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WVU faculty member recognized with sport psychology leadership award

A passion for sport and exercise psychology began because of a young faculty member’s early involvement as a competitive figure skater and, then, as captain of the Penn State women’s ice hockey club.

These experiences as a former athlete have led Dana Voelker, West Virginia University College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, to study and promote the psychosocial well-being and performance of child, adolescent and young adult athletes and exercisers. Her work has often been recognized in the field. 

Voelker, assistant professor of sport and exercise psychology, recently received the Dorothy V. Harris Memorial Award, honoring her accomplishments in sport psychology within the early stages of her career. The award is presented by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP).  

Voelker explains why the recognition is significant to her.

“Dorothy V. Harris was a pioneer in the sport psychology field and an advocate for women and girls in sport. My passion for sport psychology developed as an undergraduate student at Penn State University, the very place where Dr. Harris began her professional career,” Voelker said.

“In learning about Dr. Harris and her work, I gained a deep appreciation for the in-roads she made, through unchartered territory, to make careers like mine possible. Her legacy inspires my efforts to move the field forward, and I am humbled to receive this award in her honor.”

The Dorothy V. Harris Memorial Award acknowledges the distinguished contributions of Dr. Dot Harris (1931-1991) to sport psychology by recognizing the efforts of a current AASP scholar/practitioner in the early stage of their scientific and/or professional career.

According to AASP, the applicant must demonstrate a record of scholarship that clearly establishes the individual as a leading scholar/practitioner within the discipline compared to peers at similar stages in their careers.

“The Dorothy V. Harris Memorial Award signifies the strong impact that Dr. Voelker is having upon the field of sport psychology, on a national and international level. Given her many achievements in the areas of teaching, research and practice, Dr. Voelker is a well-deserved recipient of this very prestigious award,” said Jack Watson, interim associate dean, WVU CPASS.

Aligning with the scientist-practitioner model, Voelker's work has resulted in applied research and programming initiatives in diverse areas, including leadership and life skills development in sport, the promotion of healthy body image in athletes and advancements in the teaching and learning of sport and exercise psychology.

“My research efforts are an extension of my experiences as a former athlete and a reflection of the guiding principles of my graduate school training with the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University– to maximize the benefits and minimize the detriments for future sport participants.”

“Dr. Sam Zizzi, West Virginia University, Dr. Dan Gould, Michigan State University, and Dr. Justine Reel, University of North Carolina Wilmington, were an official part of the nomination process. Dr. Amanda Visek, The George Washington University, graduate of WVU SEP doctoral program, and 2013 recipient of this award, was also a major support in the process,” said Voelker. 

In the 25-year history of the award, AASP has selected three WVU faculty members as award recipients: Voelker in 2018, Damien Clement in 2014 and Frank Perna in 1999.

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