Luzita Vela, Liz Parke Hired to Round Out U of A Athletic Training Program

Luzita Vela
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Luzita Vela

Luzita Vela has been hired to lead the Master of Athletic Training program in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation.

She looks forward to building on the University of Arkansas program's momentum and teaching classes.

"I'm committed to giving our students top-notch academic preparation that will equip them to work as integral team members in healthcare," she said.

Jeff Bonacci retired in May after serving as the program director for 20 years.

Vela earned a doctorate in kinesiology from The Pennsylvania State University, a master's of science in athletic training from Barry University and bachelor's degree in kinesiology at Texas Woman's University. She was previously a faculty member and clinical education coordinator for the University of Virginia's athletic training program. Her scholarship, teaching and service are all founded on a strong belief in patient-centered strategies that focus on timely clinical decision making. She said her teaching practices are influenced by her various clinical experiences as an athletic trainer as well as her research interests in enhancing the clinical reasoning of young professionals.

"I want to sustain a culture where students become reflective healthcare practitioners and lifelong learners. I believe that engaging students in the learning process, making them accountable for learning, and fostering a relationship in which I can serve as an active mentor are all educational practices that produce mature clinical athletic trainers," she said. "I also want students to engage in service to the profession and advocacy for our patients."

Prior to her position at the University of Virginia, Vela was a faculty member in the CAATE accredited athletic training program at the University of Texas Arlington. She coordinated the Standardized Patient Lab and facilitated interprofessional education activities. She also worked at Texas State University, serving as the clinical education coordinator of the post-professional athletic training program and in the pre-rehabilitation sciences program. Vela has also worked clinically as an athletic trainer at West Chester University and Hope College.

Vela will continue to be an active member in the profession. She served as the chair of the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education Standards Committee and on the editorial board of Athletic Training and Sports Health Care. She also reviews manuscripts for the Journal of Athletic Training, Journal of Sports Rehabilitation and Athletic Training Education Journal

The U of A athletic training program also has a new teaching assistant professor and clinical education coordinator, Liz Parke.

Parke was previously an assistant professor and the clinical education coordinator for the athletic training program at California State University Northridge.

Prior to transitioning into academia, Parke worked as an athletic trainer for the University of Utah and Guilford College football teams. Her research interests include knee biomechanics, osteoarthritis, and post-operative function of patients undergoing total or partial knee arthroplasty.

Parke played soccer for Hope College while earning a bachelor's degree in athletic training. She then pursued a master's degree at the University of Utah while serving as a graduate assistant athletic trainer for the football team. She spent the next six years of her professional life as the head football athletic trainer at Guilford College. She earned a doctorate from the University of Hawaii. 

Vela and Parke join Brendon McDermott, associate professor, in rounding out the athletic training master's program.

Matthew Ganio, head of the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, said Vela and Parke are welcome additions.

"Dr. Vela brings a wealth of experience that we are confident will take our athletic training program to the next level," Ganio said. "We also are excited about Dr. Parke's prior experience as a clinical education coordinator. We know that students' clinical experiences and the relationships we have with our preceptors is of utmost importance."


Shannon G. Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions


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