Hellison Interdisciplinary Research Grant: A Historical Perspective

by Ron Feingold

In 1978, National College Physical Education Association for Men (NCPEAM) and the National Association for Physical Education of College Women (NAPECW) joined forces forming the National Association for Physical Education in Higher Education. One of the purposes of joining the two associations was that NAPEHE, as a single association, would be better able to have an impact on societal and community issues relative to our profession, e.g., youth sport, obesity, health care, physical training, college sports, etc.  For instance, one of the important committees was established on societal issues (Social Justice and Cultural Diversity Committee or SJCD); however, over the years this Committee has not enjoyed much support from the membership.  But it is representative of the type of thinking evident in 1978, and the SJCD exists to this day and represents an important tradition of NAPEHE that was developed over 40 years ago.

In the structure of the new association NAPEHE did not provide much support for implementing projects related to the profession for a number of reasons, the biggest being that NAPEHE did not have the financial resources to support specific projects.  Even good projects required the support of the proposing member’s institution (reassigned time, copying, secretarial or editorial work, etc.).  The Board of Directors (BoD) in the late 1970s was made up of 6 women presidents representing their affiliate associations and four male members, the latter selected as members at-large for the purpose of equalizing the gender representation on the BoD. This representation, while diverse, created a problem peculiar to NAPEHE: other than the president and secretary, the majority of board members had no specific responsibility to NAPEHE. As a result NAPEHE witnessed a decrease in membership and relevance of the association relative to the larger academic discipline nationally.

In 1988 at a BoD meeting the four male members at large (Ron Feingold, Don Hellison, Dean Pease and Jim Ewers) objected to this recent BoD membership and noted that there was no reason for at-large members to serve on the board.  As a result Beverly Becker, NAPEHE president and David Clarke, NAPEHE president-elect, appointed a special task force (Dean Pease chair, Ron Feingold, Don Hellison, Jim Ewers, Jim Bryant, and Linda Bain) to meet to discuss the mission and direction of NAPEHE. 

At the meeting of this task force it was decided that NAPEHE should not try to emulate the sub-disciplinary associations then proliferating in kinesiology.  Instead it was argued that NAPEHE ought to focus more on the “…more mature scholars and administrators in the profession” and to re-focus on inter-disciplinary research and scholarship.  In addition, the committee set up specific responsibilities for each board member, e.g., chair of awards, chair of elections, etc., to be delegated to specific members of the BoD. In addition, the task force thought of a future direction, think tank committee (which eventually became the Future Directions Committee); and a Foundations Committee that oversaw the finances of the organization.  Finally, the BoD established an awards system that rewarded scholars that supported IDC research (Distinguished Scholar Award), administrator’s who connected their department to community organizations (Distinguished Administrator Award), and an award to a NAPEHE member who provided service to the profession through NAPEHE (Distinguished Service Award).  Thus, the special committee made recommendations to the BoD that enhanced scholarship and leadership from an IDC perspective, and these committees and respective missions were institutionalized in the formal, statutory committees that make up the membership of the BoD as of this writing.

In the 1990’s, under the leadership of Steve Estes and John Massengale, the noted education scholar Ernest Boyer served as the keynote speaker.  Boyer had recently written Scholarship Reconsidered (1990), a book on expanding the definition and role of scholarship in the Academy, and had put forward a definition of scholarship that was to be more applied and have a greater impact on community and society.  This argument was in line with the mission and goals of NAPEHE; however, as Boyer noted at that time, his argument was in conflict with the standards used by many university tenure/promotion committees.  These committees rewarded a narrower definition of scholarship that favors empirical, data based research and which are typically more connected to sub-disciplinary specialties than to the NAPEHE mission of IDC.  This was not a major concern of NAPEHE at the time, though, since NAPEHE focused more on the “mature scholar” rather than the untenured scholar.  But the 1995 NAPEHE conference was a timely and important contribution to the nature of scholarship in kinesiology, a conference consistent with the mission and vision of both the 1978 NAPEHE and the 1988 “New Age” NAPEHE missions.  The 1995 Boyer conference remains one of the most important gatherings in the recent history of the field as is evident in the frequent use of Boyer’s work in university tenure and promotion documents.

 NAPEHE, then, over the years has maintained its emphasis on IDC scholarship as evidenced by the quality of Quest as an important kinesiology publication, maintained its lecture series and award systems, and more recently developed an administrator’s leadership workshop (the Leader Development Workshop or LDW), developed a mentoring system, and Fellows system.  All of these recent actions have their origins in the 1978 and 1988 NAPEHE BoD actions.

Over the years, like her sister organizations, NAPEHE evolved and began to take on a leadership/collaborative role in kinesiology and continued to focus on how to promote IDC in an increasingly specialized kinesiology world.  At the 1992 annual conference in Atlanta, NAPEHE hosted a joint conference at Georgia State University with AIESEP, and NAPEHE held a special meeting with other relevant organizations within the profession on this subject.  Janet Harris was NAPEHE’s representative as VP for research and scholarship, and Harris took the lead at the meeting with AAHPERD, the President’s Council of Physical Fitness and Sport, the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education (now the National Academy of Kinesiology or NAK), ACSM, NASSS and other kinesiology organizations.  Four years ago, NAPEHE (now NAKHE) rejoined the conversation with many of the same associations and their successors. Mike Metzler and Ron Feingold met with ACSM, AAHPERD, NAK, AKA (newly formed association), and AIESEP to promote this effort, and indications at this time are that NAKHE’s efforts were successful in raising the awareness of a continued need to promote IDC.  The result was a joint conference two years ago that NAKHE refers to as the Congress. With all of the above, NAPEHE/NAKHE has tried to maintain a leadership role in the profession and to point out our relevance and importance to not only our profession, but also our community and society; however, it has not been acknowledged by many kinesiologists as the “go to” organization with respect to IDC that was proposed as part of the 1988 “New Age” NAPEHE, and which remains part of the new (2015) NAKHE Strategic Plan.  

In analyzing various organizations, most of whom I have served as a member of the board or as president (AIESEP, ICSSPE, EDA, AAHPERD, NYSAHPERD, NAPEHE, and AKA), and more recently IPLA, I note that these organizations try to be representative of the profession in making connections to professional and societal issues.  Even though NAKHE probably is the most relevant in terms of its publication (Quest), scholarly mission (interdisciplinary scholarship), and member support services (open forum, career placement, etc.), NAKHE will maintain an organization of secondary importance as long as university/college tenure and promotion committees continue to support traditional data based research, and tend to down-grade applied/collaborative research.

One means by which this diminishment of IDC can be fought is to support it through funding – university tenure/promotion committees may not value highly IDC, but they certainly value the scholar who earns financial support for research no matter its nature.  But funding for IDC is rare:  only AIESEP provides a grant for the top research in the world, known as the IOC President’s Prize.  I know of the value of such funding as I chaired the IOC committee, a committee made up of representatives from East Germany, Belgium, France, West Germany, Canada, and England).  I have seen the impact and importance of the IOC award and can testify to its utility as a valuable award for its recipients.  Usually the financial award was given out at the IOC headquarters, but I also witnessed its awarding in England when being given by Princess Anne.  I have also seen the recipients embrace the award as one of highest esteem, and their testimony of this type of award is persuasive.  In one case, I saw a medical doctor change his career specialty because of reception of the award.

Given all of the above, the mission of NAKHE (interdisciplinary scholarship) and support of Boyer’s model on impact on the profession, community and/or society, and given NAKHE’s financial situation, and in the interest in making NAKHE more relevant to faculty who do IDC, I am recommending a new GRANTS PROGRAM, that supports IDC scholarship that can have an impact on the profession/community/society.