Inclusive Excellence in Kinesiology Units in Higher Education

in Kinesiology Review
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  • 1 School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA
  • | 2 Department of Kinesiology, California State University, East Bay, Hayward, CA, USA
  • | 3 Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Hilo, HI, USA
  • | 4 Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, Division of Student Affairs, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Hilo, HI, USA
  • | 5 School of Kinesiology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

The aim of this paper is to emphasize the value of developing cultural awareness in kinesiology students to prepare them to enter the workforce in a world where the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are evolving. The authors provide examples of sustained and impactful practices from three kinesiology units in higher education that have been recognized with the American Kinesiology Association Inclusive Excellence Award. The case studies demonstrate that institutional support for inclusive excellence is instrumental in development of sustainable experiences. Kinesiology leaders can demonstrate commitment to inclusive excellence by supporting faculty who conduct teaching, research, and service activities that meet their institution’s inclusive excellence goals. Other areas where kinesiology units can influence student development include curriculum, student engagement activities, university and community partnerships, and leadership for inclusive excellence.

Globalization and the COVID-19 pandemic have rapidly restructured when, where, and how we work. Many workplaces are now fully online and remote, or hybrid (a mix of in-person and online). Partly because of these new work environments and wholly due to globalization, individuals must effectively communicate with diverse co-workers and clientele in a more diverse society than in previous times. Moreover, many new college graduates will be inventing jobs, rather than entering existing jobs. Universities, particularly those with large enrollment programs like kinesiology and business, need to understand that some students entering colleges and universities this year will have jobs that have not yet been invented. These students may serve the workforce until the year 2070! Therefore, a major goal of kinesiology academic programs should be to prepare our graduates to add holistic value to whatever they do and be ready to drive innovation.

To be innovation ready and prepared to succeed in a dynamic global society, graduates must be culturally competent. Cultural competence means having an awareness of our own cultural identity, and the knowledge, skills, and awareness to engage respectfully with people across cultures. This is accompanied by the understanding of our own implicit biases and awareness of our world views. This cultural competence can be achieved with a holistic, thoughtful, and thorough college or university education. Cultural competence begins with cultural humility. We learn from those whose experiences, beliefs, and perspectives are different from our own. These lessons are best taught in richly diverse intellectual and social academic environments. Diversity enriches the educational experience; it is crucial that our students understand how social diversity impacts kinesiology as well as the broader society (Culp, 2016; Doscher & Landorf, 2018). Braun et al. (2018) explicated the rationale for a greater focus on foundational skills (e.g., working as part of a team, citizenship, social responsibility) within the kinesiology curriculum that are necessary to prepare students to have successful careers; at the same time, there is the challenge of allotting time to these skills given the ever-expanding specific discipline knowledge educators wish to share with students. To facilitate students’ attainment of cultural competence, educators should consider the multiple types of diversity experiences kinesiology programs can offer (e.g., via curricula, service learning, internships, faculty research assistants, volunteer opportunities, participation in student clubs, leadership opportunities). Frank (2018) advocated that kinesiology professionals develop innovative collaborations with experts in diversity and social justice to help themselves and their students achieve the knowledge and skills necessary to foster cultural competence.

Kinesiology programs in higher education are responsible for the preparation of a workforce that is culturally prepared to promote physical activity, in all its varied forms. Students who understand and value inclusive excellence and the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) will thrive. Students will be better prepared to study and promote physical activity and wellness in an ever-changing world. For students to understand and develop a deep appreciation for the importance of inclusive excellence, they must be exposed to programs that foster and reinforce these values. In addition, students must see their instructors and professors, their most important intellectual influencers, practice and emphasize the significance of inclusive excellence in their chosen profession. (Please note that inclusive excellence and JEDI will be used interchangeably in this paper.)

In the interest of emphasizing the value of developing cultural awareness in kinesiology students, we provide examples and suggestions for leaders of kinesiology units to structure the environments and experiences of students, faculty, staff, and administrators to ensure graduates emerge with the highest levels of cultural awareness and competence. Specifically, this study provides summaries of programs and activities from the three kinesiology units that have been recognized with the American Kinesiology Association (AKA) Inclusive Excellence Award since its inception. With the goal of inspiring other programs toward greater diversity and inclusion efforts, the authors share creative, intuitive, and feasible ideas and practices.

The AKA Inclusive Excellence Award

Established in 2018, the Inclusive Excellence Award addresses AKA’s strategic prioritization and commitment to inclusive excellence, which encompasses JEDI ideals. Annually, AKA recognizes a member academic unit that has demonstrated a sustained, impactful, strategic, and comprehensive effort to infuse inclusive excellence practices and principles into its core functions (e.g., curriculum development processes, faculty hiring, administrative structure, student recruitment and retention). The AKA promotes the benefits and centrality of inclusive excellence practices and sustainment of inclusive academic unit environments. Specifically, the Inclusive Excellence Award honors academic units that provide their faculty, students, staff, and community constituents learning and working environments that demonstrate an exemplary commitment to inclusive excellence values and principles.

As part of their charge, the AKA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee reviews nomination materials and provides the association’s Executive Committee with an award recipient recommendation. The AKA Executive Committee reviews the recommendation and selects the Inclusive Excellence Award recipient. The award recipient is recognized at the annual AKA Leadership Workshop and via various AKA publications and social media outlets. Inclusive Excellence Award nomination materials must provide evidence of significant contributions that address three specific criteria related to inclusive excellence: (a) promotion of an understanding of diversity and inclusion within respective academic units or the field of kinesiology; (b) development of innovative programs, initiatives, and strategies designed to enhance AKA diversity and inclusion; and (c) sustained commitment to developing diversity and inclusion in kinesiology through teaching, research, or service.

In 2021, AKA leadership recognized multiple quality academic units nominated for the Inclusive Excellence Award. This change from only selecting a single awardee to also recognizing honorable mentions was due to the number of high quality nominations submitted for the award. This decision demonstrates AKA’s efforts to provide additional recognition and exposure to a broad range of academic programs that exemplifies its commitment to the core principles of inclusive excellence.

Introduction to Case Studies

Kinesiology units can broaden the understanding of inclusive excellence in various ways that amplify strengths of their unique unit culture and support their respective universities’ missions. The first case study is of the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University (SDSU), which was the inaugural recipient of the AKA Inclusive Excellence Award. They have a particularly strong focus on expanding the view of inclusive excellence to include consideration of people with disabilities. Because kinesiology involves the study of movement in all its forms, one aspect of inclusive excellence to which kinesiology units may be better positioned to contribute than other units is in the inclusion of people with different abilities.

The second case study is of the University of Hawai’i at Hilo (UHH) where the commitment to Indigenous people and communities is demonstrated at all levels—from the University of Hawai‘i system level, throughout the UHH campus, and practiced within the UHH Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences.

The third case study is of California State University, East Bay. They have made distinct efforts to maintain institutional integrity by aligning their curricula and programs with the mission and values of the University that pertain to JEDI. The Department of Kinesiology has also led some key initiatives across campus and historically has been at the forefront of engaging with diversity and social justice issues through established programs, such as the Center for Sport and Social Justice.

Case Study I: San Diego State University, School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences

SDSU is a transnational public research university. It is a long-standing Hispanic-Serving Institution that resides on Kumeyaay land. SDSU prides itself in being a multicultural community from diverse racial, ethnic, gender, and class backgrounds, national origins, faith backgrounds, political beliefs, abilities, and sexual orientations. SDSU is committed to inclusive excellence and is known for its efforts to advance diversity and inclusion.

In 2019, SDSU released its five-pronged 2020–2025 strategic plan highlighting equity and inclusion in everything we do as a priority. Through this, SDSU endeavors to be a global leader in advancing inclusive excellence in research, teaching, and community engagement. The execution of the plan comes with an iterative rollout to support programmatic change in policy. This centrally funded support ensures that inclusive excellence endeavors across campus are aligned and implemented consistently. Institutional support helps drive the polices enhancing the implementation of inclusive excellence endeavors.

The School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences (ENS) is home to graduate and undergraduate programs in kinesiology (prephysical therapy, fitness specialist, and exercise science), athletic training, foods and nutrition, and physical therapy. This case study will primarily focus on the kinesiology presence within the School of ENS. Kinesiology represents one of the largest majors at SDSU, with over 1,700 students enrolled annually. Several opportunities for students to encounter experiences that promote the understanding and appreciation of inclusive excellence are available within the curricula (e.g., internships and international experiences), across faculty research (e.g., aging, dementia, spinal cord injuries, posttraumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, women’s health, movement disorders, food insecurity, and substance abuse), student volunteering, and community engagement opportunities. Because about 70% of kinesiology students at SDSU have an emphasis area in prephysical therapy, we find a tremendous amount of student interest in working with people with disabilities.

One of the areas in which all kinesiology students participate in inclusive excellence focuses on serving people with disabilities. As a requirement of the curriculum, all kinesiology students must enroll in a one-credit Adaptive Fitness Clinic course (37.5 contact hours over the semester). Students participate in an immersive educational experience where they work twice per week for 75 min each session with clients with physical and/or neurological disabilities. This course is held in the SDSU Adaptive Fitness Clinic (a 3,800 square foot facility with accessible equipment specific to the needs of the clientele). The Adaptive Fitness Clinic was founded in 1983 and serves over 160 clients and trains over 400 students per year. A fee is charged on a sliding scale based on the client’s financial status. The Adaptive Fitness Clinic provides access to physical activity and fitness activities that are often unavailable to people with disabilities. Because the Adaptive Fitness Clinic course is a degree requirement, students who might otherwise never have had the opportunity to meet people with disabilities are able to learn and appreciate what and how much kinesiology professionals do to foster enhanced physical and emotional well-being.

The course begins with an orientation for the first two and a half weeks of the semester in which students attend a series of mandatory trainings. These trainings total 9 hr over three class days. In the trainings, students learn, for example, safety and emergency protocols, client documentation procedures, exercise programming, use of equipment, how to transfer clients, and how to review client diagnosis and medical history. Students are randomly matched with clients (usually a 1:1 pairing unless a particular client requires two students), with whom they work for the entire semester. Pairing for the entire semester helps students build relationships with clients, allows for consistency and progression in training, and improves the ability to track progress toward rehabilitation and fitness goals.

Over the course of the semester, close bonds between students and clients often develop. The apprehension that many students start the semester with tends to disappear over time. After the semester, the students’ attitudes toward people with disabilities are likely different from when they started the course and never the same again. A greater acceptance for differences and for the importance of inclusion, particularly as related to physical activity environments, develops. Student feedback is uniformly positive about this experience. The evaluative comments from students elicited from course evaluations indicate that this course is valued by students and is important to help them develop empathy for people different from themselves and nurture a greater appreciation for social justice.

Another program that focuses on inclusion of people with disabilities is SDSU Adapted Athletics (https://ens.sdsu.edu/sdsu-adapted-athletics/). This program was started in the School of ENS and is the first intercollegiate adapted athletics program in California. The program provides kinesiology students the opportunity to work with athletes who stretch the students’ beliefs about what is possible for a person with a disability to attain (e.g., the goal of some of these athletes is to qualify for the Paralympics). Students volunteer or serve an internship in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, coaching, marketing, and/or development. Aztec Adaptive Sports is a student organization within the School of ENS that works closely with the SDSU Adapted Athletics program. Students who participate in Aztec Adaptive Sports have volunteer opportunities with the on-campus Adapted Athletics program, as well as community-based programs, such as the Challenged Athletes Foundation (https://www.challengedathletes.org/). Development of a high-quality adapted athletics program requires consideration of the resources that can be provided to student athletes. Historically, athletes with disabilities have not had access to quality coaches, equipment, and facilities. The resources available will help determine the sport programs that can realistically be offered and the kind of student athletes the program can attract.

Some of the other areas in which the School of ENS promotes inclusive excellence, such as required courses within the curriculum, reach all students. Other areas, like the SDSU Latina Network, SDSU Adapted Athletics, and research programs on health disparities would not exist without specific faculty serving as the champions and driving force to start and sustain such programs. Tasks that may be the easiest to accomplish and sustain include reading the Indigenous land acknowledgment at the start of meetings and including it on syllabi; developing student diversity advisory councils to empower and give a voice to students from underrepresented populations; engaging staff to discuss inclusive excellence during staff meetings and to serve on committees related to inclusive excellence; encouraging faculty to serve on university committees that focus on inclusive excellence; and developing a unit level inclusive excellence committee and strategic plan.

Case Study II: University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences

Ehāpai a’e nei kākou he honua ‘ōiwi o Hawai‘i nona ka po‘e ‘ōiwi o ka ‘āina, ‘o ia nā kanaka Hawai‘i. Kū nō Ke Kulanui o Hawai‘i ma Hilo i ka ho‘ohiki a Ke Kulanui o Hawai‘i e ho‘oulu i ke ola o ko kākou mau kaiāulu ‘ōiwi ma o kā kākou hana kālai‘ike i kapa ‘ia ‘o Hawai‘i Papa O Ke Ao. Me ke aloha nui, e kākou i kēia ‘ōlelo “Hō‘oia ‘Āina,” ma ka ho‘okipa ‘ana i ka po‘e a pau. ‘O Hawai‘i nei nō kēia ‘āina. It is with profound reflection that we acknowledge Hawai‘i as an indigenous space whose original people are today identified as native Hawaiians (NHs). The UHH aligns with the University of Hawai‘i commitment to fostering the well-being of our indigenous communities through an academic transformation process we call Hawai‘i Papa O Ke Ao, Hawai‘i Foundation of Enlightened Knowledge (University of Hawai‘i, 2012). With much aloha, we offer this Land Acknowledgment in welcome to all. This is Hawai‘i.

Located on the island of Hawai‘i, the southernmost and largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, UHH is one of 10 campuses of the University of Hawai‘i system. Ranked as the most ethnically diverse campus among national universities, it is also a federally designated NH-serving institution, with 34.6% of students being NH (U.S. News and World Report, 2021). The UHH embraces University of Hawai‘i’s mission, including its unique responsibility to NHs and commitment to advancing and sustaining Indigenous language, culture, and knowledge to become a leading Indigenous-serving university.

Within the Hawaiian natural environment are spaces or Kīpuka surrounded by lava that serves as a refuge where native plants and animals flourish. The Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center (Kīpuka) serves as a similar space on the UHH campus where NH students can thrive within a safe, welcoming, and comfortable environment. In early 2000, NH students shared with the Kīpuka staff their academic and personal challenges, particularly within the classroom setting. Faculty were not pronouncing their Hawaiian names correctly and rarely used examples that were place-based and culturally relevant to them within their academic disciplines. To address this cultural disconnect, Kīpuka initiated the Uluākea Curriculum Transformation Project in 2006 to orient faculty to the Hawaiian language and culture within their teaching, research, and service (Kīpuka, 2006). NH students nominated six faculty for the inaugural cohort. The students identified a Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences faculty member as supportive and engaging, having taken personal interest in learning about the Hawaiian culture. The faculty member’s willingness to expand the learning to incorporate Hawaiian ways of knowing into his Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences (KES) courses, research, and activities is reflected in a thriving UHH KES program that currently has an NH enrollment of 32%.

Existing KES classes, such as Sport Psychology and Applied Motor Learning, were revised and new KES classes, such as Sport and Spirituality, were created based on NH knowledge. For example, the authors identified the secular method of imagery and mental rehearsal in sport psychology as being similar to the ancient Hawaiian spiritual practice of ki‘i used to prepare for a hula dance (Barkhoff & Tangarō, 2013). This innovation combines an ancient cultural practice with a mainstream kinesiology technique. The start of Uluākea marked the beginning of the expansion of the KES program, and the revision/implementation of new modules (Barkhoff & Tangarō, 2009) toward the long-term goal of indigenizing kinesiology at UHH.

Partnering with UHH’s Center for Community Engagement, KES 202 (health promotion), a course where students explore the factors that influence health and health behavior and strategies to address them, was matched with a public health nonprofit organization. In the summer prior to the start of the course, organization staff, the KES 202 instructor, and the Director of the Center for Community Engagement, met multiple times to modify the course, making sure that all of the learning objectives were being met, while focusing on a specific program that the nonprofit wanted assistance with. Students were put into groups of four to six people and developed various health promotion projects, such as radio ads, YouTube videos, or posters. Through this collaboration, students were able to get experience working with a local organization and create multiple health messaging deliverables to benefit their own community. At the same time, the nonprofit organization was able to implement an evidence-based campaign. This course allowed students not from Hawai‘i island to get to know the community more. Students from the island felt a special obligation to serve their own community, while working with others not from here, allowing them to introduce their home to fellow classmates.

The faculty of KES also make it a priority to involve students in their research. As an NH-serving institution, much of the KES faculty research focuses on NH and Pacific Islander health disparities (Serafica et al., 2018; Wong et al., 2019). Students work on various research projects in the KES Therapeutic Sciences and Strength and Conditioning labs, as well as out in the field partnering with schools, businesses, and government agencies.

To further the UHH commitment to being a NH place of learning that supports the diverse student body and their success, faculty embarked on a collaborative effort to create the interdisciplinary Indigenous Public Health Certificate that is housed in the KES Department. The certificate is of particular benefit to students who are interested in indigenous health, or those interested in course work with an indigenous focus, as well as those who may have the goal of becoming health professionals in indigenous communities across the Hawaiian Islands or United States. Moreover, students from any discipline can incorporate the certificate into their academic and career goals. Students will not only gain an understanding of the principles, purposes, and practices of public health, but also a greater appreciation of NH, Pacific Islander, and other Indigenous groups’ concerns about health and the disparities they face. They will also develop a greater awareness and deeper understanding of indigenous perspectives regarding the relationships between place, the natural environment, and various traditional cultural practices for health and well-being. Furthermore, students will develop their own sense of indigeneity and consequently be able to better understand and relate to the indigenous perspectives of others. Coursework for the certificate is offered within several academic disciplines including Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke’elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language and the Departments of Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, and Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences. Most recently, the KES Department has created an Indigenous Kinesiology course to add as an elective to the certificate.

The following tasks were identified as being important to further our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts: (a) assessing actual student needs through surveys and focus groups and using the data to inform specific professional development training opportunities for faculty that reflect the interests of the students, (b) continuation of interdisciplinary academic and student programming and community engagement to ensure student success, and (c) institutionalization of diversity, equity, and inclusion principles and practices into all areas of university course work and student life.

Case Study III: California State University, East Bay, Department of Kinesiology

The Department of Kinesiology at California State University East Bay (CSUEB) has over 800 majors who go onto careers in the fitness-related industries, coaching, community leadership, teaching, and the allied health professions. The Department of Kinesiology is housed in the College of Education and Allied Studies and offers undergraduate general education courses, as well as major courses at the undergraduate and master’s degree levels.

According to one recent external program reviewer, “The students within the Kinesiology program represent a culturally diverse, non-traditional student population who are serious about and committed to their education.” The following departmental statistics reflect the diverse demographics of the student body: 37% Latinx, 27% Asian, 8% Black; 43% of students are Pell Grant recipients; and 56% are first generation students.

CSUEB has recognized the need to provide more courses, services, and support mechanisms to improve low graduation rates and address achievement gaps that exist for underrepresented minority students, including those in the Department of Kinesiology. Since 2020, there has been a renewed commitment at the university level to address student needs, including focusing on JEDI issues through academic senate policy changes, university resolutions with a focus on Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and review of institutional hiring practices, to name but a few. One program, the Student Equity and Success Committee, is examining equity gaps that exist among students. Meetings, collaborations, research, and a new proposed program are thus currently underway to offer historically marginalized groups of students the opportunity to receive needed support in order to achieve success. Another program, a campus organization called the “Alliance for the Black Community (ABC),” involves a group of faculty and staff aiming to build a better infrastructure to support the hiring, retention, and promotion of Black faculty and facilitate the academic success of Black students, and to expand the cultural competency of faculty around the issues of anti-Blackness and racism on campus. The ABC, in collaborative partnership with the Office of Diversity and other faculty content experts and practitioners of critical race theory, created a week-long summer academy experience. The academy is directly aimed at faculty who wish to demonstrate their commitment to and further their abilities in teaching the diverse student body as part of an anti-racist and anti-White supremacist initiative that is consistent with the CSUEB institutional mission and commitment to social justice, inclusive excellence, and an equitable education.

Within this evolving university context, the Department of Kinesiology grounds its work in Program Learning Outcomes that align with one of the university’s overarching Institutional Learning Outcomes, which states that students “will apply knowledge of diversity and multicultural competencies to promote equity and social justice in our communities.” Coinciding with an institutional shift from quarter classes to semester classes in Fall 2018, the Department of Kinesiology recently created program learning outcomes that directly engage with diversity and inclusion principles at both the undergraduate and master’s levels. Under its mission to prepare graduates who are knowledgeable, professional, and take a multidisciplinary approach to promoting physical activity, the department is committed to diverse and inclusive course instruction, co-curricular offerings, and research and mentorship. Students are encouraged to get involved in the Center for Sport and Social Justice, a faculty–student collaborative that seeks to re-envision the world of sport as more socially just. The Center facilitates campus events, community collaboration, and research. Another support for students is the Kinesiology Research Group, which provides intensive mentoring for many students of color via research projects in the life sciences. Students of color frequently collaborate with faculty through other co-curricular opportunities, including Get Fit! Stay Fit!, Exercise is Medicine, 3D Bone Printing Project, Myth Busters, and the Bay Area Physical Education-Health Project programs. These activities align with efforts to transform many departmental courses to engage students in diversity and inclusion topics and engage faculty and students in scholarship that is grounded in diversity and inclusion principles and topics that involve members of diverse local communities.

Recent faculty collaborations have also addressed JEDI concerns. For instance, on March 1, 2021, departmental faculty and staff participated in an anti-racist workshop. The workshop was led by members of the ABC Education Team outlined previously who were able to initiate conversations around anti-Black racism. Participants started the process of identifying how to approach issues facing Black, Indigenous, and students of color in the department, such as implementing anti-racist practices into individual teaching and advising; they also sought to address the need to provide support to faculty and students of color in the department.

Programs like this are in direct alignment with the recent List of Recommendations: 9 Ideas for Fostering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in College of Education and Allied Studies, a document created by the college’s strategic planning committee based on the findings from working groups at the 2021 Spring all-college JEDI forum. This college-wide document prioritizes three key areas to focus on in the coming year: (a) engagement in culturally relevant teaching and learning, (b) use of language that is inclusive and explicitly anti-racist, and (c) engagement in anti-bias professional learning. The department has committed to centering JEDI by dedicating significant time in weekly all-department meetings to address these initiatives and the subsequent formation of department working groups.

Carving out spaces to address important JEDI issues can be difficult given the intensive responsibilities of kinesiology departments. Looking forward, some key questions remain and require addressing at a departmental level. For instance, how much can be accomplished in weekly meetings that concurrently address service, teaching, and administrative topics? That is, how much depth of discussion can occur in weekly interactions, and are they a sustainable means to drill down into deep-rooted and complex JEDI concerns? Such concerns revolve around department culture, student retention/outreach, community and university-based research, course curricula, and pedagogical innovation. Furthermore, while the meetings at CSUEB have served as a starting point, the department must also consider whose voices are missing or marginalized (e.g., faculty, staff, student, and part-time instructors who are unable to regularly participate in and substantially direct these discussions).

In terms of practical steps for the future, the intention is that department goals and practices around JEDI will mirror those currently being identified under the college’s strategic plan. It is also critical that department members simultaneously engage with broader campus-wide initiatives, such as the White Anti-Racist Collective, cultural awareness seminars hosted by the Diversity and Inclusion Student Center, as well as other JEDI-focused programs that are emerging across campus. Achievable tasks at the department level will include working toward making syllabi anti-racist, reconceptualizing faculty–student office hours to be more inclusive and meaningful, and facilitating participation of department members in anti-bias training. Moreover, recent data that were collected at the university level will also be analyzed, with specific action plans being put in place to address how to best serve kinesiology students. For instance, we will analyze recently collected campus climate survey data highlighting student JEDI concerns and use these findings as a springboard for the development of a kinesiology student group. We will also address a recent equity report that indicates how certain courses have significant achievement gaps (indicated by grade point average) between underrepresented minority students and nonunderrepresented minority students. A department retreat at the beginning of the academic year was held to address the scope and nature of these tasks, as well as assign departmental champions for specific JEDI goals and initiatives. Also, during this retreat, each participant  was asked to reflect on specific issues and practices pertaining to race through the lens of critical race theory.

Although not a comprehensive list, Table 1 provides examples of activities and programs from each of the case studies that promote inclusive excellence.

Table 1

Sample Programs and Activities That Promote Inclusive Excellence

Area of influenceDescription
Curriculum
 Adaptive fitness clinic laboratoryAt SDSU, this is a required course for all kinesiology students
 International experienceAt SDSU, this is a graduation requirement of all students in the School of ENS.
 Indigenous public health certificateAt UHH, coursework for this interdisciplinary certificate is offered within several departments.
 Uluākea—Curriculum transformation projectAt UHH, this project orientates faculty to Hawaiian language, culture, and ways of knowing.
 Program learning outcomesAt CSUEB, these outcomes included diversity and inclusion principles.
 Core major courseworkAt CSUEB, several major courses focus directly on social–cultural issues and social justice topics.
 Cultural competenceAt all institutions, this is a component of several courses.
Student engagement
 Student diversity advisory councilAt SDSU, students and staff are invited to participate and share their ideas and concerns with the school director(s).
 Aztec Adaptive Sports Student OrganizationAt SDSU, this student organization encourages student engagement in activities related to diversity, particularly working with athletes with disabilities.
 Thom McKenzie Student Research GrantsAt SDSU, student research, in collaboration with faculty, on underrepresented minority health behavior is supported.
 Kīpuka—Native Hawaiian student centerAt UHH, native Hawaiian students, campus-wide, are provided comprehensive support services.
 Keaholoa—STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) scholars programAt UHH, this program supports participation of native Hawaiian and other Pacific Island students.
 Co-curricular programs and projectsAt CSUEB, students engage in a range of research and practical/applied experiences, working with peers and faculty/staff mentors on campus and with leaders in local communities.
 Involve URM students in researchAll faculty make it a priority to involve URM students in their research.
 Health disparities researchAt all institutions, faculty involve students in health disparities research.
University and community partnerships
 Challenged Athletes FoundationAt SDSU, ENS partnered with a community organization to provide students with volunteer opportunities to engage with athletes with disabilities.
 California Outreach ChallengeAt SDSU, every academic year, ENS Doctor of Physical Therapy students compete with physical therapy programs across the state to accrue the most volunteer community engagement hours.
 Center for Community EngagementAt UHH, KES partnered with the University Center to match students with a public health nonprofit organization to explore factors that influence health behaviors.
 Hui Mālama Ola Nā ‘Ōiwi—Native Hawaiian health care system in HiloAt UHH, KES provided consulting services including the planning and implementation of health programs; it also developed internship opportunities for students for their health promotion practicum.
 Vibrant Hawai‘iAt UHH, KES provides consulting services to increase equitable opportunities for all people of Hawai’i Island.
 Co-curricular opportunitiesAt CSUEB, various programs, including the Bay Area Physical Education–Health Project, engage diverse students across campus and members of local communities.
 Capstone internshipAt CSUEB, these courses require all majors to spend 50–150 hr in various professional placements in and around the Bay Area.
Leadership and leadership opportunities
 Land acknowledgmentAt SDSU, the Kumeyaay Land Acknowledgment is read at the start of every faculty meeting.
 Inclusion at staff meetingsAt SDSU, staff share something about their background at weekly meetings.
 Hawai‘i Papa O Ke Ao—Strategic initiativeAt UHH, the goals are leadership development, community engagement, and Hawaiian language and culture parity.
 Hanakahi—Native Hawaiian advisory councilAt UHH, Native Hawaiian faculty, staff, and students advise the Chancellor on issues and topics that impact the access and success of NH students.
 Departmental working groupsAt CSUEB, working groups are formed to work on specific JEDI priorities identified in department discussions.
 Departmental retreats for faculty and staffAt CSUEB, a summer 2021 department retreat is planned that will focus on JEDI, with the purpose of enabling faculty and staff to lead efforts for the upcoming academic year.
 Diversity, equity, and inclusion committeesAt all institutions, faculty serve on departmental, college, and university-level committees that develop and recommend policies to promote inclusive excellence.

Note. SDSU = San Diego State University; UHH = University of Hawai‘i at Hilo; CSUEB = California State University, East Bay; URM = underrepresented minority; ENS = School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences; KES = Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences; JEDI = justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion; NH = native Hawaiians.

Discussion

The purpose of this paper is to (a) emphasize to leaders in the field of kinesiology that kinesiology students will be better prepared to enter and adapt to a changing workforce if we design learning environments and experiences to promote development of cultural awareness, and (b) provide examples and suggestions for how leaders of kinesiology units can structure the environments and experiences within which students, faculty, and staff participate, so that our graduates emerge with the highest levels of cultural awareness and competence. We presented summaries of programs and activities from the three kinesiology units that have been recognized with the AKA Inclusive Excellence Award. Each of these kinesiology units provided evidence of practices that can be sustained and impactful in a committed unit, making institutional environments just and equitable. However, leaders of these kinesiology units realize that developing physical and social environments that value JEDI is a journey and that leaders should continue to build a sense of community and enhance feelings of belonging in students, faculty, and staff.

The case studies support the conclusion that both university commitment and support for individual champions within kinesiology departments are valuable and critical for progress in creating a culture of inclusion. All three case studies demonstrate that institutional support for JEDI efforts is invaluable (e.g., https://www.sdsu.edu/strategic-plan). When people at all levels of the university are focused on JEDI, real and sustainable progress can be made (Russell, 2019). Top–down approaches provided by university policies include prominence of JEDI in the strategic plan; support for hiring policies that require all applicants to address JEDI in their applications; consideration of inclusive excellence in retention, tenure, and promotion policies that recognize the service underrepresented faculty do to help the college or university fulfill its strategic plan; retention, tenure, and promotion policies that recognize teaching innovations that introduce students to diverse perspectives and help them become more culturally competent; policies for co-curricular programs that support the college or university mission; and requirements for unit level JEDI committees. Kinesiology units that are successful in providing just and equitable experiences and practices enhance the university-wide approach. This is partially accomplished by supporting faculty who deliver programs and activities that prepare students to be culturally competent in a global society (Lowrie & Robinson, 2013; Mmeje et al., 2020).

Kinesiology units have several areas of influence that can support JEDI within our programs, including: (a) curriculum, (b) student engagement, (c) university and community partnerships, and (d) leadership. The curriculum is an important and powerful area to consider. Curricula have the opportunity to reach every student and demonstrate commitment to JEDI. Because all students progress through courses in the curriculum, it is through shared learning experiences that they receive a common framework to understand and appreciate JEDI. We may also face some resistance to inclusion of JEDI within the curriculum. It is widely understood that the curriculum belongs to the faculty. Nearly all faculty are invested in preparing students for their next stage of life. Revising curriculum and courses should be a regular practice. Thus, educating faculty about the importance of including principles of JEDI within course curricula, presentations, and discussions to better prepare students for the workforce is an approach that could inspire faculty to consider inclusion of these issues as they plan their courses. In addition, hiring faculty who are genuinely invested in JEDI is another area over which unit leaders may have some control. The case studies presented indicate that inclusive excellence is emphasized in some aspects of the curriculum and faculty development.

Student engagement in activities that involve inclusive excellence is another area that the case studies identified as important to development of cultural awareness. Creation of JEDI student advisory councils provide underrepresented students the opportunity to share their concerns and experiences with kinesiology unit leaders and sends the important message that every voice is valued. The case studies emphasized the importance of providing specific times and locations where students can share their expectations and ideas, allowing faculty and students to learn from each other. Student organizations with a specific focus on inclusive excellence are another option to engage students outside the classroom and demonstrate JEDI as valued by the unit. In addition, student organizations provide opportunities for leadership experience for students. As students develop leadership skills, they can effectively advance JEDI initiatives and amplify efforts of departments and faculty.

Kinesiology units can demonstrate their commitment to JEDI and enhance opportunities for students by encouraging university and community partnerships. Community organizations are eager to engage motivated and talented students. Kinesiology unit leaders should actively foster and support these collaborations. Russell (2019) highlighted community engagement as a key element to promote inclusive excellence in higher education. The case studies presented here include example of organizations focused on supporting athletes with disabilities, public health, health care, and physical education.

Finally, kinesiology unit chairpersons need to provide leadership to help the unit and university reach inclusive excellence and JEDI goals. Unit leaders need to explicitly state that JEDI is valued and important. It is not enough to personally value inclusive excellence. Because of the leadership positions department chairs accepted, it is their responsibility to publicly state JEDI values. Faculty, staff, and students respond to such leadership. Commitment to inclusive excellence can be demonstrated by considering the following: how and what is said in faculty meetings; having bidirectional dialogs in meetings; encouraging faculty and staff to participate in JEDI trainings; financially funding activities and programs that support JEDI goals, including JEDI training in teaching assistant and new faculty orientations; making space to have conversations with and listen to students; developing action plans with explicitly defined outcomes to demonstrate that efforts are impactful; and ensuring the unit website reflects unit values.

The purpose of higher education should not be to affirm beliefs, but rather to foster an openness to questioning beliefs. Educators and administrators should endeavor to have students understand that others draw from different experiences in different contexts. Interactions with people from diverse environments enhances the educational experience and better prepares them for life after graduation. As your kinesiology unit continues on its journey to provide environments that value JEDI, may the force be with you.

References

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Braun, B., Williams, N.I., Garber, C.E., & Hickey, M. (2018). “Core stability”: Should there be a bigger focus on foundational skills in the kinesiology curriculum? Kinesiology Review, 7(4), 295299. https://doi.org/10.1123/kr.2018-0033

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    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Doscher, S., & Landorf, H. (2018). Universal global learning, inclusive excellence, and higher education’s greater purposes. Peer Review, 20(1), 47.

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    • Export Citation
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    • Crossref
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    • Export Citation
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  • Russell, J. (2019). Achieving inclusive excellence in Kinesiology: Insights, strategies, and perspectives. Quest, 71(4), 349360. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2019.1604387

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Serafica, R., Inouye, J., Lukkahatai, N., Braginsky, N., Pacheco, M., & Daub, K.F. (2018). The use of mobile health to assist self-management and access services in a rural community. Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 37(2), 6272. https://doi.org/10.1097/CIN.0000000000000494

    • Crossref
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  • University of Hawai‘i. (2012). Hawai‘i Papa O Ke Ao Report 2012. University of Hawai‘i. https://www.hawaii.edu/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/HPOKA-2012.pdf

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  • U.S. News and World Report. (2021). Campus ethnic diversity for national universities ranking. https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/campus-ethnic-diversity

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  • Wong, J.W.H., Pacheco, M.Y., Kaneakua-Pia, I., & Chang, A.L. (2019). Racial/ethnic variations in trial of labor after cesarean in an understudied population. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 133(1), 190S. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.AOG.0000559191.43202.4d

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Mahar (mmahar@sdsu.edu) is corresponding author, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5011-6947.

Barkhoff is now at the College of Health Sciences and Human Services, California State University, Monterey Bay

  • Barkhoff, H., & Tangarō, T. (2009). Integrating culture into the teaching of sport psychology in Hawaii. In S. McCarthy, et al.V. Karandashev, M. Stevens, A. Thatcher, J. Jaafar, K. Moore, A. Trapp, & C. Brewer (Eds.), Teaching psychology around the world: Vol. 2 (pp. 450455). Cambridge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Barkhoff, H., & Tangarō, T. (2013). Spirituality in imagery. Application of the Hawaiian Ki’I concept into sport psychology. International Journal of Religion and Sport, 2, 5968.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Braun, B., Williams, N.I., Garber, C.E., & Hickey, M. (2018). “Core stability”: Should there be a bigger focus on foundational skills in the kinesiology curriculum? Kinesiology Review, 7(4), 295299. https://doi.org/10.1123/kr.2018-0033

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Culp, B. (2016). Social justice and the future of higher education kinesiology. Quest, 68(3), 271283. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2016.1180308

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Doscher, S., & Landorf, H. (2018). Universal global learning, inclusive excellence, and higher education’s greater purposes. Peer Review, 20(1), 47.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Frank, A.M. (2018). The times, they need a changing: Infusing social justice into Kinesiology requires collaboration. Quest, 70(2), 155165. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2018.1438298

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center. (2006). Uluākea curriculum transformation project. University of Hawai’i at Hilo. http://kipuka.uhh.hawaii.edu/servicesFaculty.php

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lowrie, P.M., & Robinson, L.E. (2013). Creating an inclusive culture and climate that supports excellence in Kinesiology. Kinesiology Review, 2(3), 170180. https://doi.org/10.1123/krj.2.3.170

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mmeje, O., Price, E.A.N., Johnson, T.R.B., & Fenner, D.E. (2020). Galvanizing for the future: A bottom-up departmental approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 223(5), 715.e1715.e7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2020.07.030

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Russell, J. (2019). Achieving inclusive excellence in Kinesiology: Insights, strategies, and perspectives. Quest, 71(4), 349360. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2019.1604387

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Serafica, R., Inouye, J., Lukkahatai, N., Braginsky, N., Pacheco, M., & Daub, K.F. (2018). The use of mobile health to assist self-management and access services in a rural community. Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 37(2), 6272. https://doi.org/10.1097/CIN.0000000000000494

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • University of Hawai‘i. (2012). Hawai‘i Papa O Ke Ao Report 2012. University of Hawai‘i. https://www.hawaii.edu/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/HPOKA-2012.pdf

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • U.S. News and World Report. (2021). Campus ethnic diversity for national universities ranking. https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/campus-ethnic-diversity

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wong, J.W.H., Pacheco, M.Y., Kaneakua-Pia, I., & Chang, A.L. (2019). Racial/ethnic variations in trial of labor after cesarean in an understudied population. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 133(1), 190S. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.AOG.0000559191.43202.4d

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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