Professor Gretchen Kerr, a world-renowned kinesiology and physical education scholar and expert on the treatment of youth and women in sport, has been appointed dean of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education (KPE).
Currently the vice-dean, programs and innovation at U of T’s School of Graduate Studies, Kerr will assume her new role at KPE on July 1, 2021 for a five-year term.
Being named dean of KPE marks yet another milestone for Kerr at the university. She earned both a bachelor’s degree and PhD degree from U of T before going on to establish herself as a leading researcher in areas such as safe sport in Canada, ethical coaching practices and women in sport.
“Becoming the dean of KPE after being a student and professor in the faculty is a bit like closing the circle,” said Kerr, who also helped craft the organizational structure of KPE, which was established in 1998.
“I’m fortunate that my background in the faculty has afforded the benefits of understanding its developments across time, including how the faculty has built upon its strengths and has adapted and grown to meet various challenges.
“It’s a special unit at U of T given its role in providing academic programs as well as serving the entire university and wider community through its athletic and recreational offerings.”
Kerr’s research on the treatment of women and youth in sport is widely acknowledged to have had a tangible and lasting impact on Canada’s sports landscape, particularly through her collaborations with organizations such as the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Canadian Centre for Ethics and Sport and the Coaching Association of Canada.
She also played a key role in developing the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport, which all Canadian national sports organizations must adopt, and chaired U of T’s Expert Panel on Sexual Violence Education and Prevention, helping to lay the groundwork for many of the programs offered by U of T’s Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre.
“Professor Kerr’s research, teaching, academic administration and partnerships have played a key role in establishing KPE’s international reputation as a centre for excellence and innovation in kinesiology and physical education,” said Cheryl Regehr, U of T’s vice-president and provost.
“Her vision, leadership and keen insight into critical issues such as safety, inclusion and ethics will be tremendous assets as she takes the helm of the faculty and charts a course for the future.”
Kerr brings a wealth of administrative experience to her new role. As vice-dean, programs and innovation at the School of Graduate Studies, Kerr set up a Dissertation Working Group to support graduate students and revamped the school’s Graduate Professional Development program. Prior to that, she served as vice-dean, academic affairs at KPE, where she oversaw the development of the Bachelor of Kinesiology program and Master of Professional Kinesiology program – the first master’s-level program of its kind in Ontario.
Kerr takes over as dean from Professor Ira Jacobs. She credited Jacobs with taking steps to strengthen the faculty and contributing to its reputation as one of the top academic programs in the world for kinesiology, physical education, sport and exercise sciences.
“He has laid the groundwork that will be so critical for the next chapter of development at KPE,” Kerr said.
She said that includes the faculty’s role in advancing the health of the population through education, research, leadership and the provision of equitable opportunities in physical activity, dance, sport, recreation and play.
“Critical to meeting this objective will be embedding principles of equity, diversity and inclusion into all that we do – from the recruitment of students, staff and faculty to the provision of resources and supports, and design of academic and co-curricular programs.”
Kerr lauded the KPE community’s strength in the face of the adversities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Faculty, staff, students and student-athletes have shown tremendous resilience throughout the pandemic and it’s no wonder given the evidence showing that engaging in physical activity and sport helps to build skills of resiliency," Kerr said. “That’s not to say that this hasn’t been a challenging time for everyone, but the pandemic presents us with important opportunities to think about doing things better and more equitably post-pandemic.
“It will be a time of exploring which changes we’ll make permanent, which we’ll revise, and which we’ll abandon in favour of pre-pandemic practices. Given the faculty’s strengths, I have every confidence that there will be growth emerging from this period of adversity.”