Last Updated on September 22, 2021
Interview with Dr. Katherine Liesener
John Cody of SportsDegreesOnline.org touched based with Dr. Liesener. Dr. Liesener discussed her trajectory and academic career, as well as the growth of the field of Athletic Training and a bit about Concordia University’s program
About Dr. Katherine Liesener
Dr. Katherine Liesener holds a PhD in Urban Education, Administrative Leadership from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She is currently the Director of the M.S. in Athletic Training Program at Concordia University Wisconsin, where she has been a professor for over 16 years.
John: Can you tell us a bit about your academic journey, and why you chose this path?
Dr. Liesener: In high school, I knew I wanted to work in a health related profession. While exploring my options, I honed in on athletic training and physical therapy. At that time, athletic training was a bachelor’s level degree and physical therapy school was post-graduate level. So I decided to pursue athletic training and see where that took me. It was during my athletic training undergraduate years that I really fell in love with the profession. I realized that athletic training was challenging and extremely rewarding, two things that still feed my passion for this profession. I have the rare opportunity to see my patients from the beginning of their journey to full recovery and activity! After earning my bachelor’s degree in athletic training, I went on to earn a master’s degree, and eventually a PhD.
John: Some people out there might not understand the scope of what an athletic trainer does. Can you please explain a bit about how diverse this field is?
Dr. Liesener: Athletic trainers often do get confused with other professions, so I’m glad you asked this question. Athletic trainers specialize in treating active populations. And when you identify who fits into the category of an “active population,” you come up with a lot of individuals. You’ll find athletic trainers working in traditional sports settings such as youth sports, middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities, professional sports, and the performing arts. But you’ll also find athletic trainers working in non-sport settings such as with the military, in physician offices, and in occupational settings such as fire departments and factories. From a daily duties standpoint, athletic trainers are responsible for many layers of patient care, from prevention, to emergency care, to injury assessment and diagnosis, to treatment and rehabilitation.
John: What is one of your more memorable or rewarding moments either working as an athletic trainer, or as a professor?
Dr. Liesener: Since I spend most of my time on the education side now, I’ll speak to that. I guess it comes down to a culmination of rewarding moments as a professor. I get the amazing opportunity to take students who usually have very little athletic training experience and foster their growth into successful professionals. Seeing my graduates go out into the workforce, be successful, and make positive impacts on their patients is what I love the most about my position. It really comes down to just that, seeing my former students thrive in their careers!
John: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue your PhD?
Dr. Liesener: I’ve always had an interest in education, but to be honest with you, I didn’t initially want to become an educator because it’s simply a 24/7 job. But once I started teaching a few athletic training courses as an adjunct instructor, I realized that education was where I wanted to be. So that naturally led me down the path of earning a PhD to become a professor.
John: Why do you feel that athletic training as a profession could be an excellent choice for young people out there who were athletes themselves or who are passionate about sports?
Dr. Liesener: Athletic training is a great way to combine a passion for sports and helping people! If you go on to work in the sports setting, it can be very dynamic, challenging, and rewarding. And, let’s be honest, watching sports for a living is not a bad gig at all!
Athletic training is a great way to combine a passion for sports and helping people!
(If you are interested in pursuing an education in athletic training, check out our guide and listings here)
John: What can you tell us about the demand for athletic trainers in the professional world?
Dr. Liesener: There will always be active individuals and there will always be a need to take care of them when they are injured. So athletic trainers are here to stay! And as more organizations recognize the value of athletic trainers, I hope to see our job settings continue to expand. Right now, the job outlook looks very promising with projected growths faster than the average for all jobs.
John: What factors set Concordia’s Athletic Training Program apart from your average AT program?
Dr. Liesener: We’re excited to offer three tracks to completion, with as much hands-on learning that we can pack in! Our students can pursue a Dual Degree track, where they earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Medicine and a Master’s Degree in Athletic Training in four or five years. Yes, that’s right, we created a unique and innovative four year track for our high performing students. This is a one-of-a kind program where you can earn a BS and a MS in four years! We also have a two year Graduate track for anyone who already has a bachelor’s degree. And like I said, the main focus of our program is to provide as much hands-on learning to our students, in the classroom and at clinical education experiences.
John: Is there anything else you would like to share with the next generation following in your footsteps?
Dr. Liesener: I’m truly excited to see what the future holds for all health care providers, but I’m especially excited to see where the younger generations take our profession. Being creative, dynamic, and flexible has opened some great doors already and I can’t wait to see where we go in the future!