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MSU professor leads fitness to a new level

Like most small-town high school students, Heather Golly, assistant professor and Minot State University's Athletic Training Education Program director, found her rhythm in sports. She participated in the usual girls' basketball and track, and the not-so-usual competitive bodybuilding and bench press competitions.

As a MSU (fast-pitch baseball) undergrad, Golly decided to parlay her athletic inclinations into a career and double majored in physical education and corporate fitness, while completing an athletic training internship.

Initially athletic training education required mentorship by someone in sports medicine or completing an apprenticeship. The National Athletic Trainer's Association sought to improve consistency in the education and required certification consisting of two pathways. A student could complete courses and an internship with a certified athletic trainer; or they could complete a bachelor's degree with a major in athletic training. Either route would allow a student to be eligible to sit for a rigorous certification exam.

In 1994, NATA appointed the Education Task Force to lead the next educational reform movement. After two years of research, the task force recommended a single route to certification requiring a student graduate from an accredited athletic-training education program, which eliminated athletic training internships.

"I completed the athletic training internship at MSU in 1996, which was one of the last years it existed," Golly noted. "The industry was changing, and the internship was eliminated."

After four years as a certified athletic trainer and certified strength-and-conditioning specialist with MSU men's and women's athletic teams, Golly left to pursue her master's degree in exercise science from Ohio State University. Golly returned to Minot in 2002 and taught courses in the Department of Teacher Education and Human Performance.

"I came back to North Dakota to be close to family and friends," Golly said. "I aspired to teach and do research to promote fitness."

In 2006, MSU started developing the ATEP, which the State Board of Higher Education approved in 2008. At the same time, Golly began pursuing her doctoral in adult education.

"I don't know that I'd ever do that again - work on a doctorate at the same time I am building a new program and designing a state-of-the-art sports medicine center," she said. "But everything I did for class I could apply to my work in creating curriculum."

Golly defended her dissertation in February 2011 and she will defend her program this month for accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education.

"The accreditation process has been good in helping us set up a solid foundation for the ATEP. I feel good about our progress."

This spring, the ATEP graduates its first class of three to sit for the certification exam. "These students took a leap of faith four years ago hoping this program would come to fruition," Golly said. "And it did!"