20 March 2017
The Curry School’s higher education program seeks continually to meet the demand for new forms of administrative expertise, and one of our newest courses, "Athletics in the University," examines the history, organization, finance, leadership challenges and symbolic impact of athletics in the college setting. Offered since 2012, this course turns particular attention to the experiences of student-athletes on university campuses.

The course has grown significantly and enrolls an array of undergraduate and graduate students from across Grounds. In keeping with the goal of combining research and practitioner expertise in the classroom, a large contingent of academic and administrative leaders on Grounds recognized for their knowledge, experience and contributions to the field have contributed classroom presentations. 

“It’s wonderful to see so many students and student-athletes from across Grounds engaged in rigorous study of an important topic in higher education,” said Brian Pusser, professor of education and lead instructor of the course.  “I think the class has introduced many students to the study of colleges and universities as a discipline and helped them to better understand the role of intercollegiate athletics in shaping students and the student experience on campuses.”

Curry's higher education program also offers a graduate degree designed to prepare students for success in entry- and mid-career level professional positions in a variety of postsecondary education contexts, including academic advising, athletic compliance, residence life, admissions, development, judicial affairs and more. One of three focus areas students in the program can pursue is Intercollegiate Athletic Administration. 

In 12 months over 36 credit hours, the program emphasizes knowledge of theories that underlie practice, the study of diverse student experiences and development and an understanding of the political and social forces that shape higher education. The program begins with summer coursework in June, which provides an entry into the program. Fall semester gets busy as students typically dive into their professional internships in specialized functional areas of higher education, most within UVA.

“Coming into the professional world as a young adult, we tend to have idealistic ideas about what can be accomplished in a given field,” said Rijo Walker, a recent graduate of the program who interned in the football operations office last year. “The internship has given me the opportunity to see the realities of the field and grow as a future leader within it.”

Anne Harrington (M.Ed. ’14), an assistant coach for the women's lacrosse team at the University of Richmond noted, “For better or worse, athletics is becoming a very separate unit within universities. How decisions are made and priorities are set can differ from the rest of the university, so it is important for someone who wants to pursue a career in athletics be exposed to this unique environment in a different way than just a student-athlete.”

According to Blair Hodges (M.Ed. ’16), in a constantly changing environment with new rules and legislation being created on a regular basis, a specific athletics track allows changes to be discussed more intentionally than time might allow in a general higher education track. Hodges, who was recently hired as the football on-campus recruiting coordinator for Texas A&M University, interned in the UVA football recruiting office during her program.

“While my academic coursework has been valuable, my experience in my internship has been beyond valuable,” she said.  “I learned that a career in intercollegiate athletics is largely based on professional networking and connections.” According to Hodges, she built a network through the internship that helped her be professionally successful after graduation.

Curry Higher Ed faculty members Brian Pusser and Gerry Starsia will participate in a panel discussion, "The Black Student Athlete Experience on Grounds" during Black Alumni Weekend. Learn more.
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