Kinesiology Student, Simonton, wins National Award for Physical Education Research



AKA Master's National Scholar Award recipient Kelly Simonton

Kelly Simonton, a graduate student in the School of Kinesiology (SOK) in the College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) received the American Kinesiology Association (AKA) National Master’s Scholar Award.

Simonton, a Wheatling, Wyoming native, completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Wyoming and began graduate research at LSU in 2014. He is a graduate teaching assistant, has assisted in three research projects, and conducted his own thesis research during his time at LSU.

“When I found out I was nominated by my department as LSU’s representative for the national award I was very surprised and honored,” Simonton said. “We have a lot of great master’s students in the School of Kinesiology that encompass a wide variety of disciplines.”

Simonton said not only is the award personally humbling, but it is a reflection of the collaboration of his work with colleagues and professors. An award for higher education includes each person involved in the process, he said. Simonton works with Dr. Melinda Solmon and Dr. Alex Garn, two renowned kinesiology professionals.

Solmon said Simonton’s award is an indication that research conducted by graduate assistants at LSU has more than a regional impact.

“Kelly’s award shows that we are doing real, necessary work here at SOK,” Solmon said. “There’s no greater honor to know that your work is making a national impact and inspiring people across the country.”

With a background in physical education, Simonton assisted in projects that evaluated a local after-school physical activity program designed to promote dance and physical fitness for third through fifth graders, as well as a project to assess physical activity classes at LSU with the goal of increasing their value to students.

He also volunteered for a variety of local elementary school programs, the SOK Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) program, and assisted in the kinesiology Chinese exchange program. In his undergraduate studies, he started a student organization that raised more than $4,000 and sent 30 students to state and national conventions. He is the founder of a pilot program now called Healthy Pokes, a multidisciplinary health program for at risk students that provides educational and physical fitness opportunities for underserved children and their families, which has received about $40,000 in grants and scholarships.

Simonton, humbled by his recognition, said, “The prestige has been here [at the school of kinesiology] for a very long time and will be here long after I am gone, which is one of the reasons I chose to come here for my graduate work. I am honored to study here.”

Simonton’s research interests include looking at students’ experiences within physical education, training highly qualified teachers, and understanding achievement motivation and how contributes to a physically active lifestyle. His thesis evaluated the Control-Value Theory of Achievement Emotions, a theory from educational psychology. Simon created a framework to examine the effect of teaching communication styles on student control-value beliefs that lead to particular emotional experiences. His goal is to find relationships between motivation in school PE and lifelong healthy choices.

Simonton recently accepted an assistantship to obtain a PhD at LSU. He will teach within SOK’s PETE program while continuing to conduct research alongside Dr. Solmon.

“I was given a great opportunity to come to LSU and have decided to continue my pursuit of higher education here,” Simonton said. “My goals are to continue investigation into college and high school students’ motivation in physical activity and PE teaching best practices. I hope to continue to be a representative of our great school.”

Though graduate school wasn’t on his radar until he nearly completed his bachelor’s degree, Simonton said it’s been one of the best decisions he's made because he has developed new skills and has found fulfillment in a field he is passionate about.

“If you are hungry to learn and want to open up new doors you didn’t know were available before, graduate school is a great option,” Simonton said. “I would encourage students to learn from your experiences in your undergraduate program and not to view the opportunities as requirements.”

About SOK
The LSU School of Kinesiology advances the understanding of physical activity, sport, and health to optimize the quality of life for diverse populations through excellence in teaching, learning, discovery, and engagement.

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About CHSE

The College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) is a nationally accredited division of Louisiana State University. The College is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Leadership and Human Resource Development, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Library and Information Science, the School of Social Work, and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer 8 undergraduate degree programs and 18 graduate programs, enrolling more than 1,900 undergraduate and 977 graduate students. The College is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research, and service and is continually working to improve its programs.

Visit the College of Human Sciences & Education at