In high school, Michael Ertel spent any spare hour in the physical education department learning all that he could about how to teach and inspire activity. He went on to pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the field in his home state of New York. He spent six years as a health and physical education teacher in a large, urban, school district before deciding to pursue his doctoral degree at the University of South Carolina.
“After an exhaustive search of East Coast schools, I chose USC because the scholarship and faculty research was in line with my interests,” Ertel says. “It has been a really good decision, and I’ve been able to get very involved with faculty and fellow students.”
Ertel’s research interests include motor learning applications and innovative pedagogical practices in physical education. He hopes to help create student-focused approaches that center students within their learning environments. His work has earned him the Ruth Abernathy Presidential Scholarship by the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) America organizations.
“I was humbled to learn that I received this award,” Ertel says. “I’ll be recognized at the upcoming convention, but I’ll be presenting as well. I’m presenting a poster with my advisor, Ali Brian, on parental barriers and facilitators to childhood physical activity. Professor Brian has been instrumental in my process here at USC.”
Ertel will also be working with his former colleagues in New York on a presentation highlighting how artificial intelligence is shaping and redefining physical education. This collaborative spirit is evident in Ertel’s campus involvement at USC. He currently serves as Chair of the Doctoral Student Professional Socialization Club, where he helps pair first-year doctoral students with campus mentors that help them build positive momentum on their dissertations. He is a member of the Education Research Club. The group meets monthly to discuss various research topics across educational fields. He has also attended more than 20 training workshops at the Center for Teaching Excellence.
“These workshops have contributed to my growth as a graduate teaching assistant,” Ertel says. “My club involvement creates a nice environment to collaborate with fellow students on data collection and existing projects. It helps combat the seclusion of individual research and writing.”
Professor Ali Brian has been impressed by Ertel’s leadership skills.
“Michael's leadership qualities shine brightly in the roles he has undertaken within our department,” Brian says. “As a graduate student, he has consistently demonstrated leadership qualities, which I have witnessed firsthand in the graduate-level courses that I've taught. Michael excels in leadership roles, serving as a mentor and exemplary figure to his peers.”
Ertel seems to fully represent the Ruth Abernathy Presidential award criteria: scholastic proficiency, evidence of leadership, character attributes and service.