Exploring sport and human movement in Africa with new lecture series

June 8, 2017

Feltz laughs during a presentation at her retirement party.

“I wanted to be able to give back,” said University Distinguished Professor Deborah Feltz prior to retiring from Michigan State University this spring after 37 years of service. “I wanted to help—to be a catalyst for good, collaborative research partnerships that I thought people doing research in any aspect of kinesiology could benefit from.”

That is why she has established an endowment supporting a new lecture series: the “Deborah L. Feltz Lecture on Sport, Exercise and Human Movement Science in Africa,” in the Department of Kinesiology. The biennial series will help bring an African scholar from a higher education institution to present on a topic connected to physical education, exercise science or public health, among other related areas of study.

Feltz hopes the MSU community will benefit from the series by being exposed to international work, and potentially finding new areas of collaborations and partnerships.

In fact, it was a collaboration that initiated Feltz’s connection with the continent in the first place.

Beginning in Botswana

Leapetswe Malete

Feltz recalled a time when a student from Botswana contacted her about mentorship for his studies at MSU. He was interested in sport psychology, and Feltz thought that he could “teach me and broaden my outlook and areas of research.”

She worked with him during his studies as a master’s and doctoral candidate—and was thrilled when he returned to MSU several years later to join the Department of Kinesiology faculty. Associate Professor Leapetswe Malete became part of the faculty in 2016.

Prior to Malete returning to MSU, he was the director of international studies and programs at the University of Botswana. Feltz helped organize a trip, along with Associate Professor Evelyn Oka, to the country and university for several weeks, where she met Tshepang Tshube, who would also later graduate from MSU under Feltz’s mentorship with a Ph.D. Tshube recently represented his country at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sharing research

Tshepang Tshube

The lecture series is a part of the new Alliance for African Partnership at MSU. Launching in July 2017, the AAP will “develop a collaborative and cross-disciplinary platform for addressing today’s global challenges.”

Among other goals, the AAP aims to share research among African countries and Michigan State University.

“We can’t assume that what we do in the United States is better than anywhere else. We can learn from each other,” Feltz said. “I’ve learned a lot from Leapetswe and Tshepang in terms of differences and similarities in our research. Having that kind of appreciation broadens how you go about investigating certain phenomena in your field.”

A history of achievement

With a career spanning nearly four decades, Feltz has a history and a legacy at Michigan State University.

Joining the faculty in 1980, Feltz focused her research on self-efficacy and psychosocial plications of sport and physical activity participation. Her research made headlines across campus and the nation—and even into space. Most recently, she has dedicated her work to investigating what motivates individuals “go the extra mile” during a workout.

Feltz was named an MSU University Distinguished Professor (2011), received the MSU College of Education Outstanding Faculty Award (1993), the MSU Distinguished Faculty Award (1992) and was inducted into the National Academy of Kinesiology, a group of leading scholars capped at 150 members, in 1992.

She served as acting chair for the Department of Kinesiology from 1988-89, and then as chair from 1989-2011 before returning to the college’s faculty.

She published more than 100 journal articles and books, and mentored 47 students while they earned their doctoral degrees, including Malete and Tshube, and also mentored more than 70 students during their master’s degrees studies.

Feltz retired from the university in May 2017.

Plans are being made for the Deborah L. Feltz Sport, Exercise and Human Movement Science in Africa Lecture Series to have its inaugural presentation in fall 2018.


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