New York Woman Finds Arkansas Online Master’s in Physical Education Meets Her Needs

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Professor Jack Kern visits master’s student Cassandra Clark in New York during his travels to recruit students and attend professional conferences.

March 28, 2024  |  by Heidi Wells, Global Campus

Being an effective grant-writer can have a big impact on a teacher’s success.

A New York teacher found a class on grant-writing to be one highlight of the University of Arkansas master’s in physical education she earned online.

The course covered all of the aspects of writing a grant proposal likely to receive a favorable response, and graduate Cassandra Clark plans to use the information in her teaching career. Grant-writing is the process of applying for funds from government agencies or nonprofit organizations.

“The U of A had a grant-writing course at the end of the program, instead of a typical master’s thesis,” Clark said. “I really thought that was super useful. I intend to take that knowledge with me, wherever I go.”

One of the biggest takeaways, she said, was being able to take a vision for something new and innovative and explain it to others. And, alternatively, for some schools, grant money could be used for the most typical of childhood activities to pay for bicycles and helmets, she said. Both are important.

“The grant-writing course gave me a pretty good outline or framework,” Clark said. “It helped me to understand what grant proposals are asking for, knowing who to go to for information, where to look for grants and other funds. I feel pretty confident after doing the course about finding information to access some funds.”

Jack Kern, a professor of physical education at the U of A, said the grant-writing course includes a capstone project that requires students to complete a grant proposal. Students must demonstrate a full understanding of the process, he said.

Often, school budgets include money for basic equipment, Kern said, but not always enough to buy equipment that can enhance a physical education program, such as bicycles and pickleball paddles and balls.

“Understanding the grant-writing process will provide confidence for a teacher to pursue funding options to provide a more well-rounded PE program,” he said.

It’s unlikely teachers in the master’s program have been exposed to instruction about grant writing elsewhere, Kern said, and having the knowledge and skills creates another tool they can use.

“Oftentimes, the media will highlight teachers who have been awarded grants, so I think it adds to a school’s reputation,” he said. “Surely doesn’t hurt!”


Online Delivery

Clark was named Outstanding Student of the Year for the PE master’s program in the College of Education and Health Professions at the U of A.
Clark was named Outstanding Student of the Year for the PE master’s program in the College of Education and Health Professions at the U of A.

Clark has lived on both coasts of the United States. When she wanted to earn a master’s degree in physical education, she headed inland – to Arkansas – but she didn’t have to actually go to the centrally located, landlocked state to get her degree. She did fly to Fayetteville shortly before commencement after she was named the program’s Outstanding Student of the Year. The College of Education and Health Professions honored its top students at a spring banquet.

Clark grew up in New York state but lived for 10 years in California, where she earned a bachelor's degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on physical education from San Diego State University, before returning to the East Coast. After teaching for nine years in upstate New York, north of Syracuse, Clark made a shift and began taking substitute teaching jobs because she is interested in getting to know some of the other local school districts better while also exploring multiple grade levels.

Clark is one of several graduates of the online master’s in physical education to complete it from their homes in Northeastern states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. The program has a record number of new students this spring, including a few from Connecticut and 10 from the Northeast, Kern said.

Clark found out about the online master’s in physical education from a former classmate in San Diego who had done the U of A program.

“I didn’t know anything about Arkansas,” she said. “My friend really liked the content that was in the program. I did a little more digging around myself, comparing it with other programs I was considering.”

Clark took a little longer to finish the online program than most students, starting in 2017 and finishing last spring, because she took a break. The online master’s in physical education can be completed in two years.


Keep Moving

Clark celebrates her success in the master’s program during a visit to the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.
Clark celebrates her success in the master’s program during a visit to the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.

Clark is interested in what she looks at as a new type of physical education, usually not sports-specific, that incorporates activities such as canoeing that a wider range of people can enjoy.

“I had grown up as a gymnast, and I loved going to phys-ed classes,” she said. “All through high school, instead of going to study hall, I would jump in and join PE classes. I liked being active.”

She acknowledges some people are not like her. They don’t like moving their bodies, but she wonders whether it’s a matter of making the effort to find a particular type of movement they would enjoy.

“Living in San Diego, I was outside and moving all the time,” she recalled. “I wanted to help people start developing some sort of joy early in their lives that they could take with them and explore.”

Clark also wants to focus on getting students to put their phones down and enjoy some human interaction. PE can blend well with technology from playing music while exercising to using fitness apps, she noted, but selfies will be allowed only after the work is done in her classes.

PE teachers face challenges such as some students’ lack of confidence with social anxiety mixed in and sometimes their inability to see what they can take away from a PE class, Clark said.

“They don’t want to mess up in front of peers,” she said. “I tell them, hey I’m not trying to pump out Olympic athletes. I’m trying to keep you healthy, educating you on ways to stay active. This may not be your favorite unit, but we’re doing it. I want you to show up, not only for yourself, but to be a body on the floor to help with group activities.

“I have had conversations with students who say they don’t see the point,” Clark continued. “I always say there is something you can take away, something you may be able to use for your career path. Think deeply about what skill you’re pulling from, what can take you farther.”

Some of those skills include healthy lifestyle habits, improved social skills and mental health coping skills, discipline and goal-setting.

A well-rounded phys-ed program offers all types of activities, Clark said. Team sports teach students how to communicate and work with others, while individual activities such as yoga may be more about fitness or stress relief. Others such as water safety help with skills that could be useful for a lifetime.

“I’d hate for you to be on a boat when you’re 23 and you’re freaking out because you don’t know how to be in and around water,” she said.


Highly Recommend

Clark found the U of A’s fully online program perfect for her. She has already recommended it to other teachers. The faculty were also warm, approachable and professional, treating students as equals, she said.

“I had such a fantastic time,” she said. “All of the instructors and professors were so amazing. They were supportive and open if something was going on in your life. They let us know, we can accommodate you, we can make a plan to make sure you’re successful.”

To learn more, visit the program website

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Heidi Wells

Content Strategist

Heidi Wells is the content strategist for the Global Campus at the University of Arkansas and editor of The Online Learner. Her writing spans more than 30 years as a communicator at the U of A and a reporter and editor at Arkansas newspapers. Wells earned two degrees from the U of A: a master's in 2013 and a bachelor's in 1988.

Wells can be reached at or 479-575-7239.

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Master of Education in Physical Education

The M.Ed. in Physical Education program allows practicing physical education professionals an opportunity to receive advanced training in their field, along with a Master’s degree. Advanced degrees are factors that determine pay grades in many schools.

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