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Considerations for Enhancing the Diversity Initiative of AKA

White Paper – Considerations for Enhancing the Diversity Initiative of AKA

by Drs. Jared Russell & Mary Rudisill

The past three years has seen an increase in media coverage of diversity and inclusion-related clashes between students, faculty, campus police, and administrators on the campuses of multiple high-profile institutions of higher education. Whether it is Oberlin College, the University of Missouri, or Harvard University the impact of student protests, faculty and administrator firings, community activism and the upcoming decision in the Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas has been well-documented by social media and news outlets as well as higher education publications such as The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education. It suffices to say that matters of diversity are at the forefront of many concerned with the future of higher education. It would behoove leadership in the academic field of kinesiology and related disciplines to carefully examine the means by which they are facilitating and supporting a climate of appreciation for diversity among their respective faculty, staff, and students. Additionally, professional organizations, such as the American Kinesiology Association, are tasked with taking the necessary and appropriate steps to educate, support, and celebrate the development of effective strategies, initiatives, and programs that enhance diversity within the academic units of respective members. With this goal in mind the following paper seeks to provide leadership with (a) an overview of diversity-related initiatives implemented by AKA, (b) provide recommendations for AKA membership to consider as a means of enhancing diversity (in the broadest sense of the word) in respective academic units, and lastly (c) facilitate a meaningful dialogue within the membership (and hopefully their respective institutions) regarding the enhancement of diversity among the membership’s academic units.

As the 7th annual American Kinesiology Association (AKA) Leadership Workshop (January 2016) approaches, now is the appropriate time to consider the integration of diversity initiatives into the overall mission of the organization. First and foremost, as stated in the organizational mission:

The American Kinesiology Association promotes and enhances kinesiology as a unified field of study and advances its many applications. AKA does this by advocating for kinesiology at national and international levels as well as by supporting its member departments by providing resource materials and leadership and educational opportunities for university administrators in kinesiology.

To this end, AKA has demonstrated considerable leadership in recognizing and addressing the critical needs of the AKA membership in the areas of diversity, social justice, and inclusiveness. More specifically, beginning at the 2013 Leadership Workshop themed Diversity Enhancement in Kinesiology (Orlando, FL), AKA has introduced several key initiatives for the membership. One of those initiatives was the creation of the AKA Diversity Committee. Led by Dr. Doris Corbett (University of Northern Iowa), the Diversity Committee comprises members from a range of ethnic and racial backgrounds, institutional characteristics, administrative and faculty responsibilities. The following AKA diversity statement guides the Diversity Committee’s activities:

AKA promotes and pursues an evolving understanding of the importance of human interaction in kinesiology-related fields beyond the level of simple tolerance. Diversity within AKA creates a working and learning environment that encourages varied perspectives and an open exchange of ideas in an unbiased and non-prejudicial way. In principle and in practice, AKA values membership, involvement and expanded access to leadership opportunities regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, age, marital status, sexual orientation, nationality, physical ability, appearance, language, socio-economic status, geographic location, professional level, or academic achievement. AKA pursues diversity, particularly for historically underrepresented group, by maintaining a Diversity Committee and providing resource information for diversity-related initiatives. AKA is committed to pursuing the development and involvement of diverse Kinesiology departments and partnering with other organizations and communities that engage in enhancing diversity in science and sport.

Since its inception, the Diversity Committee has worked diligently to develop an AKA action plan, sustainability plan and this current white paper. Additionally, the Diversity Committee has spearheaded the continuous efforts of AKA to provide its membership with resources and information including best practices for the recruitment and retention of faculty and students from diverse backgrounds, announcements of employment opportunities, and contact information for professionals in the kinesiology field with expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. Further, AKA has published commentaries addressing issues of diversity in media outlets such as the AKA webinar series, a special-themed issue of Kinesiology Review, multiple Do the Right Thing columns found in Kinesiology Review as well as Dr. Wojteck Chodzko-Zajko AKA President’s Column (Winter 2013) titled Lessons in Diversity from the AKA Leadership Workshop (Winter, 2013).

The aforementioned efforts of AKA leadership, particularly the Diversity Committee, are praiseworthy and truly acknowledge the organization’s commitment to diversity. The following are several areas for the membership to consider moving forward to continue these efforts:

1) Position diversity and inclusion as an integral part of the organization’s mission, programming, and activities. While acknowledging the diversity of characteristics, resources, and needs of respective membership academic units and institutions AKA should continue to serve as a resource center for the field regarding best practices and effective strategies for enhancing diversity.

2) Reflect on the recent diversity-oriented initiatives and strategically plan for the future. Where does AKA see itself in 5, 10, or 20 years regarding the demographics of its membership? How has and how will the organization impact the trajectory of potential leader within the field of kinesiology? Will future organizational priorities benefit or hinder diversity initiatives?

3) Recruit kinesiology academic program leaders from historically black colleges and university (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), and smaller institutions to AKA workshops. The perspectives offered by leadership from these traditionally underrepresented institutions can only add valuable insights to the conversations, discussions, and strategy sessions that are common at the workshops.

4) Encourage leadership to appropriately confront diversity-related issues within their respective academic units, institutions, and communities that are negatively impacting the experiences of students, faculty, and other constituents. As recent events show not addressing issues such as microaggressions, homophobic behaviors, and other forms of marginalization and discrimination is detrimental to the overall educational mission of academic units.

5) Educate leadership in how best to address aforementioned issues and what constitutes best practices for enhancing the diversity of respective academic units. As stated earlier, AKA has positioned itself as a “hub” and resource center for information and expertise in many areas related to diverse faculty and student recruitment, retention, and support.

6) Integrate diversity and inclusion topics into leadership development opportunities provided by AKA whether during the annual pre-workshop leadership programming or in other media outlets. Again, as mentioned earlier, diversity and inclusion must remain part of the core of AKA programming. Diversity and inclusion are concepts that can be integrated into most, if not all, programming offered by AKA and is essential to supporting the development of future leaders and stewards of the kinesiology discipline.

7) Connect with peer kinesiology organizations and support their respective diversity initiatives. Professional organizations such as the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America), the National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education (NAKHE), and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) each have statements supporting diversity and various programs for enhancing diversity within the field of kinesiology. Additionally, these organizations, along with AKA, have a significant amount of shared professionals between them who make up respective membership. Perhaps a joint statement regarding the importance of diversity is possible. Regardless of such a developing such a statement, it is important that the organizations within the field of kinesiology share the same commitment and message regarding the importance of diversity and support each other.

In conclusion, the American Kinesiology Association (AKA) has demonstrated its commitment and support of diversity and inclusion within the academic leadership ranks of kinesiology. However, there is still much work to be done moving forward. The lack of ethnic and gender diversity in the ranks of academic leadership, and student and faculty populations need to be addressed. Actively and effectively recruiting and supporting traditionally underrepresented academic programs is vital to the overall growth and sustainability of the organization. Reasonably forecasting and preparing to take advantage of the crucial and impactful higher education trends on the horizon and their impact on diversity initiatives within and outside of the field of kinesiology is paramount. Hopefully, the recommendations and perspectives provided in this document will facilitate further discussion and action among AKA leadership and membership as the organization continues to support initiatives that enhance diversity and inclusion in member academic unit.







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