The Ph.D. Program in Physical Culture and Sport Studies

Former doctoral students Dominic Morais, left, and Ben Pollack, right, pose for a photograph in the Stark Center's archives.
Former doctoral students Dominic Morais, left, and Ben Pollack, right, pose for a photograph in the Stark Center’s archives. Dominic is now an Assistant Professor at Trinity University and Ben is currently working in the fitness/strength industry and is a world-record-holding powerlifter.

Last October we celebrated our tenth anniversary with a special day-long event at the Stark Center for the subscribers of our journal, Iron Game History: The Journal of Physical Culture (now in its 30th year).  Many of our subscribers had never been to see the Center and so as we planned the day, we allowed plenty of time for wandering through the exhibits and then had several speakers who talked about how they used the Center for research.  Among those was Dr. John Fair whose forthcoming book on Olympic weightlifter Tommy Kono is based on the Kono archives, which John helped bring to the Center, and Dr. Conor Heffernan, our new assistant professor from Ireland, whose research emphasis is on the history of physical culture in the British Commonwealth.  We are terrifically excited to have Conor with us at the Stark Center and as a faculty member in Kinesiology and Health Education (KHED) as he is a man of seemingly endless energy and a brilliant scholar.  In addition to maintaining his own website Physical Culture Study, he is now writing blogs for our website, has published more than 20 academic articles in scholarly journals, and has a book under contract about the history of physical culture in Ireland.  Not a bad track record for someone who received their Ph.D. degree just last year!  He has also become an important part of the faculty for the Ph.D. program connected to the Center—The Ph.D. Program in Physical Culture and Sport Studies (PCSS).

At our event last year, one of the messages we hoped people took home with them was how the collections of the Stark Center are used by scholars. It is, after all, why Terry and I collected all these things; we wanted academics to start paying more attention to the history of strength and physical culture, and it is gratifying to see that they have.  At the event we asked several of our doctoral students to speak about the ways they have made use of our collections for their research, and it seemed to make a big impression on those who were there for their presentations.  As I was remembering that day recently, and feeling sad that COVID will not allow us to repeat it this year as I’d hoped, it occurred to me that perhaps others might be interested to know a bit about what kind of projects our current (and former) doctoral students have undertaken for their dissertations.  As you will see below, we have students in our doctoral program doing research on the history of physical culture under my, and now Conor’s, direction and we also have students working on sport projects related to sport policy, the Olympic movement, and similar topics under the direction of my good friend Dr. Thomas M. Hunt, the other sport historian in our group.  Dr. Hunt’s research specialty is sport and international relations.

Our doctoral students and their dissertation titles:

2006: Kim Beckwith, “Barbellism: Alan Calvert, the Milo Bar-Bell Company, and the Modernization of American Weightlifting.”   Kim is one of the new editors of Iron Game History and isthe Coordinator of Strength & Conditioning for KHED at the University of Texas at Austin.  (Doctoral Supervisor Jan Todd).  

2007:  Thomas M. Hunt, “Drug Games: The International Politics of Doping and the Olympic Movement, 1960-2007.”  Hunt’s Dissertation has been published by UT Press as a book under the same name.  He is currently an Associate Professor and the Graduate Advisor of KHED at the University of Texas at Austin. (Doctoral Supervisor Jan Todd). 

2008: Nicholas Bourne, “Fast Science: A History of Training Theory and Methods for Elite Runners through 1975,” Senior Lecturer in Applied Sport and Exercise Science, University of East London, London, England. (Doctoral Supervisor Jan Todd). 

2013: Jason Shurley, “Strength for Sport: The Development of the Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach.”  Jason is one of the new editors of Iron Game History and is also co-author of the 2019 book Strength Coaching in America: A History of the Innovation that Transformed Sport. He is an Associate Professor in Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. (Doctoral Supervisor Jan Todd). 

2014:  Baker Harrell, “Beyond Obesity: Historical, Social Change Approaches to Improve the Fitness of Americans.”  Baker is the founder of the hugely impactful non-profit titled “It’s Time Texas.” (Doctoral Supervisor Jan Todd). 

2014: Tolga Ozyurtcu, “Flex Marks the Spot: Histories of Muscle Beach.” Tolga is  also a new editor with Iron Game History and is a Clinical Associate Professor in KHED at the University of Texas at Austin. (Doctoral Supervisor Jan Todd).

2015:  Dominic Morais, “Strength in Numbers: The Strength and Health Brand Community from 1932-1964.” Dominic was the recipient of the North American Society for Sport History’s Graduate Essay Award. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Business, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas. (Doctoral Supervisor Jan Todd).

2015:  George Kioussis, “Exceptions and Exceptionalism: The United States Soccer Football Association in a Global Context, 1950–74.”  George is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, California State University-Northridge.  (Doctoral Supervisor Thomas Hunt).  

2018:  Ben Pollack, “Becoming Jack LaLanne: Beginning the American Fitness Television Industry, 1914-1963.” Ben is currently working in the fitness/strength industry and is a world-record-holding powerlifter. Ben was also the recipient of the North American Society for Sport History’s Graduate Essay Award. (Doctoral Supervisor Jan Todd).

2019: Lauren Osmer, “Reading the Pitch: Historical Racialized Narratives in Mass Media Coverage of International Baseball.”  Lauren is a Visiting Assistant Professor in Sport Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. (Doctoral Supervisor Thomas Hunt). 

2020:  Dan Rosenke, “Supply and Enhance: Tracing Doping Supply Lines in the 1980s.” (Doctoral Supervisor Jan Todd).

2020: Andrew Hao, “A Political History of Chinese Elite Sport During the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976.”  Andrew is currently an Assistant Professor in Sport Management at the University of Minnesota-Morris. (Doctoral Supervisor Thomas Hunt). 

The 2020 PCSS Doctoral Students at dissertation stage are:  

Mickey Phillips, whose dissertation deals with football great Walter Camp’s efforts to promote physical fitness during World War One.  (Jan Todd, advisor).

Kendrea Austin, whose dissertation deals with the history of yoga as a method of sport performance enhancement. (Jan Todd, advisor). 

Alec Hurley, whose dissertation examines international sport and nationalism in the nineteenth century. (Thomas Hunt, advisor). 

Sam Schelfhout, whose dissertation deals with United States sport diplomacy during the late- and post-Cold War era. (Thomas Hunt, advisor). 

Tanya Jones, whose dissertation traces the career of Richard Lapchick and his impact on athlete activism in the 1960s and 1970s. (Thomas Hunt, advisor). 

Jessica Luther, whose dissertation deals with race relations in the 1970s on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. (Jan Todd, advisor).

Three additional students are currently taking comps and so have not yet started their dissertation research.  Ciera Jones is interested in the ways in which access to spaces for play and recreation impact health and engagement with sports.  She is supervised by Jan Todd and Matt Bowers jointly.  Ryan Murtha has an article on David P. Willoughby coming in a future issue of Iron Game History and is also currently researching sports writing in the twentieth century. He is supervised by Thomas Hunt and Tolga Ozyurtcu.  Finally, Conor Heffernan has admitted his first student, Thomas Evans, who is now in his first year of classes. 

To learn more about the Ph.D. program in Physical Culture and Sport Studies go to: https://education.utexas.edu/departments/kinesiology-health-education/graduate-programs/physical-culture-sport-studies.  

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