"Online learning has several advantages over a traditional classroom setting, especially for someone like me. I loved it because of the convenience factor. I work full-time and I'm a full-time Doctoral student, so being able go online when I had time was great. I also had the chance to interact with people from all over the country, many of whom worked with different types of patient populations than I do. That interdisciplinary expertise provided for a great learning environment."— Greg Panza, Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate, Fall 2017
A Big Confidence Booster
Greg Panza has an extensive background in Exercise Physiology, but he knew his skills were lacking in a few areas within the field. Looking to build his confidence prescribing exercise programs for the special populations he works with at Hartford Hospital, he enrolled in UConn's Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate Program. He came out with a whole lot more than just confidence.
Sure, Greg Panza knows a lot about Exercise Physiology. After all, he's a third-year Doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut (UConn), and he's an Exercise Physiologist at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT. He also earned his Bachelor's and Master's in Exercise Science. So why would he feel the need to enroll in the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate Program at UConn?
For several reasons, says Greg. First and foremost, he needed to build his confidence working with special populations of patients. "I work in a cholesterol clinic and care for and conduct clinical research with patients with all kinds of health problems," he explains. "During the program, we were presented with a wide range of case studies from which I learned the mechanisms of many chronic diseases and conditions, as well as the behavior characteristics of certain patient populations."
Knowing the "gold standard" like the back of his hand.
In addition, Greg says that while he had a good idea about the content of the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (GETP 10th edition), he knew he needed greater familiarity with the book, which is considered the “gold standard” in the fields of Sports Medicine, Kinesiology, and Health and Fitness. In fact, Dr. Linda Pescatello, his professor and head of the Exercise Prescription Program, was the senior editor of this gold standard. As Greg explains: "With the courses based on the information in the guidelines, I came out of the program knowing the guidelines like the back of my hand. I feel so much more confident in applying the principles appropriately in real world settings and choosing protocols for patient testing."
Walking Greg through the publishing process.
Another reason Greg praises the program so highly is the experience he gained in scientific writing. In fact, for the second course, KINS 5508: Exercise Prescription for Individuals with Chronic Diseases and Health Conditions, the students were required to conduct a systematic review. Greg focused on analyzing literature that investigated the effects of exercise interventions on cognitive function among people at risk for, or diagnosed with, Alzheimer's disease. "There are so many steps involved, but Dr. Pescatello thought my work was worthy of publication and thankfully, helped me through the entire process. In fact, with her guidance, I turned my systematic review into a meta-analysis, which just got published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society."
No background in psychology? No problem!
There was also a behavioral component with each course, notes Greg, who especially appreciated this aspect of the program because he had no background in Psychology. "I've had patients in the past who have had trouble adhering to their exercise program. We learned how to use several different behavioral models that would help us ensure that patients are better able to stick with the prescribed program. I remember one patient with high cholesterol who was on the borderline of having to take medication if he didn't make some lifestyle modifications. I used the trans-theoretical model of behavior change to assess his readiness to change and to find any sticking points that were holding him back. We worked through the issues, and two months later, he was adhering to his exercise program and his cholesterol had dropped."
Online on his own time.
The online platform, HuskyCT/Blackboard, was another big program plus. Says Greg: "Online learning has several advantages over a traditional classroom setting, especially for someone like me. I loved it because of the convenience factor. I work full-time and I'm a full-time Doctoral student, so being able go online when I had time was great. I also had the chance to interact with people from all over the country, many of whom worked with different types of patient populations than I do. That interdisciplinary expertise provided for a great learning environment. We were also expected to post comments on the discussion board, so there was constant back-and-forth dialog every day, all day long. If I were in a classroom, I'd only interact with other students once or twice a week at the most."
There's one final reason Greg is so delighted he choose to go through the program. As he notes, he has had extensive experience giving presentations. But at one point in all three courses, the students had to record themselves giving a presentation. "Each of us was required to post our recording on a web page that everyone else could view. After it was posted, you'd lead a discussion based on the presentation. Other students would ask questions and you'd have to field them accordingly. I'd never done that before."
A graduate certificate from "one of the best in the country."
In conclusion, Greg highly recommends this program to anyone in the exercise field. As he says, "The certificate is coming out of UConn's graduate school in Kinesiology—one of the best in the country. That your graduate certificate is coming from such a prestigious program speaks volumes and will definitely be attractive to employers. The program provided me invaluable tools that I use in my work on a daily basis and has truly helped me grow professionally in my career."
"If I had gone to another graduate school, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to earn a PhD, along with two graduate certificates that I believe will definitely help me from a research standpoint. I tell anyone who asks about my experience that they'll receive a certificate in something very unique and have earned a great credential from one of the best known Kinesiology departments in the country—a clear advantage if you're looking for a new job or want to advance in your current situation." - Kate Dibble, Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate, Fall 2017
A Real Natural
When one of her professors recommended that Kate take the first course in the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate Program, she was immediately hooked. The curriculum fit perfectly with her PhD program in Human Development and Family Studies and provided her the skills she needs to add Exercise Prescription to her already extensive list of skills.
Kate Dibble is well on her way to earning her PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Connecticut (UConn)—and she's currently working towards earning a graduate certificate in Quantitative Research Methods. Somehow, she also makes time to work as a Graduate Research Assistant under Dr. Linda Pescatello, Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology and UConn's resident expert in Exercise Prescription.
So when Dr. Pescatello suggested that Kate take KINS 5507: Fundamentals of Exercise Prescription to satisfy one of her PhD program's specialized course requirements, she jumped at the chance. Says Kate, who is studying breast, uterine, stomach, and digestive cancers, "It's really important for me to learn, from a research and interventional perspective, how to prescribe exercise safely and cohesively for cancer patients. When I learned more about KINS 5507, it seemed like such a natural fit with my PhD program. Part way into the first course, I knew I wanted to invest in earning the full certificate."
Right up her alley.
Taking the second course, KINS 5508 – Exercise Prescription for Individuals with Chronic Diseases and Health Conditions, was right up her alley. "There was a cancer module in this course and that intrigued me," notes Kate. "But what really fascinated me was discovering how important it is to prescribe an individualized exercise program tailored to the patient's unique needs. Even family history of cancer or other diagnoses can impact the success of an exercise program."
For example, Kate explains that going on a treadmill at the gym might be great aerobically, but for someone with cancer, it may not even hit a portion of what they need to be doing. What if the person has a metabolic condition? What other medical issues need to be taken into consideration? "After completing the course, I realized that each patient, with his or her unique limitations and treatment regimen, warrants a different exercise prescription," she says, and adds: "We also learned the value of taking a holistic approach to help ensure that patients can maintain the exercise program—and even enjoy it."
There was another important aspect of every course that Kate found to be tremendously valuable: everything she learned was "evidence based;" that is, the concepts and strategies introduced in the courses were derived from or informed by objective evidence. Not surprising, says Kate, since UConn is a Research 1 University, a category that the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education use to indicate universities in the United States that engage in extensive research activity. "Dr. Pescatello presented many case studies grounded in real science, including studies based on actual breast cancer patients, and how the side effects of treatment can affect cardiovascular health and how that impacts exercise," she notes.
Defined start and end dates.
Kate, who describes herself as a "big organization" person, especially appreciated how the three online courses were broken into separate modules, with a clear start and end date. "I had never taken an online course before, but I thought the HuskyCT/Blackboard platform was just great. The interactive discussion board was incredibly helpful. With all the posting back and forth, I learned so much from my classmates, and I think they learned from me as well. There was so much material, including case study assignments, major papers to read, and a systematic review to conduct, but with the weekly modules, the material was well organized and manageable."
Learning how to write a whole new way.
Most importantly, Kate completed the program in December 2017 with a whole new set of skills beyond learning how to develop individualized exercise prescriptions for patients with chronic diseases. As she explains, she has a strong Psychology background. After all, she earned both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Psychology from UConn, and she understands how to do meta-analyses. But prior to the program, she had no experience in writing and formatting Kinesiology studies for publication.
Yet today, with Dr. Pescatello's assistance, Kate is turning her final paper from the KINS 5508 course into a poster, Exercise prescription for breast cancer survivors with cardiovascular disease treatment side effects: A systematic review, which she will present this spring at the annual Society of Behavioral Medicine in New Orleans. "Switching from a Psychology-based to Kinesiology-based writing style was very difficult for me. There was such a big learning curve, but with the help of Dr. Pescatello and my classmates, I'm thrilled that I have the opportunity to present my poster at the meeting and that it will be published in the Society's Annals of Behavioral Medicine. We also plan to submit the full results for publishing at a later day."
A PhD and two graduate certificates - all from UConn.
Kate isn't exactly sure what the future will bring. She still has another two years to complete her PhD and will earn her Certificate in Quantitative Research Methods in 2019. But she does know she'll either pursue a teaching position—she'd love to stay at UConn—or become a researcher specializing in the study of cancer for a medical center or governmental organization.
To anyone considering this program, she says: "If I had gone to another graduate school, I wouldn't have the opportunity to earn a PhD, along with two graduate certificates that will definitely help me from a research standpoint. I tell anyone who asks about my experience that they'll receive a certificate in something very unique and have earned a great credential from one of the best known Kinesiology departments in the country—a clear advantage if you're looking for a new job or want to advance in your current situation."
“I highly recommend the program to anyone looking to earn solid credentials in Exercise Prescription. UConn is very well known in the field. Having a graduate level certificate from UConn is no joke if you are trying to demonstrate your credentials to a prospective employer. There’s no doubt in my mind that having the certificate will help me get into PT school."- Regine Rossi, Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate, Spring 2018
Brains and Brawn
Powerlifter Regine Rossi is an incredibly athletic woman who loves unconventional sports — like “Strongwoman,” which gives women a venue to compete in strength athletics. Currently, Regine can deadlift 315 lbs. and bench press 155 lbs. For a recent Strongwoman event, she had 60 seconds each to do as many deadlifts, axle and circus dumbbell presses, and “stones over bar,” followed by three running events: carrying a “yoke” 50 feet, a 100-lb. sandbag for another 50 feet, then a beer keg 100 feet — all as quickly as possible. She also loves a sport called “rucking” — the foundation of Special Forces training that entails shouldering heavy backpacks weighing up to 50 lbs. She not only hikes with the backpacks, but she also does push-ups, squats, and other calisthenics wearing the pack.
Regine is also smart, really smart. In 2014, she earned her PhD in Education at New York University. Today, she is a Professor of Education at a small rural college outside of New York City. She’s also planning to go back to school for her Physical Therapy (PT) degree in 2019.
Last summer, Regine decided to pile more onto her plate by starting the first course of the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate program. This spring, she completed the three required courses to earn the credential.
A fascination with exercise science
So what motivated her to enroll in the UConn program? Regine has always been fascinated by Exercise Science, which combines her love of athletics and her interest in understanding the science of human movement. In addition to her teaching position, being an advisor to 50-plus students at her college, and her commitment to working out, she is also a personal trainer. “I knew that earning the certificate would greatly enhance my skills as a trainer and enable me to help my clients live healthier lives through exercise, rehabilitation, and nutrition. I was also very familiar with UConn’s outstanding reputation in the field,” says Regine, who happened to come across the Exercise Prescription program when she was looking for courses to complete her science prerequisites for PT school.
Reluctant to take courses online – at first
It’s only natural that a professor at a college might be reluctant to take courses online. As Regine notes, “I teach traditional face-to-face classes. I am very accustomed to that kind of setting. But I have to be honest; after having participated in the Exercise Prescription program, I now actually prefer online.”
What changed Regine’s mind about the online platform? She credits the director of the program, Dr. Linda Pescatello, PhD, FACSM, FAHA, with creating a “classroom” setting that felt more personal than a traditional classroom. Says Regine: “As I know from experience, not all students feel comfortable talking in the typical classroom setting. And even if they do make a comment, there’s not always time for a thoughtful response by the professor. Dr. P. (as the students fondly refer to Dr. Pescatello) runs the program in such a way that she seems to be carrying on individual conversations with everyone, while encouraging others to interact with each other. I found it amazing how she was able to foster friendships between students. I have some great friends from the program who I have actually never met.”
In part, the secret to creating such an interactive online environment stems from the way the program is structured. Using the HuskyCT/Blackboard platform, Dr. Pescatello gives students discussion questions and students are required to post their responses on the discussion board each week. “Dr. P. responds to every single comment,” says Regine. “I feel like I know her better than any other professor I’ve had in-person.”
Learning directly from the expert in ACSM Guidelines
Regine was also very impressed with the program content, which is based on the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, considered the “gold standard” in the fields of sports medicine, kinesiology, and health and fitness. As she explains, “Dr. Pescatello has done so much to help shape ACSM policy and she brings all that expertise into the courses. The amount of information we were given was incredible, and we had many opportunities to practice what we learned, which was invaluable since there are so many moving parts to Exercise Science.”
In addition, Regine learned how to conduct a systematic literature review at a professional level and is working with Dr. Pescatello on preparing her research for publication. “Dr. P. connected me with one of her colleagues at ACSM, who provided several articles she had written on a topic similar to mine. That was so helpful,” notes Regine.
Strengthening bonds with her own students
Best of all, Regine is currently using the new knowledge she gleaned from the program, both in fine-tuning her personal training business, as well as helping students she currently advises. “We are a very close knit community. My advisees know that I do different sports. Now that I’ve earned the certificate, they frequently come in and talk to me about what they should be doing at the gym, and I can make specific recommendations to help them deal with pain issues or physical limitations. I feel like I have a stronger bond with them now.”
In conclusion, Regine adds: “I highly recommend the program to anyone looking to earn solid credentials in Exercise Prescription. UConn is very well known in the field. Having a graduate level certificate from UConn is no joke if you are trying to demonstrate your credentials to a prospective employer. There’s no doubt in my mind that having the certificate will help me get into PT school.”
“I was amazed; the UConn online program was incredibly interactive. As part of our assignments, we were required to pose questions to which the other students would respond. There was a lot of back and forth, which I loved.”— John Anderson, Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate, Spring 2018
A++ All the Way
John Anderson has always loved to learn new things. But after his retirement from the State of Oregon, his goal was to secure a new career that combined his skills as a rehabilitation counselor and his love of exercising. He was accustomed to taking online courses, but when he discovered the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate program from UConn, he realized just how much he’d been missing.
As John Anderson will tell you, it’s never too late to learn something new. In fact, one of his signature strengths is a love of learning. So naturally, when he retired from his job as a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the State of Oregon, he was looking for ways to replace the structure of a full-time day job with something meaningful – something that would help him continue to feel connected and productive. He began taking online courses from several different universities in all kinds of subjects, from bioelectricity to psychology.
Then John decided that he wanted to tie in his background in rehab with his love of exercise and working out. How could he bring the two together? Easy. He had 25 years of experience working with people with disabilities, providing evaluation and counseling services to help his clients open the doors to employment opportunities. John had also become an ACE-certified personal trainer. After doing extensive research, he discovered the field of medical exercise—the perfect bridge between counseling and personal training!
No program in the local Newport area
Now there was just one problem: how could he get the training he’d need in medical exercise? He and his wife live in the beautiful coastal town of Newport, OR. While the scenery is spectacular, the community college in the area did not have what he was looking for. Already a convert to online learning, he did a Google search and discovered the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate program from the University of Connecticut (UConn).
A week into his first course, which he began in the fall of 2017, John quickly realized the Husky CT/Blackboard platform was a whole different animal. “The other online courses I took were completely different. There was no interaction with my fellow students; we didn’t have any contact with the professors; but then again, there were typically thousands of students taking the same course.”
But adds John, “I was amazed; the UConn online program was incredibly interactive. As part of our assignments, we were required to pose questions to which the other students would respond. There was a lot of back and forth, which I loved. Plus there were so many different kinds of people in the program. Everyone brought their own strengths and perspectives, so we were able to learn a lot from each other.”
Exposure to many industry experts
So what about the course content? “It was an A++ all the way!” According to John, there were 10-12 guest lecturers during each course, with each discussing their specific area of specialty. “The lectures were given to a live audience and then taped, so you felt like you were there in the lecture hall. But you could watch the lectures on your own schedule,” says John, who adds: “It was great because we were learning directly from the experts who have made significant contributions to the development of exercise science, like Dr. P. (Dr. Linda Pescatello). She’s done a lot of research on how exercise prescription can be used to provide maximum health benefits to people with such serious health conditions as obesity and hypertension.”
Learning how to “sell” exercise
John says he especially appreciated learning how emotions affect exercise behavior. In fact, for the second course, 5508 – Exercise Prescription for Chronic Diseases and Health Conditions, his project focused on the topic of affect-based motivation for exercise adherence. As John explains, “We all assume that anyone who exercises will feel good about it. We are so busy selling the benefits of exercise, but if someone has a health condition like obesity, they probably won’t feel good after exercising and won’t want to do it again. My project focused on exploring techniques that would enable people to change the intensity of the exercise, adjusting it upwards or down, so that the individual continues doing what they find to be pleasurable.”
Another big benefit of the program was the effect it had on John’s own work-out success. As he explains, students were asked to keep track of their exercise program in a journal and to evaluate it based on the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (GETP 10th edition). “I had never even had a personal trainer look at my exercise program. It was so valuable having Dr. Pescatello, who was the senior editor of the 9th edition, make comments. She is a force of nature and very motivational.”
New career ahead
Thanks to his participation the program, John has a whole new career that’s already in the works. He will be offering Tai Chi classes and personal training services for a relatively new exercise facility purchased by the Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital, which is located right in Newport. “I’m just starting with them, but I’ve already planted the idea of offering personal training specifically for older people with such medical issues as osteoarthritis or diabetes.” In addition, he’s working on developing a program in conjunction with occupational therapists. His vision is to work with older patients in their homes, helping them carry out an individualized functional exercise program to avoid behaviors that might cause them to become further disabled.
As John says, “The UConn credential will help me out immensely. It’s not just a piece of paper; participating in the program was an A++ experience all the way. It was challenging and really made me work hard. We not only learned about accommodating a variety of special populations, but also how to address the intricate needs of the individual to create a realistic, tailor-made exercise prescription program that they can actually adhere to. And helping people to be motivated and able to keep doing their program is the key to success.”
“I believe that my credentials from UConn, and especially the Exercise Prescription certificate, will help me more easily establish trust with clients as I move forward with my health club plans. Thanks to the program, I now have the knowledge and skills I need to address all kinds of situations and help people achieve their exercise goals – and help them have fun while they’re doing it!”- Rob Maybruch Graduate of the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate, Spring 2018
Exercising His Real Passion
Rob Maybruch found the transition from college into the workplace less than perfect. When he discovered UConn’s Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate program, he realized he could combine his passion for exercise with his desire to help other young people more easily make that big step out of college and into work life.
It was a tough decision for Rob Maybruch. He had what he describes as a “cushy” job working as a bank examiner for FDIC in the Hartford, CT area. He was quite proficient at it; after all, he worked in the same position for about five years after having graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from the University of Connecticut (UConn). “The people I worked with were great, but I really wanted to feel passionate about what I was doing, especially knowing I have another 40 years to work,” says Rob, who adds: “I have always been active and was a long-time member of the Trampoline Club at UConn. I realized that I wanted exercise and fitness to be at the center of whatever I decided to do next. As I looked into different career paths, Exercise Prescription really appealed to me.”
In order to make such a big transition, Rob recognized that he needed knowledge and credentials. So naturally, he thought of his Alma Mater – UConn – first. After conducting an online search, he came across UConn’s Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate program – the perfect solution! He spoke to the director of the program, Dr. Linda Pescatello, PhD, FACSM, FAHA, and was hooked. Rob started the program in the summer of 2017 and completed it a year later.
Rob admits that when he was first looking into the program, he felt hesitant about taking classes online. “I like having access to a teacher and I like to ask a lot of questions. I thought there might not be the same accessibility in an online course as in the traditional classroom setting.”
He’s the first to admit he was wrong! According to Rob, the HuskyCT/Blackboard platform created a very interactive setting. “I was so surprised that the online platform created a great way to interact with the professor and with other students. I give the credit to Dr. Pescatello, who was incredibly responsive and approachable. Her lectures were great too. Because she had recorded them, we could watch them at our own pace. I’d often plug them into my phone and watch while I was exercising at the gym.”
Rob also appreciated learning so much about the science of exercise. “I had my personal training certificate. But other than studying for the exam, most of the academic information I had about exercise came from doing Google searches,” he explains and notes: “I loved that everything presented to us was evidence-based. And I appreciated learning about the process of systematically gathering evidence and uncovering primary research to support well-informed decision making. Now I have the tools and know-how to do the research and stay current with what’s going on in the industry – something I could never have done without having participated in the program.”
A real eye-opener
By the end of the three courses, Rob had been exposed to many different areas within the fitness arena, which he said was a real eye-opener. “I came into the program with my own interests in weight lifting and outdoor types of sports. But I left the program with a much greater understanding of all the elements that make up the world of fitness. For example, we learned about a variety of disease and conditions and about how to promote better adherence to exercise programs."
Making exercise fun
Rob’s ultimate dream is to open a health club in the Greater Hartford, CT area, and he’s well on his way to pulling it all together. He’s written a business plan, begun to apply for various licenses, and is now looking for the right home for the club. Most importantly, he knows exactly what he wants to focus on. As he explains: “When I started with FDIC, I was right out of college. I went from a very active and social environment, where I had access to all kinds of sports and to a great fitness center, to working at a desk eight hours a day. I envision creating a club for people who are going through a similar transition, a place where they can have fun, be active, and socialize all under one roof. Of course, I’ll have classes and exercise equipment, but I’d also like to have ping pong tables, active video games, a rock climbing wall, and maybe an evening dodge ball league – those kinds of fun activities that help you forget you are doing something great for your physical health!”
Not surprising, Rob is basing his vision for the club on evidence he found after having conducted a systematic review for the second course, KINS 5508 – Exercise Prescription for Individuals with Chronic Diseases and Health Conditions. His topic? The influence on physical activity of young people transitioning from college into the workplace. “I found that some people experience a decline in physical activity, while others were actually able to increase their level of exercise. That told me that the transition from college into the workforce is a very influential time that affects behaviors around exercise. That’s why I want to target this population of people,” says Rob, who adds: “The UConn brand is so well respected. I believe that my credentials from UConn, and especially the Exercise Prescription certificate, will help me more easily establish trust with clients as I move forward with my health club plans. Thanks to the program, I now have the knowledge and skills I need to address all kinds of situations and help people achieve their exercise goals – and help them have fun while they’re doing it!”