By Kaitlin Fleming
After 14 years of athletic training at Southside High School, Chris Clark recently became a full-time professor of Kinesiology at Jacksonville State University in July of 2019.
Clark is just in time to witness JSU joining ranks with the likes of Sanford, Troy and West Alabama universities when it completes final approval for its new Masters in Athletic Training program.
According to Clark, who was formerly employed by Northeast Orthopedics, the process to get the program off the ground has been time-consuming but extremely enjoyable.
Clark, who has been taking the lead on this project along with JSU Kinesiology Department Head Dr. Gina Mabrey and Provost Christie Shelton, stated that this program would be similar to other professional programs the university currently offers.
“The program will be specifically geared toward athletic training,” said Clark. “It will be a very fun and professionally based clinical experience.”
The 59-hour master’s program was approved by the school’s Board of Trustees in early 2018 and approved by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) in June of 2019. Now, it is just awaiting final accreditation from The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
According to Clark, the program will utilize current faculty and staff, along with a Clinical Education Coordinator, to teach the newly created schedule of classes.
“The most challenging part has been designing a quality program,” said Clark. “Starting from absolute scratch has been interesting. Current athletic training programs at other institutions exist at the bachelor’s level in athletic training. We’re beginning from the graduate level. It’s very exciting to design the program the way we want it. It’s a great experience for all of us.”
Although JSU does not currently have a bachelors program in athletic training, the Department of Exercise Science and Wellness does offer several classes relating to basic athletic training, exercise science and physical education.
To increase opportunities to achieve accreditation, the program have hired an outside consultant and studied other accredited universities.
Once approved, most of the new classes will be held in the recently renovated Stephenson Hall, which is where the previous student gym was located before the Recreation and Fitness Center was built.
Depending on the decision of SACSCOC, the program will either begin in the summer of 2020 or the summer of 2021.
“We’re hopeful for a summer 2020 start date,” said Clark. “We’ve worked hard on this program and we want to offer a top notch professional opportunity for future students at JSU.”
Before the program’s first graduating class, the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) will conduct an onsite evaluation and provide a recommendation of accreditation.