UH Hilo kinesiology and exercise sciences program receives national award for inclusive excellence and diversity

The American Kinesiology Association’s Inclusive Excellence Award recognizes academic programs that exemplify the core principles of inclusive excellence and diversity. The 2019-2020 award honors the commitment of the UH Hilo program to inclusiveness through its recruitment, retention, hiring, curriculum development, and administrative structure.

By Susan Enright

Award with words: AKA American Kinisiology Association, Inclusive Excellence Award, Presented to the Kinisiology & Excercise Sciences Program University of Hawaii at Hilo 2019-2020.
The award to the UH Hilo kinesiology and exercise sciences program was presented at the American Kinesiology Association’s Leadership Conference in Tampa, FL, Jan. 25, 2020.

The Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is the recipient of the 2019-2020 Inclusive Excellence Award from the American Kinesiology Association. UH Hilo Professor Harald Barkhoff traveled to the AKA Leadership Conference in Tampa, FL, to receive the award Saturday on behalf of his department.

The American Kinesiology Association advocates for kinesiology at national and international levels, and also provides support, resources, and educational opportunities for university administrators in the field. One of the organization’s top priorities is to promote the importance of human interaction in kinesiology, specifically, a commitment to diversity and inclusion with the goal of creating working and learning environments that encourage “varied perspectives and an open exchange of ideas in an unbiased and non-prejudicial way.”

Harald Barkhoff and Jared Russell stand for photo.
Professor Harald Barkhoff, at left, receives award on behalf of his department at the AKA Leadership Conference, Tampa, FL, Jan. 25, 2020. At right is Jared Russell, professor of kinesiology at Auburn University and chair of the AKA Diversity Committee.

The AKA Inclusive Excellence Award recognizes academic programs that exemplify the core principles of inclusive excellence and diversity. The 2019-2020 award to UH Hilo’s program honors the department’s commitment to inclusiveness through its recruitment, retention, hiring, curriculum development, and administrative structure. The award also “recognizes and celebrates the diverse student make-up of our KES program,” says Barkhoff. “Eighty-four percent of our students come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, of which 35 percent are Native Hawaiians.”

Barkhoff says enrollment in the department has increased over the last 15 years by over 500 percent. Today, it is the largest undergraduate academic program at UH Hilo with six faculty advising and teaching over 200 students, making this award an even more significant accomplishment.

“As a department in expansion, our goal is to further extend and diversify our curriculum, and to provide a holistic educational experience for our students,” says Barkhoff. “This will require additional faculty and resources to ensure our KES program is adequately able to support our goal through the UH Hilo strategic action of cultivating, sustaining and reflecting diversity in its academic, research and other supporting activities.”

A winning program

UH Hilo’s kinesiology and exercise sciences department was nominated for the award by Jennifer Stotter, director of the UH Hilo Office of Equal Employment and Affirmative Action.

Noting that UH Hilo is ranked the most ethnically diverse four-year public university in the nation by The Chronicle of Higher Education 2018 Almanac, Stotter writes in her nomination letter that the kinesiology and exercise program has increased not only its numbers of Native Hawaiian students but that the overall increase of 84 percent (based on ethnicity) is above the UH Hilo average of 76 percent.

“I believe the success of KES at UH Hilo is largely due to the faculty’s commitment to Uluākea, a faculty training and curriculum development program for the creation and/or modification of curricula to include authentic and practical Hawaiian cultural and linguistic applications in an effort to support an all inclusive and holistic place-based educational approach,” Stotter writes. “Additionally, and most notably, the KES faculty have been active supporters of our Hawai‘i Papa O Ke Ao initiative, a systemwide strategic goal to indigenize the UH System and serve our diverse local and Native Hawaiian Communities.” (Links added.)

Stotter, an expert in equal opportunity, goes on to note the KES department was one of the first departments at UH Hilo to include a desirable qualification in all new position descriptions asking for candidate experience working with diverse populations. “This simple action has had a positive impact on the department by creating a more diversified faculty within the KES department,” she notes.

Also noted in Stotter’s nomination letter is the department’s focus on innovative teaching and research, community outreach, and mentorship activity that supports and advances diversity and inclusion within the field of kinesiology through inclusion of underrepresented and/or marginalized people of the region.

Celia Bardwell Jones, associate professor of philosophy and of the gender and women’s studies program, and Sarah Marusek, professor of political science, each provided strong letters of support for the nomination.

“We are so very grateful to our nominator Dr. Jennifer Stotter and to Drs Bardwell-Jones and Marusek for their strong letters of support,” says Barkhoff. “Also a big mahalo to all faculty, staff, administrators and community members who have been supporting KES for all these years.”


Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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