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Published December 14, 2021
Evan Johnson, an associate professor with the University of Wyoming’s Division of Kinesiology and Health, has a vision about diversity on campus and in the division’s classrooms: The more diversity among faculty and students, the better the outcome for students to receive a well-rounded education and be fully prepared to enter the workforce.
Johnson’s vision is shared by his fellow faculty members and reflected in a team effort in applying for a grant to bring three new graduate assistants from underrepresented or minority populations into the Division of Kinesiology and Health.
The grant, totaling $130,026, was approved through the UW Office of Academic Affairs and will fund three graduate assistantships for two academic years.
Johnson, along with Boyi Dai, an associate professor; Christine Porter, a professor and Wyoming Excellence Chair; and Kelly Simonton, an assistant professor, worked together to create an application that represents a wide-scope plan to bring students from many diverse cultures and backgrounds.
“In the past, our faculty would come together to discuss ways to bring students from diverse and underrepresented populations into our program as a result of UW’s Graduate School grant funding opportunities,” Johnson says. “However, we often only knew of a few students who would qualify. This time, Kelly Simonton had a great idea to reach out to an expansive list of upper-level institutions that feature an exercise science or kinesiology and health program in areas of the country that have predominantly Hispanic/Latino, African American, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander or Chinese American populations.”
While most university-level exercise science programs have a good balance of male and female students, UW’s kinesiology and health program is 90 percent to 95 percent Caucasian. Many factors can contribute to student diversity on college campuses, including geographical location.
With grant funding now in place, the division’s next step is to reach out to an institution in a different part of the country -- where the student population represents diversity lacking on UW’s campus -- and determine if a student from that campus would qualify to come to UW. An added benefit is that some of these other institutions are looking to recruit graduate students from UW. Ideally, both universities will benefit by realizing a greater number of undergraduates being accepted into postgraduate programs.
Simonton’s list included 25-30 universities that fit the classification of students underrepresented at UW. Johnson says he hopes to have funding for all three graduate assistantships in place by fall 2022.
“We hope this evolves into a consistent list of 10-15 universities around the country where we can form a partnership in giving their students and ours the opportunity to have a broader cultural educational experience,” Johnson says.
An important component of the application created by Division of Kinesiology and Health faculty members is having students arrive in a welcoming environment. This component is accomplished in two ways.
The first is to identify mentors outside of UW to whom visiting students can reach out with questions about their new experiences. This is accomplished through the National Research Mentoring Network, of which UW is a member. The second is the American College of Sports Medicine’s national Leadership and Diversity Training Program. This program is in place to help visiting students from different backgrounds ask questions they may not feel comfortable asking in their current situations.
Both the mentoring network and the Leadership and Diversity Training Program provide professional development specific to academics.
Finally, to help faculty in the Division of Kinesiology and Health become more familiar with topics related to social justice, health disabilities and cultural humility, reading materials on these topics will be discussed in a facultywide meeting each month. Johnson notes that many more articles are being published and becoming visible in the field of exercise science all the time.
“This is important and will make our division stronger and a more welcoming place for students from all cultural backgrounds and ethnicities,” Johnson says.
For more information, email Johnson at email@example.com.