Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ronald Zernicke appointed dean of kinesiology

Ronald Zernicke, director of the U-M Bone and Joint Injury Prevention & Rehabilitation Center, has been appointed the new dean of the School of Kinesiology. President Mary Sue Coleman and Provost Teresa Sullivan made the announcement Monday, pending Board of Regent approval.

The appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2010.

In addition to directing the Bone and Joint Center since 2007, Zernicke is a faculty member in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and the School of Kinesiology.

“President Coleman and I are extremely pleased that Dr. Zernicke is assuming the leadership of the School of Kinesiology at this time of dramatic change within the study of human movement,” Sullivan says. “We are confident that he will strengthen the school’s international reputation of excellence in providing innovative education for the next generation of movement science professionals.”

Zernicke came to U-M from the University of Calgary and Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute, where he served as executive director from 2005-07. His research focuses on the adaptation of bone to exercise, diet and disease, and joint injury and osteoarthritis. With more than 570 research publications and three books, his research has been supported by high profile organizations such as the Arthritis Society of Canada, Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Alberta Ingenuity Fund, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research among others.

Zernicke sees great promise in the School of Kinesiology and has an exciting vision.

“Kinesiology is poised to move from what I would call excellent to outstanding,” Zernicke says. “People have described kinesiology as an undervalued stock. There is a tremendous resource there, and I don’t think the full message is getting out.”

During his term some of Zernicke’s major goals include developing a strategic plan, recruiting more faculty and high-quality students, and increasing marketing, branding and public relations to boost the school’s visibility nationally and internationally.

There are several key areas in which the School of Kinesiology has the potential to become nationally and internationally known, he says, adding that partnering with other university schools and departments is critical to success. “We can’t do everything, and we need to decide what will be our key areas. One could be injury prevention, another could be physical activity across the lifespan, obesity and physical activity in children, and another could be sport management.”

“There are several areas where we have the critical mass to be leaders. We need to identify what they are and figure out how to gain resources and recruit faculty and students and move those areas forward.” 

This is the second round of interviews since former dean Beverly Ulrich stepped down in 2008. After 10 years Ulrich’s tenure was marked by growth in all areas and more space, notably the Observatory Lodge building, which opened in 2007. She is thrilled with Zernicke’s appointment.

“Dr. Ron Zernicke has a remarkable record as a researcher in the field of kinesiology and tissue biomechanics,” Ulrich says.  “He is recognized around the world for his own work as well as his breadth of knowledge and leadership. He distinguished himself as an administrator at both UCLA, where he was department chair, and the University of Calgary, where he was the dean of the faculty of kinesiology, by building programs, facilities, and funds for his units. He combines strong and visionary leadership with a supportive and open rapport with colleagues, faculty and alumni.”

Ken Warner, dean of the School of Public Health, says Zernicke was by far the best candidate.

“He represents the whole package, everything you’d want in a dean.  He’s a respected researcher with a most impressive publication record — that brings credibility to the position and hence to the school — and he comes equipped with loads of relevant experience, including having served as a dean while in Canada.

“He understands academia in general and U-M specifically, is well-connected with other units of the university, including the Medical School, and appreciates the diverse dimensions of serving as a dean.  He’s also incredibly personable, which will serve him well in working with his faculty, with alumni and donors, and with his fellow deans, a group with whom he will interact regularly.”

Zernicke earned his bachelor of arts degree in liberal arts from Concordia University Chicago in 1970, and master of science in biomechanics and doctorate in biomechanics and anatomy from the University of Wisconsin in 1972 and 1974, respectively. He joined the University of California, Los Angeles in 1974 as assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and became professor in 1986.  In 1991 he joined the University of Calgary, holding faculty and administrative appointments in the faculty of the departments of kinesiology, surgery, physiology and biophysics, and mechanical and manufacturing engineering. 

Zernicke was Wood Professor in Joint Injury Research, faculty of medicine, at the University of Calgary.  He has received numerous awards including the UCLA Award for Distinguished Teaching, City of Calgary Community Achievement Award (Education), and the University of Calgary Award for Outstanding Achievement in Graduate Supervision, and he was Alumnus of the Year for Concordia University Chicago.  In 2008 he received the honorary doctor of science degree from the University of Waterloo, Ontario.

He also has an extensive record of program and research administration. At UCLA, he was director of the Tissue Biomechanics Laboratory from 1985-91 and chair of the Department of Kinesiology from 1989-91.  At the University of Calgary, he served as director of the Office of Surgical Research from 1995-98, as chair of the Joint Injury and Arthritis Research Group from 1996-98, and as dean of kinesiology from 1998-05.  In addition, he was director of the Alberta Provincial CIHR Training Program in Bone and Joint Health from 2002-07.

“I think there is tremendous opportunity here,” Zernicke says. “The University of Michigan has both the breadth and depth to be outstanding in many different areas, particularly in the School of Kinesiology. I’m excited to be a part of it.”