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Student Story

Eric Gerlach ’22, B.S., Exercise and Movement Science

Eric Gerlach holds the distinction of being the first student at St. Francis College (SFC) to earn a bachelor’s degree in exercise and movement science, the College’s first fully online degree program, which was launched in 2020. A resident of Santa Cruz, California, Gerlach works in the athletics department at Cabrillo College. Previously, he played professional football in Germany for several years.

How does it feel to be the first student in SFC history to receive a bachelor's degree in a fully online format?
I feel fortunate to have found the program. When I first read the information on the St. Francis College website, I remember telling my wife, “I think I found a new program through which I can get my degree.” I applied, sent my transcripts and was ecstatic that I got such a fast reply. It seems like yesterday that I began my courses, and now I am a graduate. I am honored to be the first to complete this fantastic program.

Why did you opt to pursue an online rather than an in-person degree?
I have a full-time career in the athletics department at Cabrillo College, where I have been coaching football for 20 years. Since I live in California, it would have been impossible for me to pursue a degree at SFC had it not been online. An online program was my only option.

Why did you decide to pursue a degree in exercise and movement science?
Long ago, when I first started college, I was a kinesiology major. I wanted to continue in this field, and the B.S. in exercise and movement science made St. Francis College the perfect fit for me. Also, because I work in athletics, there would be immediate practical applications to the subjects I would be studying. I already have applied many of the things I learned in the program to my everyday work.

What SFC professor had the greatest impact on your success?
All are extraordinary, genuinely care about their students and make time to communicate with us. If I had to choose just one, though, I would say John McNamara. He is really in tune with his students, and his style makes for excellent learning outcomes. Dr. McNamara is more than happy to Zoom with you to answer questions, clarify a concept in a module or offer education direction and career advice. I regard Dr. McNamara as a valuable role model and mentor and am optimistic that I will be able to call on him for advice for many years to come.

What's next for you?
I am continuing my education at St. Francis College — once again, virtually — and pursuing a master’s degree in exercise and sport science, concentrating in the psychology of sport. This is a topic that needs to be addressed more than ever in athletics and fitness, and I have been putting a lot of thought into how I could create a support system for athletes to address the needs they are facing today.

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