Brian Gearity was recently promoted to associate dean for academic affairs at the Graduate School of Professional Psychology
When he was hired in 2014 to create the online sport coaching master’s program in the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP), Brian Gearity drew on his background as a football player, power lifter and strength conditioning coach, not to mention the five years he spent as an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Six years later, when he wanted to boost his business knowledge, so he could explore new career opportunities and get a nonprofit organization up and running, Gearity knew where to turn for an equivalent level of expertise: DU’s Daniels College of Business, where, in 2020, he began coursework for an MBA.
“I approach learning like an athlete, like a coach, with a certain kind of voraciousness,” Gearity said. “When I got tenure, I started looking around the University saying, ‘What can I do? How many more different one-hour webinar workshops can I really go to? Are they helping advance me in my thinking or practices?’”
Gearity thought about all the things that inspired him—psychology, sociology, creative writing—but ultimately landed on business as the field that would propel him forward as he prepared to co-launch (with DU alumna Meg Wilson) the Sport Knowledge Professional Network, a nonprofit organization that provides curated sport knowledge via an extensive library of peer-reviewed sport-related content, including interviews, podcast episodes, research briefs and articles.
“I wanted to go back and fill in some of the gaps in my education,” he said. “I took a year of economics, but I’ve never taken an accounting class, a finance class, a marketing class—some of those fundamental business courses. When I was a football player and a power lifter and working out, it was like, ‘What do I care about marketing or finance or the stock market?’ But it’s something I need to be more aware of, so I’m glad I got to take those courses.”
Gearity took his MBA classes online, declaring a concentration in executive leadership. Already, his new skills are paying off. In April, he was promoted to associate dean for academic affairs at GSPP, where he oversees the online master’s degree in sport coaching, an undergraduate minor in kinesiology and sport studies, and a new bachelor of arts program in kinesiology and sport studies, set to launch this fall.
“I think this program is a competitive advantage for DU,” he said. “We’re not one of the big public universities, but how do we, at the Division I level, compete with them? Our athletics department wants to recruit the best athletes, and retain them and graduate them. Well, guess what the No. 1 degree is for student athletes. It’s kinesiology and sport studies.”
Gearity also sees connections between the undergraduate sport studies program and DU’s 4D Student Experience. Promoting well-being is one of its pillars. Combine that with the James C. Kennedy Mountain Campus and DU’s prowess in sports like hockey, lacrosse and gymnastics, and you have a university primed for sports education.
“What would it look like if DU built facilities or shared resources or had dual appointments?” Gearity said. “What if we had a strength coach or physical therapist who was also teaching classes? There are a lot of ways we might be able to collaborate.”
The one-time high school athlete and athletic trainer may not have seen himself in academia when he interned for Cleveland’s professional baseball team in college, but for Gearity, it’s all part of the same journey. As he starts his new job at GSPP, he approaches his responsibilities with a coach’s mindset.
“Let me go into this role and see if I can do the things that I think we need to do better, to start looking at some data on metrics of retention and recruitment and productivity, dialoguing and collaborating with folks,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to lead. I want to manage. It’s who I am.”