Students come from far and wide to enroll in highly ranked program
Balea Schumacher was born and raised in Florida and earned two degrees from the University of South Florida. But when it came time to earn a doctorate, her first and only choice was the college’s Kinesiology PhD program.
As a doctoral student, Schumacher revels in the rich research she conducts with like-minded faculty members. “It’s great to be part of such an elite program,” she said. “I was born to be a Buckeye.”
Ibrahim Salem Almahaireh, now a doctoral candidate who hails from Jordan, found key reasons to apply only to Ohio State’s Kinesiology program for his PhD. “The program has some of the best faculty in the world,” he said. “It is a mainstay as one of the best in the United States.”
The recent 2023 Doctoral Program Evaluations released by the National Academy of Kinesiology last autumn confirm his choice. The rankings place the college’s PhD program as No. 1 in the country, adjusted for faculty size.
This year’s rankings process, to be issued in three-year cycles, evaluated 35 doctoral programs that submitted the required data. When considering all the programs without adjusting for faculty size, Ohio State’s program ranks No. 10 in the nation.
“Kinesiology departments vary greatly in size from 40 or more faculty to smaller programs,” said Jackie Goodway, professor of kinesiology and chair of the college’s program. “The unadjusted metrics look at total volume of the indices for each program. Adjusted rankings take into account the size of the faculty. Given how small we are with 14 faculty, it is a testament to how productive we are.”
The rankings examined 11 components related to faculty, such as productivity in publications and presentations. Six components related to students, such as placement after graduation in tenure-track positions, postdoctoral positions or other positions requiring a doctorate.
In a related area, the college’s Master of Science in Sport Management placed at No. 4 in the United State and No. 5 in the world in the 2023 rankings by SportBusiness.
Students appreciate specialization choices for PhD
The college’s kinesiology doctorate offers three specializations:
- The Health and Exercise Science specialization trains students using physiological- and behavior-based approaches to studying movement. It also expands the breadth of knowledge of and experience with basic and applied laboratory and field-based research skills. Even within the specialization two tracks are offered: exercise physiology track or health and physical activity behavior.
In her research, Balea Schumacher looks at the psychology and physiology of individuals, particularly in terms of sports performance, with guidance from her advisor, Professor Brian Focht. “I have attended numerous conferences where I have shared my research with others in the field,” she said. “I currently have nine published abstracts and am working on three articles to submit to journals.”
Her most recent abstract appears in the conference proceedings of the International Society on Sports Nutrition (scroll down). She teams up with the college’s Postdoctoral Diversity Fellow John Paul Anders to study the mechanisms of how isometric squats cause muscle fatigue. They especially focus on sex differences because females are often not included in such studies.
“Dr. Anders has great enthusiasm and passion for our research,” Schumacher said. “As an alum of the program, he has great connections from over the years that have allowed our lab collaboration to be even better.” She also points to the faculty of the Exercise Science specialization. “We have many of the leading experts in the field, and to have them as professors is incredible.”
Schumacher also has been a graduate teaching associate for three and a half years. She has been the primary instructor for KNHES 5590: Comprehensive Laboratory in Exercise Science. In the college’s lab, she teaches undergraduates to conduct comprehensive fitness testing and fitness evaluation and to develop training programs for healthy and older adults.
“This experience has helped build and shape me into the future professor I may be one day,” Schumacher said. “I love being able to teach such an advanced and useful course. Being completely hands-on with the students and being the primary decision maker about what is taught is extremely beneficial.”
- The Physical Education specialization emphasizes preparing teachers of physical education and conducting research to find solutions to educational problems or to move the practice forward. Specific faculty specialize in adapted physical education.
“Ohio State has state-of-the-art research facilities at its fingertips,” said Ibrahim Salem Almahaireh, a professional swimming coach who twice received Best Coach of the Year in his homeland of Jordan. He also was recognized as the youngest coach for elite level by the Jordanian Minister of Youth and Sports.
Earlier in May, he published an article online in the European Journal of Sport Science. Most recently, he has presented his research at the Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (OAHPERD).
He serves as a graduate teaching assistant for KNHES 2601: Teaching Sport, Leisure and Exercise. He also volunteers as a swimming coach with the university’s Men’s Swim and Dive Team.
Ohio State offers “many field experience opportunities that provide the development you need to become successful in your career,” he said. “Working with world-class coaches and athletes alongside nationally renowned faculty for my PhD helps me apply what I’m learning in the classroom to practice. It has enriched my experience and growth immensely.”
Almahaireh is particularly grateful to his dissertation advisor, Professor Phil Ward, as well as his committee members Sam Hodge, Weidong Li and Sue Sutherland. He also appreciates his time working with Professor Jackie Goodway.
“Their unwavering support and understanding have been a beacon of light in my journey,” he said, “particularly as I navigate the challenges of being an international student. Dr. Ward's mentorship has been nothing short of extraordinary, guiding me with wisdom and patience.”
Having recently passed his candidacy exam, Almahaireh is nearing the completion of his time at Ohio State. “The diversity within the program, from students to faculty and staff, fosters a warm, inclusive environment that has become a second home to me, filling the void of being far from my own family,” he said.
“OSU has helped me discover new skills and challenge myself to reach my full potential and become a better coach to my athletes.”
- The Sport Management specialization cultivates students’ research and leadership skills. The flexible program involves students with several types of research and the opportunity to engage with interdisciplinary areas at Ohio State. Columbus offers many venues for research, from professional sports teams to K-12 school sports to the vast choice of sports offered by Ohio State Athletics. Students master research skills across disciplines. For instance, some choose sports psychology. Others have selected sports policy.
Alina Cioletti chose this specialization because of “the phenomenal faculty as well as the opportunities in the program.” She has published several journal articles with her advisor, Associate Professor Leeann Lower-Hoppe. Her article with Lower-Hoppe and colleagues in the September issue of the Recreational Sports Journal explored how success of collegiate sport club programs is measured and perceived.
Cioletti is first author of an article in press with The Physical Educator titled “The Clash of Sports Officials and Fans: When Free Speech Borders Harassment.”
“The highlight of working towards attaining my degree has been the opportunity to be a graduate teaching associate,” Cioletti said. During the spring semester, she will teach KNSISM 4411: College Sport, which covers the historical development of college sport and its place in American higher education and culture. She will also direct and supervise undergraduate Sport Industry majors in their internship course.
“I have loved teaching undergraduate courses,” she said, “and having a positive impact on future sport managers.”
Cioletti also works with Professor Donna Pastore, who helps her develop her teaching skill and connects her with opportunities to present at conferences. Both Lower-Hoppe and Pastore “support me with everything related to my candidacy exams, dissertation and the application process as I am currently applying for jobs in academia,” she said. “I get the best of both worlds.”
Phil Yackee said the ability to continue to work full-time at Ohio State in the Department of Athletics while pursuing his PhD brought him to this program. He is the director of ticketing finance for the Athletic Ticket Office.
In this role, he is the primary ticket manager for Ohio State Men’s Basketball. In addition, he directs all financial and accounting responsibilities for the Department of Athletics Ticket Office.
Yackee works with Professor Donna Pastore as his advisor His research interest is in organizational behavior and intercollegiate athletics.
“I especially appreciate the opportunity to work with and learn from the amazing faculty members within this program,” he said.
Additional faculty who make up the 14 who teach in the Kinesiology PhD Program are professors William Kraemer (retired but continuing research), Carl Maresh, Rick Petosa, Professor Emeritus David Porretta, Brian Turner and Jeff Volek.
In addition, Assistant Professor Cathy Saenz teaches in the Exercise Science Program. Clinical Associate Professor Carmen Swain serves as an administrator, coordinating practical and internship experiences for undergraduate students, and teaches in the Health and Exercise Science specialization. Similarly, Visiting Assistant Professor Moetiz Samad teaches in the undergraduate Sport Industry program and is the undergraduate studies chair for that degree.
Four lecturers round out the teaching faculty in Kinesiology, which includes the Sport Industry program for undergraduates: Ben Buchanan, Marc Horger, Rio Watanabe and Melissa Wiser.