U-M, Women’s Sports Foundation establish research policy center
After a rigorous, yearlong process to select an institutional research partner, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) has selected U-M to establish a joint research and policy center, the Women’s Sports, Health, Activity and Research and Policy Center.
The new center, which opens in January 2011 at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, is the first girls’ and women’s sports research partnership involving a university and nonprofit. The center will generate interdisciplinary research on issues related to women’s sports, health, gender issues and kinesiology.
According to the WSF, the center’s research will have a profound impact on the lives of girls and women, and will enhance existing and establish new relationships with policymakers, academia and women’s sports organizations. In addition, the center also will advocate for the benefits of athletics for positively influencing the lives of girls and women.
More than 20 universities nationwide submitted proposals for the center earlier this year. A task force consisting of experts in women’s sports research, sports business and collegiate athletic administration reviewed the applications. U-M was selected because of its excellent faculty in kinesiology and related fields; its history of support for women’s health and gender equity; its broad-based programs serving the needs of a diverse student body; and its nationally recognized graduate program and athletics department.
“Without a doubt, the partnership with the foundation represents an exciting opportunity for the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the School of Kinesiology and the University of Michigan,” says President Mary Sue Coleman. “In addition, the center will be able to draw on U-M faculty researchers across campus to catalyze and advance research efforts in all areas related to physical activity for girls and women.”
“This partnership will build on work already being done here and enable faculty from across the campus to contribute to national policy discussions,” says Phil Hanlon, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.
The WSF has been a national leader in conducting and executing high-quality, evidence-based public interest research on girls and women in sports and physical activity for 25 years.
“This new partnership offers us a host of new resources to further our goals in fighting childhood obesity and improving the overall health and well-being of girls and women through their sports and physical activity,” says Kathryn Olson, WSF chief executive officer. “By using cutting-edge research tools and methods, we are now in a position to make larger strides in our efforts to educate the public and affect policy.”
The center’s research agenda will consist of public interest research and proprietary research. As a result of the collaboration, the new center will generate a variety of information and tools central to the foundation’s and university’s educational roles of supporting evidence-based public debate that informs public policy and encourages elimination of the obstacles girls and women face in sports participation.
Issues the center will potentially explore include:
• Athletic and exercise injuries and why women, in particular, suffer injuries differently and sometimes more frequently, than men (such as knee ligament injuries).
• How policies have affected women’s sport participation levels over time, particularly in underserved communities, and how potential new policies might address current inequities.
• Why and how barriers are keeping women from moving up into the executive ranks of the sports industry.
• Consumer behaviors and brand psychology (why women buy one brand over another and their preferences, especially in sport).
• Physical education programs in the nation’s schools and the strengths and weaknesses of physical activity programs for girls.
Kathy Babiak, associate professor of kinesiology, and Carol Boyd, director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, will lead the center. Both of their units will collaborate in this new research area.
“We are looking forward to this ambitious partnership,” Boyd says. “It’s an important opportunity to build on the institute’s deep strengths in adolescent and women’s health, and extend our reach by collaborating with the Women’s Sports Foundation.”
Ronald Zernicke, dean of the School of Kinesiology says, “Our faculty is well-versed in management, consumer behavior, sport policy, sport injuries, biomechanics, exercise physiology, and nutrition. This integrated approach will generate solutions to critical problems and identify opportunities for women and girls’ sports participation and health.”