Integrated health sciences bachelor’s, athletic training master’s degrees approved for WCU

Jill Manners (center, left), associate professor in WCU’s Athletic Training Program, teaches sophomores how to apply a splint to a lower extremity injury. The University of North Carolina Board of Governors recently gave its approval for a new master’s degree program in athletic training at WCU to replace the existing undergraduate program. The board also approved a new master’s degree program in integrated health sciences.

Western Carolina University will begin offering a bachelor’s degree program in integrated health sciences and a master’s degree program in athletic training after approval of the two new academic offerings Friday, Nov. 3, by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The new integrated health sciences degree program is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2018, with the master’s degree program in athletic training expected to enroll its first students in the summer of 2020. Both programs will be housed in WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

“These two new programs will enhance the efforts of our College of Health and Human Sciences to prepare highly trained graduates who will be ready to help meet the health care needs of Western North Carolina and the state,” said Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar. “They align perfectly with our university strategic plan’s goal of prioritizing academic programs in curricular focus areas, which include the health care field.”

The integrated health sciences program is designed for students who have a broad-based interest in the health care profession, said Doug Keskula, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences.

“This innovative and flexible program of study is intended to equally serve entry-level and transfer students. The degree also may be an attractive option for students with associate degrees wanting to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree,” Keskula said. “Our culturally competent graduates will be prepared to fill various roles that support healthy living across diverse populations in businesses, community organizations and numerous support positions throughout the health care industry.”

The program will feature interdisciplinary course work that includes instruction in epidemiology; health behaviors; statistics; population, community and personal wellness; disease prevention; and health care policy and economics. It also will have three 24-credit-hour concentrations including health management, health and wellness, and a pre-professional tract for students wanting to earn post-baccalaureate professional or graduate degrees.

“The interdisciplinary nature of the training will prepare WCU graduates to work effectively and efficiently within a complex and evolving health care environment,” Keskula said. “Our graduates will be highly competitive within high-demand, regional and national job markets that serve a broad array of health needs at the community, population and individual levels.”

The new master’s degree program in athletic training will replace WCU’s existing bachelor’s degree program in that field, which will be phased out over the next couple of years, said Ericka Zimmerman, director of the School of Health Sciences in the College of Health and Human Sciences.

The change is necessary to meet requirements of the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education, which will require that professional degree programs in athletic training be offered at the master’s degree level by the year 2022.

Program graduates will help meet growing demand for athletic training services across the state, Zimmerman said.

“Athletic trainers are becoming an integral part of the job market beyond high schools, universities and professional sports. Emerging settings, such as performing arts, public safety, the military and occupational health, make up an increasing percentage of the job market,” she said. “WCU’s master’s degree program in athletic training is poised to meet the growing demand for athletic trainers in a variety of employment settings in North Carolina and across the United States.”

To learn more about the integrated health sciences bachelor’s degree program and athletic training master’s degree program, or any of the offerings in the College of Health and Human Sciences, visit the website