Farrar-Edwards reflects on six years of leading Department of Kinesiology

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Faculty Spotlight

Farrar-Edwards reflects on six years of leading Department of Kinesiology

While wrapping up her second term as chair of the Department of Kinesiology this past summer, Dorothy Farrar-Edwards was asked to reflect on her six years of leading the department.

“I honestly didn’t know how much work it was going to be,” FarrarEdwards says with a smile. “But it was a privilege to be at the table during some really critical periods in the university and it was an honor to be present and to be able to represent this department.”

Farrar-Edwards, a professor of occupational therapy, served back-toback three-year terms as chair, starting with the 2010-11 academic year.

Dorothy Farrar-Edwards
“Thanks to Dorothy’s hard work and exceptional leadership, this department is in a much, much stronger position in nearly every aspect compared to when she took over as chair,” says Gary Diffee, the Virginia H. Marsh Professor of Kinesiology who became the new department chair at the start of the fall semester.

Farrar-Edwards says she is proud that even in the face of ongoing state budget cuts, the Department of Kinesiology has made strategic decisions that have allowed it to thrive.

She notes that the department has expanded its number of faculty lines, while recruiting and hiring exceptional junior faculty members. Farrar-Edwards has also worked hard to help colleagues within the department make connections with researchers in the College of Engineering, the Waisman Center and the School of Medicine and Public Health, to name a few corners of campus. Such efforts to diversify and expand the department’s research portfolio have helped increase extramural funding in disciplines across the health sciences spectrum.

Similarly, Farrar-Edwards led efforts to help the Department of Kinesiology expand its presence at the undergraduate and graduate levels on the UW–Madison campus. The department has grown its Exercise and Movement Science undergraduate program in recent years and is on track to add a new undergraduate major in Health Promotion and Health Equity in the fall of 2018. In addition, the department earlier this year launched a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) online degree program and became home to the university’s undergraduate anatomy classes — which serve about 1,000 students per year.

Farrar-Edwards stresses times were not always rosy during her run as chair. In particular, she points to January 2012 when it was announced that due to state budget cuts, the Department of Kinesiology would be phasing out many of its popular one-credit physical education classes. Farrar-Edwards sent layoff letters to 12 part-time academic staff who taught the bulk of the nearly 30 one-credit courses.

“Those were very tough decisions,” says Farrar-Edwards. “But that was when we, as a department, started thinking strategically about our future and made changes that have allowed us to remain strong.”

Dorothy Farrar-EdwardsFarrar-Edwards this spring was named a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, a significant honor on the UW– Madison campus that identifies distinguished scholarship, topnotch teaching and service work. This professorship provides flexible funding over five years that Farrar-Edwards will use to bolster her research on health disparities and equity, especially as this relates to the impact of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease in underrepresented groups.

In addition to serving as department chair, Farrar-Edwards this spring also wrapped up a three-year term on the University Committee, which is the executive committee of UW–Madison’s faculty senate. She also served as a member of the UW System’s Tenure Task Force, which was appointed to recommend new Board of Regents policies regarding tenure.

“I loved being department chair and being so closely involved with faculty governance, but I’m also very excited about getting more involved again in my research projects,” she says. “Plus, I’ve worked very closely with Gary Diffee over the years and am very confident in his ability to lead this department moving forward.”

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