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My Doctoral Journey in Kinesiology & Health Promotion

Dr. Lauren Willis

I completed my undergraduate degree in Health and Physical Education at a private, Christian university in 2012 and went on to complete two more master degrees at the same institution before applying for a doctoral program at the University of Kentucky. Coming from a small, private college where I had a great experience, I was a bit anxious to see what it would be like to experience a large university like UK. I fully expected to be a number and not a person, to come and leave class without being noticed by anyone, and to make it to the dissertation phase before ever having made contact with my adviser. My experience at the University of Kentucky could not have been more different from what I anticipated.

Before even enrolling in classes, I met with my adviser, Dr. Heather Erwin, and we were able to discuss my plans and future classes at length. This informal meeting was very helpful initially because it gave me a good idea of what to expect for my course work and it established a great relationship with Dr. Erwin, which continued throughout my program. She met with me each semester to answer questions, served as the chair of my dissertation committee, taught a couple of my classes, and went way above all of my expectations.

The classes that I attended on campus were smaller than I expected with the largest being close to 30 students. All of my KHP professors were personable, kind, helpful, and extremely available – much to my initial surprise. I truly felt that they cared for each student, were invested in our success in their classes, and in our individual programs. I felt that I gained valuable information from each class and was able to apply those skills in the dissertation process.

The dissertation was a marathon and one that I recommend you organize and plan out well before the first dissertation credits begin. The research portion, and thereby the writing process, was very smooth because I began to research and organize my information a year in advance. I had identified various research topics, found as many articles as possible on the topic, and organized those into folders with highlighted information that I planned to reference in the writing process. From there, my first two chapters went quickly because everything was organized and ready to write.

The PhD process at UK was daunting, but through great people, wonderful experiences, and a tremendous amount of preparation I graduated in May 2019 with a PhD in Education Sciences – Physical Education Teacher Education. For those on the fence, I would highly recommend any program in KHP! Check out the graduate opportunities in KHP here: https://education.uky.edu/khp/grad/

Dr. Lauren Willis photo
Dr. Lauren Willis is an assistant professor in the Human Performance Division and lead professor for Health and Physical Education at Campbellsville University. She teaches a variety of classes in Health and Physical Education methodology and assessment as well as some courses for Sport Management and Fitness/Wellness. Her research relates to school-aged children’s activity levels and Sport Psychology.