Major growth and change in the last four years have transformed the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management.
Compare the Texas Tech University of 10 years ago to the Texas Tech of today and the growth is immediately apparent. Not only are there new buildings, but some of the buildings that were here a decade ago look completely different or have different purposes now. Likewise, the departments within those buildings have changed – new faculty, new courses, new majors and, of course, new students.
But one of the most underrated changes on the campus has not taken 10 years – actually, not even half that long. The Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management within the College of Arts & Sciences has taken a dramatic turn within just the last four years, and despite the fact that it now boasts the largest departmental enrollment on campus and awarded the most degrees of any department last year, many of its changes haven't been obvious outside its walls.
You could say it's one of Texas Tech's best kept secrets.
“In 2014, when I got here, the department looked totally different – almost 100 percent,” said Angela Lumpkin, chairwoman for the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management. “It's the most radical transition.”
That may be an understatement.
The way things were
Formerly located within the Engineering Key, what was then the Department of Health, Exercise and Sport Sciences had two buildings: a men's gym in the Engineering Key and a women's gym near 18th Street and Akron Avenue. The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering wanted to expand into the space filled by the men's building, and the university wanted a commons area, so it demolished the women's gym in 2011 to make space for what would become the J.T. & Margaret Talkington Residence Hall and The Commons.
The department moved into its “new” building – the gutted former PrinTech facility across the street from the Robert H. Ewalt Student Recreation Center – in 2011.
“The intelligence of putting us in this building is actually really high,” said Lumpkin, a professor in the department. “When you don't have to build a foundation, that saves the university a lot of money. But they also didn't have to build the kind of facilities that were across the street at the rec center, because we can teach our Personal Fitness & Wellness classes over there. The fact that it's very proximal to this building, I'm sure, was in the mind of the people who put it here.”
But the change of venue didn't fix the many problems the department was experiencing: frequent turnover in leadership was resulting in high faculty turnover, particularly tenured and tenure-track faculty.
“Most of the tenure-track faculty who were here when I got here have left, many for family reasons or personal reasons,” Lumpkin said. “If you walk down the office hallways in most buildings on this campus, what you see most often on the labels outside their door is ‘Professor' or ‘Associate Professor.' You're not going to find many of those in our department.”
The shortage of institutional knowledge in the department is something Lumpkin immediately began addressing when she arrived in 2014. In addition to starting searches for new faculty, she also sat down with the faculty already here and conceptualized a new direction for the department. Some of the first things they felt needed to be done were establishing a new name to match the department's new identity and putting a name on the building, which – thanks to the lack of one – was frequently confused with the Physical Plant next door.
“You can't just change the name of your department,” Lumpkin said. “You can't just change the name of your building. All of these things had to go through extensive approval processes, all the way to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). They're very important – you don't want an old name if you've got new degrees, and you don't want a building that's confused with the Physical Plant. It had no name, it was just a building.”
The new name, the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management, was approved in April 2015. The building was named six months later.
While the new names may have been the most obvious changes to those outside the department, alterations to the curriculum were by far the biggest differences Lumpkin made working with the faculty.
The department phased out the undergraduate tracks in physical education teacher education and exercise and health promotion, then revised the tracks for exercise sciences and sport management. It revised the minors in athletic coaching, exercise science, sport management and health and added an online minor in public health.
With THECB approval, it changed the name of the bachelor's and master's degrees in exercise and sport sciences to kinesiology. It obtained degree-granting authority for bachelor's and master's degrees in sport management. And it refocused its graduate specializations, cutting from seven to three: clinical exercise physiology, human performance in exercise physiology, and motor behavior/exercise and sport psychology.
“Our curriculum continues to change,” Lumpkin said. “The curriculum changes because the faculty change. We have really solid curricula now, but it's taken us a while to get there.”
With the curriculum well on its way to success, Lumpkin next focused on reducing faculty turnover. She organized departmental teaching workshops and established a mentoring program for first-year and pre-tenured faculty in which each individual is mentored by two people: Lumpkin on how things are done in the department, and a mentor in their discipline on how to be successful as a researcher.
Working with the faculty, she also implemented new program assessments and a minimum 2.5 grade point average for undergraduates, which may increase to 2.75 in 2020.
“The grade point average has two purposes,” Lumpkin said. “If you're not really serious about these two fields, go try something else; and if you are in one of our majors, we expect you to be serious.”
All told, the department has made more than 200 curricular changes since fall 2014.
The way things are
Some of those changes will be seen for the first time in the coming months.
After working for more than two years to achieve all the necessary approvals both on campus and through the THECB, the department will open a doctoral program in exercise physiology this fall. The program is still pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, but Lumpkin anticipates that will happen in early 2019.
“Getting a doctoral program has made a huge difference on the kinesiology side,” Lumpkin said. “You cannot keep the best faculty in the sciences without a doctoral program because they believe that working with doctoral students is essential to their own productivity.”
Also starting this fall are two dual-degree programs. The first is a collaboration between the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management and the Texas Tech School of Law, through which students simultaneously can earn a master's degree in sport management and a juris doctorate over the course of three years. Four students have enrolled for the fall.
The second is an informal agreement with the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business through which students can earn a master's degree in sport management and a master of business administration. It will have at least one student in its inaugural semester.
The supremacy of Texas Tech's curriculum was thrown into sharp relief for Lumpkin recently at a meeting with the heads of similar programs at other universities. Many complained of declining enrollment and didn't know how to fix their problems.
By comparison, Texas Tech offers a heavily science-based kinesiology program and a business-focused sport management program. The department now has more than 1,200 undergraduate kinesiology majors – the largest total of any major at the university – and more than 300 undergraduate sport management majors, a fact Lumpkin attributes to the curricular changes.
“Institutions that try to put the kinesiology name on a traditional curriculum are going to lose students,” she said. “Our sport management program has changed completely from what it was – it was half kinesiology and half sport management. Students were not motivated to take multiple science courses, and I don't blame them – they want to study sports.”
A major reason for dividing the two programs is the discrepancy in fields they apply to, and that's something students need to consider when choosing their major.
Sport management, with its business focus, is a whole different world from kinesiology.
“The undergraduates are going to get entry-level positions in college and professional sports, or a handful will work in the fitness industry or for Parks & Recreation, but that's miniscule,” Lumpkin said. “When I say ‘entry level,' you need to understand they're not going to manage anybody. It's grunt work – they're starting at the bottom.
“Entry level gets paid worse than teachers do, but the upside is really high. If they become general manager of the Spurs – although that job is filled right now – they're in seven figures when they finish their career, but there's not a lot of those positions.”
Both undergraduate and graduate students in sport management are required to complete internships. After the six-hour internship for master's students, they have the necessary experience to start in supervisory positions, typically on the intercollegiate and professional levels.
“A lot of people get their minds a little blurred because of ESPN, but there are approximately 4,000 colleges and universities in this country,” Lumpkin said. “Not all of them have sport programs, but a lot of them do. Everybody looks at Texas Tech and thinks, ‘That's where the jobs are,' but there are a whole lot more Lubbock Christian University-comparable institutions, where you don't have 200 people working for your athletic program, you might have 10 – but there's a lot more of them.”
Sport management, Lumpkin said, is really about all the behind-the scenes work that goes into sporting events.
“The amount of people it takes for the Cowboys to play a football game on a Sunday is hundreds and hundreds more than the 100 guys who are on the field,” she said. “All of the marketing that went behind that or all the front office operations, the sport analytics, taking care of the athletes – there's so much happening behind the scenes that nobody ever pays attention to. And that's probably the most eye-opening experience for our sport management students.”
Kinesiology, with its focus on science of the human body, is more applicable for students who want to work in health care professions.
“Our absolute top students want to go in to physical therapy,” Lumpkin said. “To get into physical therapy school, especially at Texas Tech, is really competitive.”
Most other kinesiology students go into occupational therapy, nursing and fitness programs.
“That's why we have a much more science-based kinesiology program, because our students can go directly into any of those programs if they complete our degree,” Lumpkin said. “They will have taken all the pre-requisites, and we work very closely with them to do that. Some of the students, obviously, will choose to go into graduate programs and we have some of those in our own program.”
Kinesiology graduate students have three tracks to choose from. Clinical exercise physiology, the most popular of the three, prepares them to work in cardiac rehab.
“From the human performance side, they're much more into fitness programs, personal training – they become strength coaches, personal trainers and work in the fitness industry,” Lumpkin said. “And then we have a small handful in the third area, motor behavior and exercise and sport psychology, and they're really more interested in using that as a stepping stone into doctoral programs.”
To help its students achieve their goals, the department has increased its nine-month stipend for graduate teaching assistants from $10,000 to $13,000, plus, it covers their full tuition and fees for nine credit hours each fall and spring semester.
“We also started funding, at a small level, undergraduate students who do research with faculty and go present their work,” Lumpkin said. “It's been very well received by students.”
With its basis in science of the human body, kinesiology offers some of the most visually interesting research laboratories. While some do have the test tubes and metal-topped tables you might expect to find in a science lab, a greater percentage have workout equipment and advanced monitoring tools.
These laboratories, Lumpkin said, are what really set the department's new home apart.
“We have one of the best facilities on campus,” she said. “We're very proud of our facility. A classroom is a classroom is a classroom, and an office is an office is an office. But our research facilities are very impressive.”
“Every researcher has a lab on the exercise physiology side,” Lumpkin said. “Most people have no idea this exists or what we do over here.
“The potential in this department is astronomical. I'm not at liberty to tell you the startup packages that purchased all that equipment, but the College of Arts & Sciences, the vice president for research and the provost have supported our department, and they see the potential in our department. They feel like the potential to get grants and to put our department and our university on the map is very high. There's a lot of money out there to study the human body and health disparities.”
Sport management research
Sport management faculty members are deep into research as well.
Assistant professor Matt Huml focuses on the academic experience of student-athletes, including community engagement, interactions with university academic personnel, the balance of time commitments within intercollegiate athletics and academics, and the interaction between intercollegiate athletics and student-athletes choosing an academic major and intended career path.
Assistant professor Christopher McLeod studies sport at the intersection of ecology, economics and politics. He uses interdisciplinary theories and methods from ecological economics, economic sociology, political economy and cultural studies to develop policy for a steady-state sport economy, to measure the precarity of work in sport events and to understand how new sport organizations conceive of and create markets. He hopes to assist scholars, practitioners, students and citizens in organizing sport so that it is sustainable, equitable and just.
Assistant professor N. David Pifer focuses on the financial and economic aspects of sport, specifically sports analytics and how individuals and organizations can use data and statistical techniques to make more informed decisions. With specific applications in player and team performance evaluations, payroll management, hiring and firing decisions, fantasy sports and sports gambling, his research touches upon all of these areas within professional and upper-level collegiate sport.
Lumpkin conducts research in sport ethics, leadership, intercollegiate athletics, women in sport and teaching effectiveness. Her projects include the academic performance of high school students, the ethical conundrum of intercollegiate athletics, values-based leadership in intercollegiate athletics, examining the career paths of athletic administrators and athletic directors in intercollegiate athletics, student perceptions of active learning, student-centered learning activities and use of class time to increase student engagement.
Even with such a small faculty size, Lumpkin said they are highly productive in research and publishing. It's a fact she attributes, in part, to their youth.
“The senior person in sport management, besides me, is in his second year,” Lumpkin said. “That's not a senior faculty, and yet they're all good. These are people who have got to get tenure, so it's a very active, young faculty.
“They're collaborating, they're productive scholars in their writing, and they're excellent teachers. We're not just hiring people we've got to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on for labs, we're also hiring really good people who are doing a totally different line of research.”
It's been a long and involved four years, helping the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management to grow into itself. But it now has a successful plan and outstanding faculty in place, plus seven new faculty members who are starting this fall: three assistant professors in sport management, two assistant professors in kinesiology and two assistant professors of practice in kinesiology. All told, Lumpkin is optimistic about the department's future.
“Now we know who we are and what kind of faculty we're hiring and where we want to go as a department,” she said. “It is remarkable, the potential here.”