Academic Program Review SUMMARY*  


Department under review: Athletic Training Program, Dept of Exercise and Sport Science


Date self-study received in Dean’s office

            Spring 2007

Date of external consultant’s review

             Spring 2006

Date APR received report

              Fall 2010

APR’S summary of self-study (first two boxes must be completed)

The Athletic Training (AT) program’s 2007 self-study lists a number of objectives for the program.  These objectives combine an emphasis on student success in the classroom with opportunities for clinical experience for majors, along with the goals of providing professional training and placement for graduates. 

The program has demonstrated significant success in catering to the educational and professional-development needs of students.  The self-study reports a remarkable record of 90% first-time passage rate on the Board of Certification (BOC) exams (see Appendix 3 page 3, dating to 2006), a 100% placement rate for graduates over the last 23 years, and success in increasing the number of students even while maintaining selectivity in admission.


APR’s comments including:

Notable Strengths


The highlights of this program include its comparative longevity within this region.  As a program that descends indirectly from UW-L’s historical emphasis on physical education in the early 20th century, this program boasts of its more-than-25 year history, making it the first of its kind in the region.  Despite the growth of competition, the AT program continues to lead the region in national accreditation and academic rigor. 


The historic nature of this program provides a significant foundation for continued success.  With this head start on the region, the Athletic Training program has developed a complex curriculum taught by a large number of competent and credentialed faculty, allowing it to meet the strict and evolving demands of professional accrediting bodies.


Perhaps the most significant strength of the program is evident in its ability to be selective in admitting and retaining majors, leading directly to an impressively high quality of graduates.


Notable Weaknesses


The most significant structural weakness of this program appears to be the lack of tenure-track full-time faculty aside from the director, a longstanding problem.  This seems to be particularly unsustainable in the long term, as there is no relief or replacement capability for the long-standing director of this program, the loss or temporary incapacity of whom would severely endanger the continuation of this large and complicated program.  By its very nature, professional education has more service demands related to maintaining certification and standing with national accrediting bodies than other types of programs. To have such a program depend upon the continuity of a single person, for whom there is little possibility of research sabbatical or replacement, seems unwise.  Additionally, the external accreditor (the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education) appears to be extremely particular and detailed in producing competency requirements for credentialing and curricular design, creating a significant logistical overhead that rests upon a single faculty member.  Along with continuity and research productivity for the single tenure-track faculty member, future expansion of graduate degrees in this field (see AT self-study IV.B.) is threatened by the minimal number of faculty engaged in research in the field.


APR comments on any/all of the six specific components of the self-study  (if applicable)


Self Study: Purposes

 As described in the self-study, the purpose of the program is to offer students a rigorous education in the profession of athletic training.  This includes a strong classroom experience with supervised clinical educational opportunities.  La Crosse’s program was the first to be nationally accredited in the State of Wisconsin.  Also, the staff  serve as a component of the Intercollegiate Athletic Program.  Objectives of the program include preparing students for the BOC certification exam, developing individuals with high professional and ethical standards, and those who value education and life-long learning.


Self Study: Curriculum

 The athletic training program is typical of other accredited athletic training programs where the common Standards and Guidelines are used to establish accreditation.  The curriculum meets national standards for coursework in athletic training.  Notable features include:  1.)  the program is a separate major in the department, 2.) it accepts applications for the observational year during the student’s senior year in high school, 3.) clinical rotations and internships are completed while the student is enrolled in classroom coursework.

 Self Study: Assessment of Student Learning & Degree of Program Success

 The competencies identified by the CAATE serve to provide content for the course work and for curricular development.   Program and student assessment is addressed by analysis of student learning outcomes (measured by the BOC examination), clinical evaluations, and course grading schemes.  Clinical instructor and Faculty evaluations are completed by students on all instructors in the program on at least an annual basis.  There are senior exit evaluations, alumni surveys, and employer surveys as well.   According to placement data the students enjoy a 100% placement rate over the last 23 years.  In addition, the AT program is able to help place interested students in top graduate programs in the country.   Board of Certification results indicate that the program far exceeds the national average for first time passing rates on the certification examination by an average of 31 percentage points over the last 5 years.  A further sign of the strength of the program lies in how AT makes use of a competitive application process.  The program is able to consistently draw high quality students and increase the standards for admission.  Thus even though the total number of applicants is fewer, the quality of the program continues to improve as the total number of admitted students is limited.  This results in an extremely high quality of graduate.   Notable changes via assessment include the addition and fortification of the General Medical clinical experience and the addition of a clinical coordinator.  There have been curricular changes as well.  The area of greatest concern in the AT self-study lies in the limited number of tenured faculty.  It is believed that an increase in this would lead to greater scholarly productivity, as the majority of the non-tenured staff is involved in the clinical education of the students.

Self Study: Previous Academic Program Review and New Program Initiatives

 In response to the previous APR, along with the administrative and external review from CAATE, AT undertook a number of initiatives over the last decade.  These included the creation of a clinical coordinator position, refreshing clinical space and technology, adding a general medical clinical rotation to the curriculum, training and credentialing more of the program’s instructors, and building the overall size of the program.  The AT program would appear to be both responsive to critiques, and successful in its responses.  While the 2007 self-study only outlined plans to refresh the 109 Mitchell Hall clinical education space, Fall 2010 discussions with the director indicated the success of these plans.  The addition of a general medical rotation and Cordial Gilette as Coordinator of Clinical Education, as well as the accreditation in 2007 of 11 of the 19 faculty as “Approved Clinical Instructors,” would indicate success in response to critiques.  The planned expansion of the program from a prior target of 8-10 students per year to an average of 13 graduates over the seven years after 02-03 academic year (as reported in the most recent UDS), shows that the AT has had success in meeting the new target of 10-14 accepted applicants per year and showing successful retention and graduation of these students.

Self Study: Personnel


It is evident from the 2007 self study, ancillary materials, and 2010 discussions with the director that while the large numbers of Instructional Academic Staff ably handle the curricular and classroom needs of the program, the lack of tenure-track faculty hobble the future of the program.  There is significant emphasis on teaching abilities within the body of 19 Instructional Academic Staff members, 1 tenure-track faculty member, and one clinical coordinator.  Of that large number of IAS, only a small number (4 at the time of the external review) are full time, with most teaching only a single course, occasionally, as their primary employment is within other departments or athletic programs on campus.  But, as the self-study puts it, “The primary need . . . is for an additional tenure line faculty that would bring additional expertise to the classroom setting and undergraduate research activities . . . This would require an additional FTE within the next few years.” (V.C.)  This text was written three years ago, and yet this issue has yet to be successfully addressed.  Based on the response in the Dean’s letter, there is no indication that it will be addressed in the near future.


Self Study: Support for Achieving Academic Program Goals (Resources)

 The text of the 2007 self-study describes physical facilities, staffing, and funding for faculty development to be adequate and sufficient, save for the concerns about tenure-track faculty outlined above in previous sections of the self-study.

External Reviewer Recommendations

APR’s Comments on External Reviewer (if applicable)

 In February of 2006, the UW-L AT program hosted an on-site visit from external reviewers representing CAATE (and combining to represent to professional organizations the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, Inc.).  The two members of the site visit team interviewed 48 faculty, staff and students.  The finished report praises the program’s experience, spirit, commitment to clinical and academic experience, BOC passage rates and graduate placement record.  The report identified challenges for the program as being a lack of appropriately equipped clinical classrooms, a lack of affiliation with “additional allied health related professionals,” and specifically recommended hiring a clinical coordinator.  While not significant enough to merit inclusion in major findings of the report, external reviewers also went through the program’s curriculum, advising, certification and evaluation standards with meticulous detail, recommending alterations and amendments in procedure where practice did not meet professional standards, and requesting further documentation for some aspects of the program.


Department’s response to the Reviewer Recommendations

APR’s Comments on the Department’s Response (if applicable)

Immediately after the site visit report was issued, the AT program responded with requested documentation, with a plan to refresh clinical teaching space, to make available recommended therapeutic equipment, to incorporate a general medical rotation into the curriculum, and to create a clinical coordinator position.  In the nearly five years since the external reviewer’s visit, the program has responded substantively to external reviewers recommendation (see Previous Academic Program Review and New Program Initiatives, above; Appendix 4 of APR AT self-study).

Dean’s Letter

APR’s Comments on Dean’s Letter (if applicable)


APR finds this letter insufficiently timely or substantive to be helpful either to the program or to the APR in assessing program goals or actions.


APR’s Recommendations (must be completed)



1.  The Academic Program Review committee of the Faculty Senate recommends that the Athletic Training program work with administrators to further develop arguments and evidence in support of additional tenure-track faculty lines.  The AT program can make this case by presenting evidence of significant and increasing workload demand on the director, evidence of difficulty meeting future teaching needs, and evidence that the profession has an increased expectation of scholarly production on the part of faculty.  The AT program’s case might also be strengthened by presenting evidence concerning specific impacts of additional tenure-track faculty on student learning experiences, such as the continual need to strengthen student research opportunities through mentoring from faculty who are themselves researchers, and the possible need for more faculty members to cover specialized topics in the future.  There are additional arguments to be made: The fact that the director advised 74 students in 2007 is clearly an indication of an imbalanced workload.  But administrators should also consider increased expectations that AT faculty perform all teaching and administrative roles even while producing scholarly research in step with the state of the field.  Strategic foresight would also indicate that having a single tenure-track faculty in this large program does not provide for leadership and bureaucratic continuity.  This is also a place in which workload demand on a single faculty member is increasing, as CAATE revision of competencies will require significant bureaucratic and logistical organization work in the next external review, scheduled for 2012-2013 (  While the AT program was the first of its kind in the region, nine programs like it have been created in the last decade in the surrounding area, making it crucial that the AT program maintain high academic standards, develop undergraduate research opportunities, and maintain academically-engaged faculty in order to continue to distinguish this program from its competitors.


2.  The APR recommends that the AT program develop a more detailed strategic plan in concert with the Academic Planning Committee to address concerns about future expansion of graduate degrees, administrative relocation, and program competitiveness in the region.  In particular, APR notes that in response to external reviewer’s recommendations, the AT program moved in the last four years to more closely align its curriculum with the Department of Health Professions in the College of Science and Health, and to increase opportunities for general medical clinical experience for students. The success of these actions indicates that the AT program should continue to explore the possibility of administrative relocation.


3.  According to Unit Data Sheets from 2006 and 2010, graduates of the AT program leave UW-L with, on average, significantly more than 120 credits.  This seems to be the product of students enrolled in multiple programs with additional credits in health-related majors, and thus not something that the AT curriculum has caused.  Certainly, external reviewer speaks positively of the fact that the program is three years long, with time for significant treatment of topics (appendix 3, Overview).  However, the UDS reports that students graduate on average with more than 140 credits, above UW-L targets, and in combination with student feedback on the serious travel and time commitment of the program (self study Appendix 4), represents a potential concern.  The program should monitor this in the future, take steps to advise students in ways that minimize excess credits, and make certain to justify this discrepancy from desirable SCH numbers in the future.


4.  For future self-study reports, the AT program should include qualitative evaluations, statements, and opinions from students themselves about their classroom experience, success, goals, and clinical opportunities.  While the AT response to external accreditor’s report included summaries of student evaluations, this information was not clearly referenced, sampled or quoted in any reports (AT Self-Study Appendix 4, page 42).  Particularly in relation to opportunities or limits on undergraduate research opportunities, these student narratives should be used to support assertions about program quality, classroom instruction and clinical experience.


X  No serious areas to address – review in 7 years

□  Some areas to address – review in 7 years

□  Some areas to address – department should submit short report on progress to Fac 

      Senate/Provost’s Office in 3 years

*  APR’s report to faculty senate will consist of this completed form in electronic form.