While he is less than a month into his tenure as chair of the Kinesiology department, Associate Professor Matthew Masucci is already aware of his biggest challenges as he assumes his role at the helm of one of the largest departments in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts at San José State University.
“Learning the ropes is the big part,” he said. “The other part is learning to balance the day to day with the bigger picture stuff.”
The day to day stuff entails making sure the estimated 1,000 students enrolled in kinesiology (around a hundred of whom are graduate students) are connected to the resources they need to complete their degrees. Within the department, there are eight different concentrations ranging from adapted physical activity to exercise and fitness to athletic training to societal studies, among others. The bigger picture will include strategic visioning to determine the future of the department.
Masucci said the hardest part of his decision to take the chair position was knowing he would need to step away from teaching for the first year he is chair.
“I do enjoy the energy it gives,” Masucci said, of being in the classroom with students. “At least for the first two semesters, I will be stepping away. It makes sense to get through everything once and get my bearings and then look back to the possibility of teaching (again.)”
Masucci has been a professor of Interdisciplinary Sports Studies in the Kinesiology department since 2002, when he joined SJSU as a full-time temporary faculty member. His background when he joined the faculty included a strong interdisciplinary focus. He earned a bachelor’s in philosophy and psychology at Salisbury University, a master’s in philosophy from Ohio University and had started his Ph.D in Socialcultural Foundations of Sport and Cultural Studies at the University of Tennessee when he came to the Bay Area.
“Teaching was always in the back of my mind,” said Masucci, whose parents are also teachers.
When his faculty position became a tenure-track position he said some sound advice had put him in a good position to take on the challenge of gaining tenure.
“I had a lot of good feedback to treat the temporary position as if it were tenure track,” he said, of vying for tenure while also completing his Ph.D. “I did research and was involved in scholarly and service work. I was engaged as if I were tenure track so it wasn’t as harsh.”
He was first drawn to the SJSU Kinesiology program because of its balance of sub-disciplines encompassing the field, such as biomechanics and exercise physiology as well as cultural studies of sport, sport psychology and sports sociology, among others. A colleague from graduate school, Ted Butryn, was working at SJSU and the two have been involved in research projects together since Masucci joined the staff.
Masucci and Butryn most recently worked together on a project funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that investigated if new professional female triathletes’ understanding and awareness of doping culture and prevention differed from the knowledge more established professional female triatheltes had.
One of Masucci’s other recent research projects included an examination of mixed martial arts (MMA) from cultural, historical and psychological perspectives. For the project, he spent a year conducting participant-ethnography where he was both a student and researcher, interviewing participants from a local MMA studio in San Jose.
Several of Masucci’s other research projects relate to cycling, a sport that has remained part of his life through the years. He said when he was younger he enjoyed competing in races, but more recently he has not competed but still rides for health and fitness.
Along with Dr. Jay Johnson, a Canadian colleague from the University of Manitoba, Masucci has studied the phenomena of the San Jose Bike Party, a community group that coordinates once-a-month group rides in the South Bay.
“It’s fascinating,” Masucci said. “They get up to 4,000 people and it’s a 20-mile ride where you get people who haven’t ridden a bike in years.”
He’s also studied tragic loss and memorialization within the cycling community and investigated the impact of indoor and outdoor sporting participation on environmentalism.
While he is chair, Masucci said he will keep in touch with the partners involved in his ongoing research but will have a less active role as he focuses on the department’s administrative needs.
“I am putting on a different hat as a quasi-administrator,” Masucci said. “I am learning all the functions that as a faculty member you only know vaguely. I knew it had to be done, but didn’t know the details.”
He said he has the support of a strong staff and faculty in his department as well as the support of the upper administration in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts as he transitions into his new role.
And he is hoping to continue to carve out personal time to continue with his biking and his other favorite activity, hiking. His favorite spots for hiking include Almaden Quicksilver and Los Gatos area trails. For biking he enjoys spending time in the East San Jose foothills around Mt. Hamilton, the Sunol Regional Wilderness area and Woodside.
“The good thing is one of the principal outcomes of my field…is to keep healthy both mentally and physically,” he said. “You have to carve out time for it.”