happen.
“Dr. Binkley and Dr. Phillips are so amazing,” she said. “They are devoted to their students and to making this master’s program not only the best in Tennessee but the best across the nation. Anytime I need something from program coordinators, they are one of the first to always get information back to me. They are impressive!”