• Faculty mentors help students prepare for their chosen professions
  • At MTSU, Human Performance students choose from five specializations
  • Doctoral graduates are hooded by their major professors
  • The Kinesmetrics Lab offers a consulting service to HHP students and faculty

Human Performance Ph.D.

The Ph.D. in Human Performance program is designed to train doctoral-level students to become effective educators within a rapidly changing education and public service environment and to produce and publish scholarly research. Specializations are offered in exercise science, health, kinesmetrics, leisure studies, and physical education. The program is primarily for students with a master’s degree in one of these areas, but other applicants may be admitted by completing prerequisite courses and meeting other entry criteria. MTSU’s Center for Sport Policy and Research provides a distinctive academic research and instruction center where practical solutions for sport can be explored, researched, and implemented. The Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth promotes childhood physical activity to improve youth fitness levels and to help physical functions of youth with health impairments. The kinesmetrics laboratory also offers measurement and statistical consulting services.

Treadmill exercise helps overcome paralysis

Treadmill exercise helps overcome paralysis

Research being conducted at the MTSU Exercise Science laboratory is helping people with paralysis to walk again! Individuals with spinal cord injuries who are training in an underwater treadmill are able to stand and support themselves and are taking steps toward a new beginning. “We have participants who have come to MTSU from other states because there is nothing similar,” says Dr. Sandy Stevens, an assistant professor who oversees the treadmill program. “If one thing has consistently changed throughout the course of treatment, it is that hope has been restored. When the participants see their legs moving, they believe that anything is possible.” Walking in water produces greater blood flow for people with severe spinal cord trauma and increases cardiovascular activity. “It’s much easier to give somebody a glass of water, to give some help; it’s much harder to give some hope,” research subject Andriy Ogorodink says. MTSU students earlier used the 270-gallon fiberglass tank of water to help children with cerebral palsy increase muscle strength and improve mobility.

Student impressed by mentors, Ph.D. job placement

Student impressed by mentors, Ph.D. job placement

Preparation is invaluable to any student. Brad Camp, a Ph.D. candidate in Human Performance with an emphasis in Leisure Studies, chose MTSU for that exact reason. Camp experienced firsthand the unique assistance that he and fellow classmates have received. “MTSU has a proven track record of getting Ph.D. students hired across the nation. I have watched office mates and colleagues go out and have success obtaining employment.” His keen interest in the importance of leisure as a way to maintain a healthy, well-established society persuaded Camp to continue on to a doctorate. He also believes faculty are indispensable to the program, providing both support and mentorship. "Dr. Gray truly cares about her graduate students, and she prepares them to become professionals once they leave ... Dr. Dunlap has introduced me to a wide variety of scholarship. He is incredibly well read, and he constantly encourages me to read new things.” Camp’s dissertation focuses on the impact of urban-built environments on social interaction.

The Ph.D. in Human Performance is offered for the purpose of developing doctoral level expertise in research (both applied and theoretical) and as preparation for teaching at the collegiate level. Some positions currently held by alumni from the doctoral program include

  • Athletic trainer
  • Behavioral sleep medicine specialist
  • College athletics head coach
  • Physical education teacher
  • Strength and conditioning coach
  • University professor 

Employers of MTSU alumni include

  • Bowling Green State University
  • BYU—Hawaii
  • Columbus State University
  • Cumberland University
  • East Tennessee State University
  • Endicott College, School of Sport Science and Fitness Studies
  • Gustavus Adolphus College
  • Kansas State University
  • Lipscomb University
  • Mesa State University
  • Montana State University—Northern
  • National Basketball Association/Brooklyn Nets
  • Roanoke College
  • Syracuse University
  • Taylor University
  • Tennessee Technological University
  • Texas Tech University
  • Trinity Elementary School
  • Troy University
  • University of Tennessee—Martin
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center
  • West Virginia University
  • Western Kentucky University


MTSU’s doctoral program leads to the Ph.D. in Human Performance degree, with the following specializations:

  • Exercise science researches physical activity and metabolism.
  • Health researches questions that deal with community and public health, school health, and lifetime wellness education.
  • Kinesmetrics researches measurement theory, statistics, and mathematical analysis in the field of kinesiology—the study of human movements.
  • Leisure studies researches leisure and sport organizations, methods of support in the expansion of leisure and sport industries, and other research that advances the understanding of leisure and sport in society.
  • Physical education researches pedagogical skills regarding how individuals learn and teach physical activity as part of the development of each individual.

Applicants holding only a bachelor’s degree will complete the requirements for an M.S. (thesis option) in addition to the Ph.D. requirements.

For complete curriculum details, click on the REQUIREMENTS  tab above.

Other degree programs offered by HHP

Three Master of Science degrees are available in the Department of Health and Human Performance: an M.S. in Health and Human Performance, with concentrations in Health and in Physical Education; an M.S. in Exercise Science; and an M.S. in Leisure and Sport Management, with concentrations in Sport Industry and in Recreation and Leisure Services.

Undergraduate majors in the department can attain a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Athletic TrainingExercise ScienceCommunity and Public Health (concentrations in Public Health and Health Education and Lifetime Wellness); Leisure, Sport, and Tourism Studies; or Physical Education. Both a B.S. and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree are available in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.

The department offers undergraduate minors in Athletic Coaching and Officiating, Driver and Traffic Safety Education, Communication Disorders, Health, Health and Physical Education, Health and Human Performance, Recreation, and Somatic Movement Education.

For more information on the Ph. D. in Human Performance, click here.

Apply Now!

Human Performance, Ph.D.

Minsoo Kang, Graduate Director
(615) 904-8426

The Department of Health and Human Performance offers three Master of Science degrees: one with a major in Exercise Science; one with a major in Health and Human Performance with concentrations in Health and Physical Education; and one with a major in Leisure and Sport Management with concentrations in Sport Industry and in Recreation and Leisure Services.

The department also offers the Ph.D. in Human Performance with specializations in five areas: Exercise Science, Health, Kinesmetrics, Leisure and Sport Management, and Physical Education. The Ph.D. degree is offered for the purpose of developing doctoral level expertise in research (both applied and theoretical) and as preparation for teaching at the collegiate level.

Additionally, the department offers courses in Communication Disorders (CDIS).

Please see undergraduate catalog for information regarding undergraduate programs.

Admission Requirements

Admissions decisions will be made after reviewing all materials and determining the applicant's capacity, suitability, and preparation for doctoral study. Admission decisions are based on consideration of a number of criteria that are believed to predict success in the Ph.D. program.

Admission to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Human Performance program requires

  1. an earned bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited university or college with an acceptable grade point average (GPA) in all college work taken. Successful applicants typically have a grade point average (GPA) on the last 60 hours of academic work of 3.00 or above on a 4.00 scale.
  2. completion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) with acceptable scores. Successful applicants to the Ph.D. program typically have scores that exceed 297 (current scale) or 1,000 (former scale). The Analytical Writing Assessment score is also considered.
  3. research skills. Successful applicants typically have statistical and research methodology skills as evidenced by coursework in both areas.
  4. coursework in a related field. Applicants with a bachelor's degree will be expected to have completed at least 18 hours of coursework in a related field. Applicants with a master's degree are expected to have completed at least 20 graduate hours in a related field.

Application Procedures

All application materials are to be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.

Applications for Summer/Fall admission must be complete by March 1, and applications for Spring admission must be complete by October 1. Late applicants who meet the admission criteria may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Applicants must submit

  1. application with the appropriate application fee (online at www.mtsu.edu/graduate/apply.php);
  2. official scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE);
  3. official transcripts of all previous college work;
  4. three letters of recommendation from persons who can address their academic qualifications and potential for success in doctoral study and teaching ability;
  5. a 400-500 word statement of purpose giving their reasons for applying to the Ph.D. program, academic interests, professional goals, and area of specialization.

Degree Requirements

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree in Human Performance must

  1. complete 60 credit hours past the master’s degree (see Curriculum section below for specifics). A maximum of 12 hours from the master’s degree may be transferred in from an accredited program. Two-thirds (40 semester hours) of the program must be at the 7000-level. Applicants holding only a bachelor’s degree will complete the requirements for an M.S. (thesis option) in addition to the Ph.D. requirements. 
  2. complete a thesis or scholarly equivalent prior to admission to candidacy.
  3. successfully complete preliminary examinations to advance to candidacy.
  4. be enrolled in full-time study (9 semester hours) for at least one semester to fulfill residency requirements.
  5. complete a dissertation and successfully defend it in the final oral examination.


All candidates for the Ph.D. in Human Performance must complete 60 hours in the following course of study:

Human Performance Core Requirements


  • HHP 7060 - Research Practicum in Human Performance

    1 to 6 credit hours

    Research experience under the direct supervision of a graduate faculty member resulting in the submission of a manuscript to a refereed journal or a grant to a funding agency.

  • HHP 7600 - Teaching Practicum in Human Performance

    3 credit hours

    Teaching experience under the direct supervision of graduate faculty member in a three-credit undergraduate course within the student's area of specialization. May be repeated once for a maximum of 6 credit hours. S/U grading.

Select 3 hours from the following:

  • FOED 7570 - Issues in Higher Education

    3 credit hours

    Higher education in America and its historical, philosophical, political, and sociological background, development, and relationships. Current trends and problems, particularly those relating to the financial and legal aspects.

  • FOED 7580 - The College Student

    3 credit hours

    The changing nature of the college student with emphasis on institutional efforts to provide for the development of the student.

Research Tools (12 hours)

 Choose two of the following:

  • HHP 7300 - Current Measurement Issues in Health and Human Performance

    3 credit hours

    Prerequisites: HHP 6610 and HHP 6700 or equivalent. Advanced applications of measurement theories (i.e., item response theory), test construction, statistical techniques, and computer software for measurement research in the area of health and human performance.

  • HHP 7700 - Advanced Data Analysis and Organization for Human Performance

    3 credit hours

    Prerequisites: HHP 6610 and HHP 6700 or equivalent. Skills and understanding necessary to read, conduct, report, and interpret advanced data analytical techniques using data from HHP. Practical and written assignments, presentations, examinations, and projects will furnish doctoral student with tools necessary for data analysis associated with dissertation requirement.

  • HHP 7720 - Advanced Research Methods in Health and Human Performance

    3 credit hours

    Examines the types of research methods, designs, and procedures that are required to conduct scholarly research in health and human performance. Students will read, interpret, and critique scientific research articles that are published in scholarly journals, and improve their skills in conducting and reporting their research in written and oral form.

  • Choose 6 additional credit hours (two courses) from statistics, research design, and data analysis in consultation with the graduate program advisor.

Dissertation (12 hours)


  • HHP 7640 - Dissertation Research  1 to 6 credit hours  (12 credit hours)

    HHP 7640 - Dissertation Research

    1 to 6 credit hours

    Assignment by department or chair of candidate's committee. Selection of a research problem, review of pertinent literature, collection and analysis of data, and composition of dissertation. Once enrolled, student should register for at least one credit hour of doctoral research each semester until completion. S/U grading

Specialization (24 hours)

A total of 24 hours coursework and independent research is to be selected in consultation with the graduate program advisor.

Program Notes

Pre-dissertation Advising - Upon admission to the Ph.D. program, the candidate will be assigned an advisor who (in cooperation with the graduate coordinator) will advise the student on an appropriate program of study and of any deficiencies to correct.

Preliminary Examinations - Upon completion of coursework, the candidate will be eligible to take preliminary exams. The written exams will be structured to test the student on the three content areas (research methodology and data analysis, Ph.D. socialization area, and area of research interest). All exams are to be taken within one calendar year.

Advancement to Candidacy - Upon successful completion of the preliminary exams, the student will file an "Advancement to Candidacy" form with the College of Graduate Studies. No more than six credit hours of C grade will count toward the Ph.D. degree requirements. D and F grades will not count toward degree requirements but will be computed in the GPA. The student must have a GPA of 3.25 for the program of studies to advance to candidacy.

Dissertation Committee - Upon advancement to candidacy, the student will formally construct his/her dissertation committee. The committee should include at a minimum three faculty members; two must be from the department, and one must be from outside the department. The chair of the committee must be a graduate faculty member.

Time Limit - There is a ten-year limit for completing all Ph.D. degree requirements, i.e., all doctoral coursework taken at MTSU, as well as the dissertation, must be completed within ten years of the first semester of enrollment.

Candidate must

  1. file a degree plan in the College of Graduate Studies prior to entry into the program;
  2. file a Notice of Intent to Graduate form in the College of Graduate Studies within the first two weeks of the semester in which candidate intends to graduate.

Dr. Vaughn W. Barry
Assistant Professor


Dr. Denise Bates
Associate Professor | Program Coordinator


Dr. Don Belcher
Associate Professor


Dr. Helen Binkley
Program Director | Associate Professor


Dr. Jennifer L. Caputo
Co-Director of Exercise Science | Professor


Dr. Scott Colclough
Associate Dean


Dr. John M. Coons
Assistant Professor


Dr. Rudy Dunlap
Assistant Professor


Dr. Martha Jo Edwards
Director of Center & Human Services


Dr. Steve Estes


Dr. Richard S. Farley
Co-Director of Exercise Science | Professor


Dr. Joey Gray
Associate Professor


Dr. Tina Hall
Associate Professor


Dr. Colby Jubenville


Dr. Minsoo Kang


Dr. Yun Soo Lee
Assistant Professor


Dr. Don W. Morgan


Dr. Andrew Owusu
Associate Professor


Brian George Ragan
Associate Professor


Dr. Dawn Shelar


Dr. Sandra L. Stevens
Assistant Professor


Dr. Norman L. Weatherby
Professor | Health Graduate Program Coordinator


Dr. Doug Winborn
Department Chair


Dr. Bethany Ann Wrye
Assistant Professor