Dear Dr. Pescatello,
I am very happy to inform you that I passed ACSM-CEP. I highly recommend your program for anyone seeking to obtain ACSM CEP certification; it's a wonderful resource for exercise professionals. Thank you very much.
AL ANUTH (she/her), Spring 2022
Clinical Exercise Physiologist-ACSM
“It didn’t really hit me until I was an instructor. I took the program because I’m an exercise professional, but once I transitioned to the instructor, I realized that this program was not just created for people who are going to be a clinical exercise physiologist or a doctoral student. This is really a program that every healthcare provider should be taking.” – Dr. Margaret (Maggie) Morrissey-Basler, Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate, Graduate Fall 2020, Instructor 2021-Present
Learning to Teach; Teaching to Learn
Dr. Margaret (Maggie) Morrissey-Basler is passionate about exercise as medicine. As both a student and an instructor of the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate program at the University of Connecticut (UConn), Maggie has garnered a unique insider’s perspective to the program. These combined experiences have been pivotal to her learning and career trajectories, informing her research, shaping her skills, and inspiring her teaching. As she steps into her new role as Assistant Professor, Health Sciences at Providence College – while continuing to teach in the Exercise Prescription online program – she is excited to educate a broad range of future healthcare professionals on the exercise medicine mindset as a critical component of their practice.
Maggie first learned about the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate program while pursuing her PhD in Kinesiology at UConn. She had heard lots of great feedback about the relevance of the program, and the faculty were looking for a Teaching Assistant (TA) for the in-person undergraduate course, KINS 2227 - Exercise Prescription. As an exercise professional, with a BS in Health and Exercise Science from Skidmore College (2014), and an MS in Exercise Physiology from Florida State University (2018), this role was a natural fit for Maggie. To prepare her role as TA, she would need to complete the Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate program so that she felt she had the tools and expertise to educate undergraduates.
Flexibility of online essential to juggling priorities
While simultaneously immersed in her PhD work, Maggie began the certificate program in winter 2020, taking the second course in spring, and completing in fall 2020. (At the time, it was a 9-credit program consisting of three courses, but has since been expanded to include a fourth course for 12 credits.). This is a lot to juggle. As Maggie explains, “I was intimated at first. I wasn’t sure: Am I going to be able to do this? My PhD work involved a lot of lab research. So I was always in the lab, morning to afternoon. The flexibility of the online program helped me tremendously. I felt like I was still able to be productive in my PhD, but then felt like I was able to easily meet all the deadlines for the program. I was still absorbing and taking in that information I was learning, instead of just feeling like, ‘Oh gosh, at the end of the day, I have to send in this assignment.’”
Informing her research and her work
Beyond opening the door for teaching, Maggie recognized that learning about exercise prescription would have great relevance to her research and her advising work. As she explains, “I took a lot of courses as an undergrad focused on American College Sports Medicine (ACSM). I knew the importance of that information to not only prepare me as a teaching assistant or instructor, but also to inform my research. I do a lot of work with working populations, such as construction and agriculture. That’s a special population, especially because they’re physically active in their jobs. I realized this program was going to help me get into a better mindset of how some of my research questions may be affected by fitness. And if I were to meet with some of these workers, what would I recommend to them to improve their health? Part of my current job includes going to different companies and performing heat safety assessments because my research area is occupational heat stress. So, I will go and talk to occupational and environmental health and safety professionals about preventing heat-related illnesses and injuries. And physical inactivity is a huge risk factor for heat-related illnesses. Without having a strong fitness or exercise prescription background and the Exercise Prescription Certificate under my belt, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to effectively help them reduce their risk of heat illness.”
Renowned professors with a national reputation for excellence
Maggie explains that a major advantage of the program is the opportunity to learn from experts in the field: “The program director, Dr. Linda Pescatello, is one of the most distinguished researchers and faculty in the exercise physiology field. To be able to learn from an expert in the field is really amazing. UConn has an incredibly successful Kinesiology program: The National Association of Kinesiology (NAK) ranks it #3 in the U.S. (when normalized for program size). It has a very strong reputation. I think when people are looking at the program, they see exercise prescription, Dr. Pescatello, and Kinesiology, and confidently recognize that ‘This is really an amazing program that’s going to give me the skills I need’ for whatever they may be wanting to get out of the course.”
Takeaways: more than I could have imagined
The takeaways of her learning in this program, exceeded Maggie’s expectations: “You really come out of the program with skills beyond just, ‘okay, I can prescribe exercise for various populations.’ Even if you decided that the exercise profession, science, or healthcare was not what you wanted to do, you’re still learning these core skills out of the program. For example, you’re still going to be able to create educational presentations. A lot of people need to perform some form of public speaking in their future career, which requires a specific skillset, and although you’re not doing it in front of people in the course since it is online, the course really teaches you how to do that. The course also teaches you how to critically analyze research and how to write a systematic review. I think the systematic review alone, even if I had just done that, I would have taken away more than I could have imagined.”
Maggie especially appreciated the flexibility to tailor assignments to student relevance. “That was actually one of the best parts about the program as well. For those who were also in a graduate degree program, the instructors were like, ‘Hey you really should focus on something you’re either doing for your thesis or your dissertation, so you’re not reinventing the wheel. This is going to help you.’ I did my systematic review on a topic for my dissertation. And then there’s a lot of professional students in this program who are healthcare providers: We had physicians; we had respiratory therapists. They did a systematic review, but it was a little bit different. They weren’t preparing for a manuscript; they were just finding something that was relevant to their field. So they were still taking something from it, just in a different way. I thought that having that flexibility of catering to degree students, but then also ones who weren’t degree students was phenomenal.”
From student to teacher
While completing her last course in fall 2020, Maggie simultaneously began as a TA for the undergraduate course, KINS 2227 - Exercise Prescription. The following year, Maggie shifted into the role of instructor for the online graduate certificate program, teaching the 7-week introduction course, KINS 5507 - Fundamentals of Exercise Prescription. “This course introduces everyone to the primary concepts of exercise prescription and lays the foundation for the other three courses to come. I enjoy teaching that course because I’m really helping the students problem solve and change their mindset about how to think, and to provide answers that are evidence-based, not just ‘I think that you should do this.’ No, it's ‘what actual scientific evidence can you tell me that’s going support for your statement?’ And I honestly wouldn’t be able to teach in this course successfully without taking the certificate program first.”
Having been a student in the program herself, Maggie can really relate to student experience, and she enjoys sharing her own strategies to help support them. “I feel like I legitimately understand what they’re going through. The introduction course is quite rigorous; it’s a graduate program. It’s rigorous, but you’re able to complete it on your own time. A lot of students now get so overwhelmed with everything. I felt like could tell them: ‘Hey, I get it; I’ve done it. These are the strategies that I found to be successful. I hope this will be helpful for you.’ I can actually share my personal experience I went through with them. I think it really helped them to feel like, ‘Okay there’s a way to make this work.’” Having taught this course for two years now, Maggie adds, “I’ve really enjoyed not only taking the program but being an instructor. This has been an amazing experience that I can’t wait to continue.”
Online presence: more interactive than in-person
Contrary to what many might imagine, Maggie found the level of interaction with instructors in the online program to be a major strength: “I think the best thing about the program is how interactive the instructors are, and I learned from both sides. As a student, having Dr. Pescatello constantly interacting with her students, I never felt like I was by myself on my computer and not able to figure something out. The instructors have always been really accommodating. Even if you don’t see them in person, they’re constantly in contact with you in email or willing to set up a virtual call. Actually, funny enough, I felt like I spent more time interacting with instructors online through the program than I did with the instructors that I had in person in my PhD program. I really got to know Dr. Pescatello and the other instructors, and they got to know me. It’s not just that you’re taking the course, and then you’ll never hear from them again. You develop these relationships because of the frequent dialogue you have. So that’s a huge strength.”
Maggie also valued the interactive process of learning with peers over the HuskyCT/Blackboard discussion board. “You were constantly learning how to do things well, and it’s a lot of trial and error to a point. So that’s the best part about the discussion board. You usually had a discussion board post that was a case study due on Wednesday. It’s your first attempt, so you do the best you can. And then you spend Thursday learning the mistakes you made or finding out the things you did really well by looking at your peers, and saying, ‘Oh wow, that person said that; I could do that.’ And then you have a submission on Friday, where you’re actually taking all the information you learned and putting it into the final weekly assignment.”
As an instructor, Maggie emulated the online presence she had appreciated so much as a student. As she explains, “I feel people may think that when you’re teaching an online class you’re not as present. But I felt like I was constantly talking to the students; always having meetings; always on the discussion board. I put a lot of time into it because I wanted to be able to see where students started from week 1, and how much they progressed by week 7. To see them provide evidence to support their statements and recognize strategies to implement exercise medicine was really rewarding. It’s rewarding to see the success of professional students who are not degree students. Because they’re working clinically now, and I hope that they’re going to take what they learned in the class and they’re going to share it with their patients – and they’re going to make a difference.”
Critical learning for ALL health care professionals
Moving from student to instructor expanded Maggie’s understanding of the far-reaching relevance of exercise as medicine: “It didn’t really hit me until I was an instructor. I took the program because I’m an exercise professional, but once I transitioned to the instructor, I realized that this program was not just created for people who are going to be a clinical exercise physiologist or a doctoral student. This is really a program that every healthcare provider should be taking.”
When interviewing for a faculty position, most candidates focus their faculty presentation on their research area. Inspired by her learning in this program, Maggie embraced an alternative route: “It was funny because, for my faculty interview at Providence College, I actually did a presentation on Exercise Prescription for Healthcare Professionals. That’s how powerful it was for me. It is a Health Sciences program, and I wanted to show that this isn’t just something that strength trainers or clinical exercise physiologists need to know. If you want to be a physical therapist, if you want to be a physician, if you want to be an athletic trainer, you need to know this information and utilize the exercise medicine mindset when you’re prescribing certain things to your patients. So, I really enjoyed that, and I’m absolutely going to utilize the things that I learned as a student and an instructor in my courses that I develop as an Assistant Professor.”
Embodying great teaching and mentoring
For Maggie, the learning she experienced in the program has been transformative on multiple levels, including inspiring her own aspirations of who she wants to be as a teacher and mentor. “When I was enrolled as a student, Dr. Linda Pescatello and Dr. Yin Wu were the instructors. Outside of my major advisor, they mentored me more than any other faculty. And I didn’t really meet with them in person. It was all virtual. They always offered continuous access to them – and mentorship. Actually, I published a few papers with both of them, because I just really enjoyed getting their feedback. Really, my critical thinking and my scientific writing skills were completely transformed within the program, and with their mentorship outside of the program as well. They were fantastic faculty. Dr. Pescatello was actually on my dissertation committee, because I loved working with her so much in the program.” She adds, “I’ve learned a lot about how to be an effective instructor, so I am so excited to utilize those skills when I get to Providence College. Because I feel like there’s a lot of specific skills that Dr. Pescatello and Dr. Wu embodied that I constantly tell myself, ‘This is how I want to be as an instructor.’ I want to be very thoughtful and intentional about the teaching platform and the course material, and not feel like students are just reading things and regurgitating information.”
Educating future healthcare professionals
In addition to continuing to teach in the Exercise Prescription program, Maggie is excited to be starting her new role as Assistant Professor of Health Sciences at Providence College. She believes her learning and teaching experiences with the certificate program have been pivotal to this opportunity. “Without a doubt, this program helped me get my current position. Health Sciences is a really broad field, and I utilized my experiences as an instructor and as a student in this program to let them know, ‘Yes, I do research in heat stress and occupational work, but I also teach this topic of exercise prescription that can benefit everyone.’”
Maggie now looks forward to the opportunity she will have to share her knowledge with students pursuing a wide array of health professions: “The Health Sciences department at Providence College is a new program, so I can start everything from the ground up. And I am very, very adamant about making sure there is some sort of exercise prescription course. A lot of these students are majoring Health Sciences because they want to go into healthcare. I think it’s essential to sort of open their eyes to, ‘Oh wow, exercise can actually be used as medicine, and this is what I should do with my patients.’ I think it’s really critical and it will be a really important take way for them.”
“I chose the University of Connecticut’s program because I wanted something much more in-depth than simply studying for and taking an exam. It turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to study with a great university and develop expertise in physical exercise science, despite being nearly 8,000 miles away from the UConn campus!”— Kilo Wong, Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate, Spring 2020
Extra—Extra—Long Distance Learning
Kilo Wong, Hong Kong native and lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University, knew he had to do something to help those students who suffer from chronic conditions that preclude them from exercising on a regular basis. A lecturer in a variety of general education skills courses, including Tai Chi and Weight Management and Healthy Living, Kilo decided to do a Google search to see if he could find a program that could help him teach his students how to use exercise properly to improve their lives. As he explains, many people in Hong Kong live in small apartments, which can make exercising at home challenging. Hong Kong residents typically walk a lot anyway, so suggesting that they add walking to their exercise routine is not a real solution. And jogging? “The city is so congested, it is not necessarily safe to jog. I needed to rethink how I was going to prescribe an approximate exercise regimen that would fit my students’ lifestyles and the Hong Kong environment,” says Kilo.
When Kilo started his online search for a program that would help him fill his knowledge gap, he found few choices, among them, the University of Connecticut's Exercise Prescription Online Graduate Certificate Program. Says Kilo: “I chose UConn’s program because I wanted something much more in-depth than simply studying for and taking an exam. It turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to study with a great university and develop expertise in physical exercise science, despite being nearly 8,000 miles away from the UConn campus!”
Kilo says he especially appreciated that he was able to connect and communicate with other students through HuskyCT/Blackboard—UConn’s online platform. As he discovered, students were asked to post comments on the platform’s discussion boards, which invited lively back-and-forth conversations. “I really liked having the chance to interact with classmates who have such different experiences and backgrounds. It helped me be more critical in my thinking,” notes Kilo.
Expertise from real-world experts
Another big benefit of the program was having the opportunity to learn from a rich variety of guest lecturers, each with his or her own specialized expertise. Says Kilo: “Dr. Pescatello brought in many guest lecturers. For example, two of the physician guest lecturers, (Dr. Paul Thompson and Dr. Anthony Fernandez from Hartford Hospital, Hartford, CT), were cardiologists internationally known for their research and clinical specialization in sports cardiology. They provided a tremendous amount of information and resources about sudden cardiac death and ways to avoid sudden cardiac death in athletes. I was also so impressed by Dr. Rebecca Puhl’s lecture in weight stigma. I didn’t realize that the stigma of being overweight was actually a real thing in my own work environment, and how it was negatively affecting the attitudes and self-esteem of our students and staff,” says Kilo, who adds: “Not only were the guest lecturers experts in their fields, but they also shared their practical observations and experiences from the real world—not just from textbooks.”
Kilo did have a few issues with the online platform primarily due to difficulty accessing some of the videos. But he says, “The support I received from Dr. Pescatello, instructional designer Cathy Healy, and others was tremendous. Anytime I had a technical issue, someone was always available to help me and was able to resolve the problem within 24 hours.”
Teach a man to fish…
By far, Kilo says, one of the most important takeaways from the program was developing the ability to find answers. As he explains, “All of the courses had a research element. As a result, we were not taught the answers; we were taught the methods for finding answers ourselves. This is a much better approach because you never know what kind of health conditions or illnesses you may encounter.”
Having developed new research skills is now paying off in a big way. After Kilo submitted his final assignment for KINS 5508 – Exercise Prescription for Individuals with Chronic Diseases and Health Conditions, Dr. Pescatello asked him if he would like to extend the work into an actual manuscript for publication. Kilo worked closely with a small group of students in her laboratory, and under the supervision of Dr. Pescatello and the postdoctoral fellow in her laboratory, Dr. Yin Wu, the group presented its findings in poster form, entitled “Exercise as a Treatment of NAFLD: A Meta Review,” at the 2021 ACSM Annual Meeting. They are now working to prepare a full manuscript and target it for publication in the Exercise Physiology field.
Says Kilo: “The ACSM annual meeting is one of the biggest sports-related conferences in the world. I was surprised that we were able to take an assignment all the way from the classroom to presentation level. For someone like me who is interested in working on research projects, collaborating with such a great group of like-minded people was a huge bonus.”
Helping COVID long-haulers
At the completion of the program in May 2020, Kilo volunteered to join a research project lead by his department and the university’s School of Chinese Medicine to create a COVID rehabilitation program—the world’s first program of its kind designed specifically for patients who have had COVID-19. Kilo helped design the 12-week tele-exercise program, which comprises cardiorespiratory exercises, resistance training, and muscle training, along with Chinese herbal medicine. (Click on https://research.hkbu.edu.hk/highlighted-projects/covid-19-rehabilitation for more information.)
“My job at the university does not require us to work in research, so I am happy to have played a role in this project. I was able to apply what I learned in UConn’s Exercise Prescription program, such as how to monitor exercise intensity and the effects of different medications on exercise programs, to ultimately have the potential to help anyone in Hong Kong who has had COVID-19 and suffered longer term effects.”
In summary, Kilo says: “Thanks to the program, I now have greater confidence in screening students to see if they are ready to start with an exercise program and in my ability to prescribe appropriate exercises. I highly recommend the program for anyone in the exercise science field. It is truly a high-quality program with outstanding professors and guest lecturers.”
"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!”