One advantage to the MS in Higher Education degree program is that students gain the graduate hours needed to teach in a desired discipline and can begin working in a college/university within two years rather than waiting to earn a doctorate.

Leon D. King III, M.S., COTA
Adjunct Instructor

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Higher Education and Learning Technologies
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Higher Education and Learning Technologies
Dallas, Texas
College Major
Health Studies
Year Graduated

Leon King III is pursuing a Master of Science in Higher Education at A&M-Commerce. His goal is to teach biology and psychology. King is a certified occupational therapy assistant with nine years of experience, primarily working with middle-aged to older adults in various healthcare settings.

In his spare time, he volunteers in pediatrics at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and an inpatient hospice care facility. He is a Distinguished Toastmaster and previously taught in an occupational therapy assistant program. His supervisor encouraged him to pursue a career in post-secondary education, leading him to pursue a master’s degree at A&M-Commerce.

King chose biology and psychology as his teaching emphases because he believes they are equally important in his profession. He was surprisingly intrigued by comparative anatomy and physiological links between humans and animals during his studies. His research interests focus on anthrozoology, exploring animals in society and their therapeutic applications.

A Conversation with Leon

Why did you choose to attend A&M-Commerce?

I chose A&M-Commerce because of the master's program designed for teaching in higher education. When I applied to the university, I taught in an occupational therapy assistant program at a local community college and was interested in pursuing a higher-education doctorate. My supervisor was working on her doctorate and encouraged me to further my education in higher education. I was unsure if I could dedicate enough time to a doctorate at that time, but I wanted to further my education. I learned that A&M-Commerce had a master's degree in higher education, allowing me to further my education and advance my career within the college system. I could continue toward my doctorate later when I would be better positioned to pursue a doctorate.

One advantage to the MS in Higher Education degree program is that students gain the graduate hours needed to teach in a desired discipline and can begin working in a college/university within two years rather than waiting to earn a doctorate. I chose to complete two teaching emphases (biology and psychology) because I use both fields as a practicing occupational therapy assistant and felt that I could and would enjoy teaching in both areas at the college level.

Which professor or person on campus positively influenced you?

Two professors I feel helped me the most throughout my studies at A&M-Commerce in different ways are Dr. Lyman-Henley in the Department of Biology and Environmental Science and Dr. Kruger in the Department of Psychology and Special Education. Ironically, I had Dr. Lyman-Henley and Dr. Kruger for four courses each, so I had both as instructors for a large amount of the time I was enrolled. When I started taking courses and decided to take biology as my teaching emphasis, I thought I would continue taking more human anatomy courses since I work with people and that is what I am used to. That said, I was honestly getting a little tired of human anatomy considering that I have studied the human body my whole life. When the human anatomy courses were filled and invertebrate zoology was open, I decided to take a deep dive and try the course.

I appreciated that Dr. Lyman-Henley designed her course in such a way that she expected the students to do their own research and find areas of interest within the field of invertebrate zoology and take from it what we wanted to learn; thereby giving us a high level of academic freedom. Through those processes, I saw similarities and differences between humans and invertebrates. From that point, I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my courses in biology learning about zoology and all other animal lifeforms other than humans and comparing/contrasting the anatomy/physiology of animals and humans.

Likewise, when I had a little extra time built into my degree plan, I was hesitant to take more courses in gerontology as once again, most of my career has centered around older adults and I have taken several courses on older adulthood. Dr. Kruger spent quite a bit of time helping me better understand how psychologists view the field of gerontology and the different types of research currently underway within gerontology. Dr. Kruger also sent me several research articles within the field. I quickly realized that while I have learned a lot about gerontology through my training in occupational therapy, the field of psychology has a lot of other very interesting information that I did not learn previously and would like to learn more about, so I decided to enroll in the gerontology graduate certificate program.

Describe a research project you have worked on.

My research has focused on anthrozoology, studying the interaction between animals and humans. Although A&M-Commerce lacks active researchers in this field, I discovered it as a way to merge my interests in therapy, biology/zoology, and psychology. With the support of Dr. Lyman-Henley and Dr. Kruger, I conducted extensive research, including dog breed selection for service dogs, the effectiveness of dog therapy in dementia care, and using dogs to promote physical activity and combat obesity. Upon pursuing a doctoral degree, I would likely focus my dissertation on utilizing dogs and dog therapy on college campuses. Additionally, I would be interested in teaching a cross-listed course in biology and psychology, specifically in anthrozoology, and mentoring undergraduate students.

Tell us more about yourself.

My wife and I own two dogs, Rizvi and Sidney, both of which are named after medical doctors. Rizvi was named after my wife’s oncologist, and Sidney was named after my neurosurgeon. My wife and I hope to someday get our dogs fully trained and certified as therapy dogs so they can go into hospitals to help brighten patients’ days and carry on our doctors’ legacies.  

Educational Background

  • Graduate Certificate, Psychology of Gerontology and Productive Aging, Texas A&M University-Commerce, 2023
  • M.S., Higher Education: Teaching emphasis in Biology and Psychology, Texas A&M University-Commerce, 2023
  • BAAS, Health Studies, Texas Woman’s University, 2015
  • AAS, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Weatherford College, 2013
  • A.A., Liberal Arts, Dallas College, 2011

Awards and Honors

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