Departmental history and context
The Department of Kinesiology has historically promoted diversity, which the Arts & Sciences defines “as encompassing differences in age, cultural identity, ethnicity, gender, faith, neurological make up (neurodiversity), geographic background, military experience (veterans), political and ideological perspectives, race, sexual orientation, and social and economic status.” The Kinesiology Department has always been a welcome haven for athletes and the diverse range of students who are interested in studying human movement, human performance and human health. Because of its focus on various aspects of human health, it has been uniquely able to address issues of physiological diversity from a range of ideological and instructional perspectives that have embraced difference and diversity. Since the 1980s, when Athletics and Physical Education parted company to pursue their own agendas, the academic liberal arts study of health and human movement has fostered a symbiotic relationship between the study of the human body, performance and intellectual analysis that supports diversity, particularly relating to climate and campus resources, curriculum development and student recruitment, retention and support.
The Kinesiology Department endorses and has followed the Arts and Sciences policy that: “We seek to support diversity in four domains: climate and campus resources; curriculum; faculty recruitment, hiring and retention; student recruitment, retention and support. We embrace open inquiry and welcome individuals, perspectives, and ideas that reflect the heterogeneity of the United States and the world.” Through the study of various aspects of human health, we have provided a welcoming climate through the years that embraces students from all backgrounds in liberal arts and pre-professional foci, even as these have expanded from athletics, teacher education, wellness and a comprehensive activity program to premed, public health and allied health concentrations within our major. Our curriculum has always reflected this welcoming climate, from Adapted Physical Education thirty years ago that focused on how to overcome physiological challenges in the K-12 physical education classroom to courses today that focus on biomechanical, physiological and population dimensions of human health and movement. Just as we contributed to all but one of the domains of the General Education Requirements in recent decades (GER 4 History), we have embraced the new COLL requirements in its entirety into our rapidly evolving curriculum. We have intentionally engaged our students in classes and experiences that are designed to foster diversity through open inquiry and reflect heterogeneity in the USA such as issues in health, health ethics and public health and in international settings, such as global health, and study abroad experiences that range from research to targeted activities for underserved international populations.
The fact that our student body has grown exponentially: a tenfold increase from a handful of majors in the 1980s to 120 graduates in May 2022, represents a departmental focus on student recruitment and retention. This growth reflects curricular diversification that has been targeted to attract students from all walks of life who are interested in various aspects of human health and provides an inclusive nexus for health sciences into the concepts of the moving human body from premedical and public health perspectives. The recent expansion of the public health faculty by the hiring of three female professors (two tenure eligible including one ethnic minority and one non-tenure-eligible) has enhanced diversity of the climate and curriculum because of the very nature of public health analysis with its emphasis upon group disparities, global initiatives and social justice.
University-wide statistics show that the percentage of African-American students in our department is more than double that of the university as a whole (17% vs. 7%, respectively). similarly the faculty have become much more diverse in recent years; in 2018 females outnumbered males in the full-time faculty for the first time since the dissolution of our precursor the Women’s Physical Education department over 30 years ago (although four of the eight female faculty are currently in non-tenure eligible positions). Similarly, the department has historically sought to hire faculty from ethnic minorities and has been successful on two occasions, most recently in the hire of a distinguished African professor in 2017. Moreover, form a post-doctoral program only recently enacted via a competitive national program, we have been able to employ another faculty member who is native African.
Diversity Vision Statement: The Department of Kinesiology places a high value on inclusiveness in order to create an optimal environment in which our students learn, and our faculty and staff carry out their professional responsibilities. We aim to faithfully support, and be fully consistent with the objectives and aims of the Diversity Plan of Arts & Sciences. Our definition and view of diversity is wholly compliant with that of Arts & Sciences. That is, we see diversity as encompassing variability in age, cultural identity, ethnicity, gender, faith, neurological characteristics, geographic background, political and ideological perspectives, race, sexual orientation, social and economic status, as well as military status. In particular, we seek to assure proper diversity in recruitment and hiring processes, composition of our declared majors, and other students who are enrolled in our courses, and those conducting research with our faculty members. We embrace open inquiry and discussion, and welcome individuals, perspectives, and ideas that reflect the heterogeneity of our country and academic discipline.
Mission Statement: To make the Department of Kinesiology a place where all are welcome and thrive, irrespective of their age, cultural identity, ethnicity, gender, faith, neurological make-up, geographic background, military (veterans) and economic status. We also seek to expand the definition of diversity to include differences in physical ability and physiologic capacity and to provide leadership across campus in understanding those differences. This includes students, faculty and staff. Specific goals and objectives will be outlined to achieve this aim and annually reviewed.
Climate: The Kinesiology Department has a track record of providing a welcoming environment and a history of tackling important issues of inclusiveness such as the inclusion of women and minorities in athletics and the promotion of health and physical activity for diverse populations. Therefore, the department seeks to continue this climate of diversity and inclusiveness by encouraging faculty to stay abreast of College-wide policies and practices concerning diversity. All faculty members will also exercise sensitivity regarding changes in dates/times of scheduled exams and papers in light of religious, or foreign national holidays. Students will be informed that they should feel free to contact any of their professors for extra help, to explain personal issues that may be affecting academic performance, or to ask for advice and assistance. Also, physical variables will be considered. For example, building (Adair Hall) accessibility for persons with disability has recently been enhanced with the provision of an elevator system to reach all floors of the departmental building, and a permanent ramp to be used to enter the main entrance of Adair from the sidewalk is also being constructed. Another building project recently completed involved making adjustments to the building’s rest rooms leaving them all fully compliant with ADA (American Disabilities Act) standards. In another dimension of improving climate, all of our syllabi have been required to add the College’s standard statement on diversity.
The Kinesiology Department seeks to ensure that diverse populations are represented in the curriculum in both the course offerings as well as in the content of the courses. Currently, the department offers curriculum that examines physiologically diverse populations including sex-specific differences, differences across age as well as neurological and physiological differences. In addition, the public health curriculum considers differences in accessibility and delivery of healthcare among diverse populations and considers ways in which healthcare can be more inclusive and address disparities both here in the U.S and throughout the world.
Faculty Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention
The Kinesiology Department recognizes the current make-up of the faculty and seeks to increase faculty diversity moving forward including special attention to the proper balance of TE and NTE faculty as well as diversity of teaching styles which appeal to the increasingly diverse student population. We will seek to ensure that candidate pools of applicants for new faculty positions will include members that reflect the diversity of our student population. Once hired, the department will do everything in its power to allow a newly hired faculty member to succeed, thus increasing diversity, as well as to take steps necessary to retain that faculty member.
Student Recruitment, Retention, and Support
The Kinesiology Department recognizes the current diversity of the students within the department while seeking to maintain that diversity and increase diversity in other areas by maintaining a climate that encourages inclusiveness and diversity as indicated above as well as by addressing issues of diversity within our curriculum. In addition, the department will seek to involve students in this process through the Majors Club and by student representation on the Diversity Committee.
- Diversity Committee - A newly reviewed and re-formed Kinesiology Department Diversity Committee to be comprised of diverse individuals that represent departmental faculty, staff and students. This process of renewal and replacement of committee members occurred in the fall 2021, but may need to be re-visited upon the hiring of a number of new faculty members in the near future with a total membership of at least three. This constituency will be discussed among the entire faculty and ultimately approved at the August departmental retreat. These faculty and staff members on the Committee will coordinate with the department chair to develop procedures for soliciting and selecting additional student members in the early fall of 2022. This committee will serve as liaison between the department chair, the W&M Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, and the departmental community at large. The committee will be explicitly charged with reviewing current departmental policies and practices to determine whether they support the goals outlined in this Diversity Action Plan (DAP), and to develop a DAP explicitly geared for the Department of Kinesiology. The committee, which will meet initially once a semester, will recommend developmental revision of policies and practices that will help to ensure progress towards achievement of the goals outlined here, and identification of appropriate mechanisms to report progress to the chair. The committee will work closely with the chair and have wide latitude in helping to create and maintain the best possible environment in which diversity can thrive.
- Annual Report - The Diversity Committee will generate an annual report assessing progress in the areas of diversity outlined in this plan, i.e., Climate, Curriculum, Faculty Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention as well as Student Recruitment, Retention, and Support. This report will then be shared with all members of the faculty will be the topic of discussion at one of our regularly scheduled departmental meetings.
- Develop Action Items to Meet Diversity and Inclusion Objectives: At the beginning of each academic year, the Diversity Committee will present to the Department a list of action items to be addressed during that year.
- Course additions and content: The Diversity Committee will review the current course offerings and provide suggestions for the development of new courses to specifically address diversity as outlined in the COLL 350 requirement. In addition, the Diversity Committee will review the syllabi for current course offerings to assess the current level of course objectives that address diversity and provide suggestions for additional objectives.
- Recruitment and Hiring Practices: To attract, develop, and retain an increasingly diverse faculty and staff, the Diversity Committee will work with the W&M Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, and the W&M Human Resources office to review current search processes and practices and make recommendations as appropriate in order to support the goal of diversification. Strategies for recruitment and hiring could include: (I) diversity in the composition of search committees, (2) mechanisms to broadly publicize each position opening; (3) a requirement that applicants for faculty positions include a diversity statement or a response to our diversity statement; (4) a commitment of resources to bring in additional highly-qualified candidates for interviews to increase diversity of the pool of finalists; and, (5) using an applicant's commitment to diversity as one of the search selection criteria. Faculty search committees are appointed by the Chair who, going forward, will consider diversity as an important factor in the make-up of committees. During the process of hiring full-time faculty, we will remain in close contact with the College’s Office of Diversity to ensure that all appropriate considerations and measures to bring diversity to the department have been taken. We will act in concert with the Provost’s Diversity and Faculty Hiring Initiative. This will include making efforts to hire as full-time faculty, those that are currently, or have previously, served as adjunct faculty for the department and would bring greater diversity to our faculty. Moreover, faculty will be encouraged to attend College wide meetings/workshops related to diversity issues and to strongly consider factors of diversity when inviting guest speakers to campus.
- Expand Diversity Student Retention Efforts: The Diversity Committee will obtain and present data on retention of students across the range of diversity. In addition, the Department will further develop strategies to promote inclusiveness inside and outside of classes and research laboratories, including educating faculty and staff about strategies to mentor and support students from diverse groups.
- Take steps to improve Curricular Diversity/Inclusion: The department currently has a range of courses which deal with social, cultural, age and physical disparities. Such courses include: Social and Behavioral Sciences in Health, Global Health, Physiology of Aging, Physiology of Obesity, and International Nutrition; we will assure that measures are taken to specifically address diversity and inclusion in each, and to include these topics in other courses which have not previously done so. Also, the department will submit a proposal to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to start two new courses with the COLL 350 attribute that will bring speakers who focus on diversity issues as it relates to our discipline. More broadly, the Kinesiology Department will approach what courses are offered with an eye on diversity and inclusiveness. In particular, we will add greater international flavor to our Public Health courses such as Epidemiology, and Environmental Issues in Public Health. Also, in several of our physiology-based courses, we will ensure that sex-related differences in the function of various systems (e.g., cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, neuroendocrine) are addressed, along with alterations in age-related physiological function throughout the human lifespan. And in those courses that are deemed appropriate efforts will be made to inform students as to how sports activities can be used to bond, rather than divide, people of different cultural, socioeconomic, religious, and racial backgrounds. Finally, to be sure that no student gets left behind academically, all faculty will be strongly encouraged to register mid-semester grades.
- Professional Development and Outreach: We will use service and research efforts to generate outreach to our alumni and to the greater Williamsburg community. As brief examples of how this will be achieved, the department has recently started a falls prevention program at Williamsburg Landing Retirement Community, and a new collaboration on Health Equity was started with the Richmond/Henrico Health District of Virginia and the project recently received a grant from the Jeffress Memorial Grant.