Passion for Helping Others Motivates DU Psychology Professor
Movement is a consistent theme in the life of Brian Gearity, associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP). His professional journey has been characterized by constant personal growth, taking form as he followed his passion for sports and scholarship across the United States. From his childhood playing pick-up basketball in Cleveland to his latest achievement as a leader in sports studies at DU, Gearity has proved that moving can yield great gains.
In June, he will add an MBA with an executive leadership concentration from DU’s Daniels College of Business to an accomplishment-laden resume, one that already includes a PhD in educational leadership and policy studies. Highlighting the importance of strategic leadership, Gearity says he was attracted to the business core classes offered for this MBA. While it was his intention to keep achieving for personal and professional enrichment, he says, “I’m more interested in creating a structure and an environment to help others achieve.”
Gearity has been an academic program director since 2014, when he moved to Denver from Mississippi. Before COVID-19 accelerated the need for learning at a distance, he was recruited to help build a fully online master’s degree program in sport coaching (MASC) at GSPP. “They were starting the program from scratch,” he says, and he was looking for a new challenge.
The program flourished under his leadership, beginning with the inaugural 46-credit master’s degree and growing to include certificates in strength and conditioning and fitness coaching, as well as psychology of coaching. A new bachelor of arts program in kinesiology and sport studies will launch this fall. “This is the first undergraduate degree in our college,” Gearity says.
When asked what his hopes are for the program, he quips, “Utter domination.” He’s kidding. Sort of. Gearity recognizes the need for improvements in the field, and he plans to address myriad challenges at the structural level, using every tool in his toolbelt to inspire others, remove barriers to access and increase accountability.
Gearity has been involved at all levels of sport and fitness coaching, from volunteering as a speed coach at his daughter’s gymnastics studio to working with the pros. When he started his college journey, he intended to finish as a business major. However, his focus quickly changed. “My dad told me to do something I liked,” he says, confessing that, as a freshman, an introduction to economics class may have taught him more about what he didn’t like.
He enjoyed sports and weightlifting, and he was a champion powerlifter at the time, so he started taking exercise science classes and working toward a career in sports performance.
“There was nobody in the gym with me when I went to work out,” Gearity recalls, noting that he soon realized that sports and fitness would be important to him throughout his life. “I just needed them to open the door and provide access,” he says. “That’s all a lot of people need.”
When an injury took him out of college football at age 19, he seized an opportunity to work as a strength and conditioning intern for the Cleveland Indians. “I was totally naive,” he says, “but I had great mentors and a great experience.”
After that, he moved to Tennessee and began to dig deeper into research, exploring the psychological, sociological and cultural significance of sports. In striking the balance between knowing and doing, Gearity aims to unite practice and pedagogy. “We don’t just roll out the ball,” he says. “The physical application of the concepts reinforces the theoretical knowledge.”
Gearity has come quite a distance since his days collecting baseball cards and hanging out at the ice cream shop after Little League games. But those memories inspire him to continue promoting the value of sports in people’s lives, no matter their context or aptitude. “My dad grew up in the streets of New York playing stick ball,” Gearity says. “He wasn’t worried about being elite.”
To celebrate his latest degree, Gearity says he plans to smoke a brisket and share it with family and friends. After that? Perhaps he’ll pursue another sommelier certification. Or study something else that makes good use of all his energy.
One thing is for certain, he won’t stop moving anytime soon. “I would like to think I can always keep doing better.”