Scherezade Mama, an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University, will give a public lecture about physical activity promotion among underserved populations, 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1 in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union. Contributed photo.

Kinesiology faculty, students spark conversation about diversity

Iowa State University faculty and students in kinesiology — dedicated to promoting physical activity, health and well-being — say they recognize diversity is sometimes lacking in their field. They’re working to address the issue.

“Historically, conversations surrounding diversity in kinesiology have been largely absent, both on our campus and more generally across the country,” said Laura Ellingson, an assistant professor in kinesiology. “It is our goal to bring these conversations to our campus such that faculty and students are able to consider perspectives and issues that may not have been discussed in their coursework.”

The Department of Kinesiology’s diversity committee, led by Ellingson, will this week bring to campus a speaker focused on physical activity and health promotion among underserved and vulnerable populations including racial/ethnic minorities, women, low-income populations, and rural residents.

Promoting physical activity in underserved populations

Scherezade Mama, an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University, will give a public lecture about physical activity promotion among underserved populations, 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1 in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union. The lecture is co-sponsored by the College of Human SciencesThe Kin Collective, and the Committee on Lectures, which is funded by the ISU Student Government.

Mama directs the Health Disparities and Physical Activity Research Lab at Penn State and uses clinical research to develop programs tailored to specific communities, such as African-American or Hispanic women, to reduce health disparities and improve long-term health outcomes.

She is interested in understanding the mechanisms through which the social environment and psychosocial factors influence health risk behaviors, such as inactivity, that contribute to health disparities and inequities in these populations.

“Issues related to health promotion in underserved populations are being increasingly recognized as important and we wanted to expose faculty, students, and the broader community to these critical issues,” Ellingson said. “It is our hope that bringing Dr. Mama to campus adds to growing discussions of diversity on our campus and in our community and that it becomes a springboard for adding more elements of inclusiveness throughout.”

New student group fills a void

Kinesiology has the third-largest undergraduate enrollment at Iowa State University, with 1,170 students. A total of 189 of those undergraduate students, or 16.2 percent, identify themselves as students of color — the highest percentage in the College of Human Sciences.

“We are encouraged that the percentage of kinesiology undergraduate students who are students of color has been increasing over the past 10 years from 9.3 percent in fall 2007 to 16.2 percent in fall 2017,” said Phil Martin, professor and chair of kinesiology.

The Kin Collective is a new Iowa State student organization that serves to build a stronger sense of community among students of color in kinesiology. The group — led by Artorria Jung and Faith Gaye, both seniors in kinesiology and health — connects students to opportunities and fosters relationships to help students excel in the field of kinesiology.

“We felt that this organization could fill a void that the department was missing,” said kinesiology graduate student Markus Flynn, a former president of the ISU Black Student Alliance and recipient of the 2016-2017 Brenda Jones Change Agent award, who along with professor Warren Franke advises the group of students.

Flynn brings his passion for working with people of color to efforts such as The Kin Collective — one of the co-sponsors of this week’s lecture.

“This organization is intended to provide students of color with some intentional programming that is geared towards their particular needs,” Flynn said. “We currently have a small group, but are constantly looking to expand.”

With assistance from experts such as Scherezade Mama, Iowa State students and faculty in kinesiology are ensuring that their efforts to promote physical activity, health, and wellness include all people — including those who have been historically underrepresented.