Social Justice and Equity Imperatives—A Call to Action

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Karen L. Francis Department of Kinesiology, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA

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Kim C. Graber Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA

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The American Kinesiology Association’s (AKA) annual workshop was conceptualized to bring together leaders in the field of kinesiology to address topics that are timely, meaningful, challenging, and impactful. The development of topics, ideas, or workshop themes arises through extensive in-depth discussions, analysis of the shifting academic landscape, and reflection and consideration of AKA’s prior and future programming. The development of the theme for the 2023 workshop on social justice and equity evolved over several years, gaining focused momentum with a statement released on Juneteenth of 2020: “AKA ... resolves to undermine racism, value Black lives and perspectives, and equip kinesiology leaders to promote social justice, equity, and inclusive excellence” (AKA, 2020). Since that time, AKA’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is evidenced by special sessions on DEI at the annual workshop, DEI topic-related trainings as part of the Leadership Institute, and DEI-focused webinars as part of regular programming. AKA’s commitment and passion to social justice and equity and the rising attention and awareness of the social justice crisis in academia led to the theme of the 2023 annual workshop held in San Diego, CA, January 26–28, 2023: “Social Justice and Equity Imperatives: A Call to Action.”

The main workshop comprised five social justice and equity imperatives: culture and climate, well-being, advocacy, academic freedom, and curriculum. The keynote presentations for each of the imperatives were dynamic and engaging and included interactive discussions. Prior to the workshop, there were two preworkshops focused on the culture and climate imperative: “Transforming the Undergraduate Experience in Kinesiology: Developing and Supporting Climate and Culture” and “Shaping an Inclusive Graduate Program Culture: From Recruitment to Post-Graduation.” There was also a Leadership Forum, which was the opening highlight of the workshop, offering a focused overview on “Strategies for Navigating the Demographic Cliff: Strategies for Maintaining and Growing a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Student Body.” Each year, AKA hosts a special guest for the “Fireside Chat.” This year, the special guest was Shireen Ahmed, an award-winning journalist and sport activist whose work focuses on the intersection of racism and misogyny in sport. This special issue of Kinesiology Review highlights scholarly, peer-reviewed articles that represent content from all facets of the workshop. Kinesiology leaders will find valuable, innovative, and informative information in these articles that can have an impact on the success of kinesiology programs, as well as the success and well-being of students, staff, and faculty.

The issue begins with an overview of transforming higher education to meet changing societal needs (Chodzko-Zajko, 2023). Chodzko-Zajko points out that kinesiology leaders can play a significant role creating, innovating, and developing educational opportunities that pace with technological demand, align with the changing job market, and successfully accommodate the changing student demographic. He provides innovative examples of educational reform from the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign related to nontraditional programs, innovative learning environments, and partnerships. These innovative programs, ideas, and partnerships foster inclusiveness and extend the educational reach to all facets of the community.

The next two articles focus on the concept of belonging, an important factor in the well-being of faculty, staff, and students. Armstrong (2023) suggests creating an inclusive environment to support inclusive excellence where all feel welcomed and engaged. A sense of belonging requires an understanding of personal and positional culture, organizational cultural environments, and transformational leadership. Carter-Francique (2023) extends the discussion by emphasizing the importance of fostering a sense of belonging for students of color with a focus on extending belonging beyond the classroom. Carter-Francique emphasizes that developing an academic sense of belonging does not necessarily translate to social or community belonging. Several strategies are offered for academic units to foster social integration beyond the classroom.

Further extending the discussion of creating departmental environments where faculty well-being is embraced, and professional success of all faculty is equally valued and supported, is the concept of identity taxation. Rowley et al. (2023) discuss the potential burden and negative consequences of increased and inequitable service workloads based on marginalized social identities. They share two case examples from their work at California State University, East Bay, demonstrating how intentional, collaborative efforts designed to create service-workload equity can be successful and impactful for the lives of faculty members.

Equity-focused approaches to student recruitment and retention are key to fostering inclusivity in kinesiology graduate programs. Davis Brooks et al. (2023) present autoethnographic accounts from female Black scholars in leadership positions to help us understand their experience navigating graduate school at predominantly White institutions (PWIs). They provide advice and recommendations on how to strategically navigate successful partnerships between historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and PWIs that are based, in part, on their personal experiences at both types of institutions. Liu et al. (2023) extend this discussion by providing a step-by-step case example of the process of establishing an HBCU/PWI partnership. Once students are in a graduate program, they suggest mentoring and alumni connection programs, which have been demonstrated as key factors for student success and retention.

The next two articles focus specifically on infusing DEI into a graduate program and incorporating it into a curriculum. Kochanek (2023) presents a nice, comprehensive example of infusing DEI into an athletic training master’s program, including creating a mission statement, conducting a needs assessment, developing a curriculum, and carrying out an outcomes assessment. Culp (2023) further reflects on reenvisioning the curriculum to make it inclusive. He proposes and discusses five conceptual areas (public pedagogy, interrelationship, dehumanization, spatiality, and technology) and strategies to incorporate inclusive behaviors within each area. Culp also offers examples of inclusive strategies designed to facilitate curriculum implementation. These two articles are valuable to leaders who are working on implementing DEI into their programs and curricula.

The articles in this special feature provide valuable information about social justice and equity for kinesiology leaders. The AKA will again demonstrate its commitment to this topic at its upcoming meeting on January 25–27, 2024, in Albuquerque, NM. The “Social Justice and Equity Imperatives” theme will focus on providing participants with “real world” models and exemplars of excellence. Following the 2023 workshop that introduced social justice, equity concepts, and general strategies for establishing a climate of inclusive excellence in departments of kinesiology, the 2024 workshop will engage participants in conversations that focus on administrative and curricular action steps that address social justice and equity imperatives. Sessions will provide examples of programmatic excellence and address policy and professional development opportunities that impact both faculty and student success. Participants will have ample time to network, share ideas during structured activities, and engage in cultural/heritage events.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the authors included in the issue for their dynamic presentations at the 2023 AKA Leadership Workshop and for their substantial contributions to this special issue of Kinesiology Review. We would also like to recognize and extend our appreciation to the Publications Committee for their assistance in the review process. A special thank you to the Chair of the Publications Committee, Priscila Tamplain from the University of Texas at Arlington, for helping organize the reviews and to the members of the committee for their timely review of the manuscripts. Members include Eadric Bressel, Utah State University; Steven Elmer, Michigan Technological University; Matt Ganio, University of Arkansas; Andrea Mason, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Jenny O, California State University, East Bay.

References

  • American Kinesiology Association. (2020). Juneteenth statement from the AKA president: Black lives matter. https://mailchi.mp/4bac4c7a272e/message-from-aka-president-al-smith-7992356

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  • Armstrong, K.L. (2023). Creating an institutional environment that leads to an inclusive culture of belonging: Kinesiology’s “impoverishing errand.” Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

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  • Carter-Francique, A.R. (2023). Lift me up: Fostering belonging beyond the classroom. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

  • Chodzko-Zajko, W. (2023). Transforming higher education. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

  • Culp, B. (2023). A cultural-equity-centered guide to inclusive curriculum change in higher education. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

  • Davis Brooks, D., Griffin, L.D., Rawlings, T., Stowe, R.W., & Norwood D. (2023). An equity-focused approach to graduate student recruitment and retention. Kinesiology Review, 12(4).

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  • Kochanek, J. (2023). Program directing as cultural praxis: Efforts to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into an athletic leadership master’s program  kinesiology. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

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  • Liu, T., Hamilton, M., & Chen, Y. (2023). Creating and retaining an inclusive graduate program in kinesiology. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

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  • Rowley, K.M., O, M.P.J., & Wright, E.M. (2023). Navigating a professional minefield: Service workload, identity taxation, and department culture. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

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  • American Kinesiology Association. (2020). Juneteenth statement from the AKA president: Black lives matter. https://mailchi.mp/4bac4c7a272e/message-from-aka-president-al-smith-7992356

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Armstrong, K.L. (2023). Creating an institutional environment that leads to an inclusive culture of belonging: Kinesiology’s “impoverishing errand.” Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Carter-Francique, A.R. (2023). Lift me up: Fostering belonging beyond the classroom. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

  • Chodzko-Zajko, W. (2023). Transforming higher education. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

  • Culp, B. (2023). A cultural-equity-centered guide to inclusive curriculum change in higher education. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

  • Davis Brooks, D., Griffin, L.D., Rawlings, T., Stowe, R.W., & Norwood D. (2023). An equity-focused approach to graduate student recruitment and retention. Kinesiology Review, 12(4).

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kochanek, J. (2023). Program directing as cultural praxis: Efforts to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into an athletic leadership master’s program  kinesiology. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Liu, T., Hamilton, M., & Chen, Y. (2023). Creating and retaining an inclusive graduate program in kinesiology. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rowley, K.M., O, M.P.J., & Wright, E.M. (2023). Navigating a professional minefield: Service workload, identity taxation, and department culture. Kinesiology Review, 12(4). 

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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