How the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation got its new name

Dean recounts the history and discussions that led to the change.


Midway through 2015, the University of Alberta’s then-Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, at the behest of students and faculty alike, changed the name of its bachelor of physical education to a bachelor of kinesiology to better reflect the education students were attaining.

The change had an unexpected result: virtually overnight, applications to the already oversubscribed faculty doubled.

“The name of the degree, it turns out, was surprisingly important,” said Kerry Mummery, dean of the faculty. “I think seeing that was the impetus for changing the name of the faculty.”

Two and a half years later, on Jan. 1 of this year, the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation officially changed its name to the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation.

“In Canada, we are the one of the last faculties of our type to adopt kinesiology in its name, we are the oldest faculty with recreation in its name and the first faculty with sport in its name,” said Mummery. “I think the new name really reflects the change in the area, the domain, the discipline we work in.”

Now in his eighth year as dean of the faculty, Mummery said he remembers he wasn’t on the job a full day before people started telling him a faculty name change was something he would have to deal with.

“They tried in 2003, but couldn’t settle it.”

Origins and evolution

While kinesiology began replacing physical education in faculty names in the 1980s, the U of A chose not to change.

“It reflected the strong tradition and success that dated back 70 years that many faculty members hold dear,” according to Mummery.

The Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation was founded in 1945 as a department within the Faculty of Education to graduate a couple dozen physical education teachers annually. By 1954 the Department of Physical Education became the School of Physical Education and in 1964 the status changed to that of a faculty, making it the first of its kind in the British Commonwealth.

Over the next 60 years, the U of A would became a national and international leader in pushing the boundaries of the physical education discipline.

“Physical education quickly became a really a narrow term. Nowadays, only five per cent of our more than 1,200 students are training to be physical education teachers,” said Mummery. “Human performance, human health—both as preventive measures and treatment measures for chronic disease—recreation, the whole area of sport, all developed within physical education.”

The then-Faculty of Physical Education added recreation to the name in 1976 to recognize the forays into a branch of research that spawned a bachelor’s degree in recreation and leisure studies in 1962.

Even then, Mummery said a bigger shift was coming as researchers in faculties of physical education had long been purveyors of kinesiology—the study of physiological, biomechanical and psychological mechanisms of movement.

“In the late ’80s, early ’90s, the discourse was about changing the name to reflect the broader area that we work, teach and study in,” said Mummery. “I think the change to kinesiology was always coming.”

And while kinesiology was undoubtedly a term that would be finally included at the U of A, the balance of the name was where it became interesting.

Kinesiology plus

Since the faculty has been the home of the longest continually running recreation program in Canada, Mummery said, it quickly became clear recreation would stay in the name.

“The one that I don’t think too many people saw coming was the inclusion of sport,” said Mummery. “Sport reflects not only the fact that we happen to host the Golden Bears and Pandas within the faculty—a rarity across the country—but also that we have a very viable area of study in the sport sciences.”

What really crystallized the inclusion of sport, according to Mummery, was the determination in March 2017 by QS World University Rankings by Subject that the U of A was one of the world’s 10 best schools for sport-related subjects. It was the university’s highest-ranked discipline in the rankings.

“We don’t spend a lot of time looking at rankings, but our international partners do, so I think the QS ranking spawned the debate about whether sport should be in the name.”

Mummery said the faculty solicited comment near and far, internally and externally, and sport became a common theme as a unifying element and another direction for the faculty to follow.

“We are in the midst of ongoing discussions for the development of a University of Alberta Institute of Sport. That is something that can be shaped and reflective of the name. The continued development in the area of sport has been and will continue to be a differentiator for us,” he said.

“We will still hold true to our physical education heritage, but this is a big deal for us—it’s been 42 years since we last changed our name. I hope this is the moniker of the faculty for some time.”