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  • ACSM Mentoring Women to Fellowship: Mentors Needed!

    by Guest Blogger | Mar 08, 2018
    By NiCole Keith, PhD, FACSM

    The future of ACSM depends on the service and engagement of all members. Those among us who are ACSM Fellows have the highest level of organizational commitment. Each year we are thrilled to welcome new fellows, yet women remain underrepresented in this group. To address this issue, the ACSM Committee on Diversity Action and the Strategic Health Initiative for Women have developed the ACSM Mentoring Women to Fellowship initiative. This initiative strives to mentor ACSM members who are women to become more involved. This can be achieved in a variety of ways:
    • participation in ACSM meetings, both regional and national;
    • service on committees;
    • pursuit of ACSM professional presentations, publications, fellowship and leadership service.
    The ACSM Mentoring Women to Fellowship initiative provides mentors and in-kind support to participants (protégés) to assist them in reaching these goals. 

    Following its successful implementation in 2015-2016, and with excellent feedback and guidance from protégés and mentors, the ACSM Mentoring Women to Fellowship initiative continues through 2016-2017. Twenty-nine protégé-mentor dyads are currently working to meet the goal of increasing the number of ACSM women fellows. Protégés have been ACSM members from as few as three to as many as 15 years. Also, they are widely distributed across the U.S., residing in areas that correspond geographically to several of the ACSM regional chapters; for example, the Southeast, Southwest, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Rocky Mountain and Northwest. 

    Sustained success of this initiative calls for an eager group of professional women who are willing to pursue Fellowship requirements and a strong and very large group of mentors to provide advisory support to promising protégés. Our goal is to match mentors to every woman member who wants to advance to Fellowship. Mentors must be fellows and it is especially helpful if they already have well-established ACSM networks. We try to do matching based on professional interest and regional location. We also try to introduce protégés to mentors who are outside of their existing circle of influence, as this aids in expanding the protégé’s professional network. 

    Annually, mentoring officially begins in May (although some start as soon as they are matched) and continues throughout the following May or longer, if both parties agree. Each year, a protégé provides the mentor with her résumé, schedules an initial call, and develops an agenda for their first meeting. Together, the mentor and protégé determine the frequency of subsequent calls and/or in-person meetings. 

    While not required, if the mentor and protégé both attend the ACSM Annual Meeting, we strongly encourage them to attend several activities together. These include the international reception, president’s reception, Josephine Rathbone Memorial Breakfast, the ACSM Business meeting, the mentor’s assigned committee meetings, and other invited receptions and events that may increase networking and inclusivity for protégés. 

    We are encouraged by the new connections that have already resulted from this initiative. The short-term goal is for this determined initial group of protégés and mentors to help reduce the existing gender gap among ACSM Fellows. But, over time, it also may contribute to increasing the pool of talented and dedicated Fellows needed to lead ACSM into the future. 

    Are you interested in becoming a protégé or mentor? The Mentor Volunteer Form and Protégé Application are both available online at, under the Mentors and Protégés Needed for the ACSM Mentoring Women to Fellowship Program heading. We have begun matching protégés and mentors!

    NiCole Keith, Ph.D., FACSM, earned her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees from Howard University, the University of Rhode Island and the University of Connecticut, respectively. She is a research scientist at the Indiana University Center for Aging Research, Regenstrief Institute, Indianapolis. She also is a professor of kinesiology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and is acting associate dean of the IUPUI School of Physical Education and Tourism Management. Dr. Keith’s research and programmatic activities center on increasing physical activity participation, improving fitness and positively influencing health outcomes while addressing health equity. 

    Dr. Keith has served on several ACSM committees, was an ACSM vice president in 2014-16, and currently holds membership on the advisory boards for both Exercise is Medicine® and the ACSM’s American Fitness Index. Most recently, she has accepted leadership for one of ACSM’s newer initiatives — the ACSM Mentoring Women to Fellowship program. In today’s highlighted commentary, Dr. Keith provides a timely overview of this important program – encouraging Fellows to become mentors who can help women toward successful advancement to Fellowship. Kudos to Dr. Keith and other ACSM volunteers who are committing efforts and expertise to this initiative!

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