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The interdisciplinary team of the SHARP Center is comprised of individuals across departments at the University of Michigan. Please see the bios below for details about our growing organization.


Michelle Segar, Ph.D., M.P.H. / Director, SHARP

(734) 615-4477

Associate Research Scientist, Institute for Research on Women & Gender (IRWG)
President, Michelle Segar, LLC

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Widely quoted in the media, SHARP Director Michelle Segar is nationally recognized for her interdisciplinary research on gender-specific strategies to promote physical activity motivation and behavior.  Her first book, No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, published last year by Amacom, was chosen as the #1 book in diet/exercise by USA Best Book Awards in 2015, and it was featured in The New York Times in a piece by Jane Brody about rethinking exercise. No Sweat has a free teaching guide and is being used as a text in diverse undergraduate and graduate courses around the country.

As both an academic and health coach for over 20 years, Dr. Segar has a comprehensive and unique perspective on creating solutions for sustainable behavior change. She presently chairs the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan’s Communications Committee, charged with advising the Plan on more persuasive messaging strategies for American citizens and policy makers. Segar’s research leverages insights from decision making, marketing, and motivation science to develop the next generation of walking and physical activity branding strategies, with an interest in optimal messaging for men and women and other demographic intersections. Her award-winning research challenges the status quo by suggesting that logical future rewards from behavior, like better health and weight loss, do not motivate people to sustain behavior change as well as immediately-experienced, emotional rewards such as well-being and fueling what matters most.

Dr. Segar’s new research focuses on the development and evaluation of patient-centered systems and protocols to encourage consistent self-care decision-making among patients. She is working with organizations to redesign patient encounters in primary care and specialty clinics. Dr. Segar has received funding from the National Institutes of Health, American Association of University Women, American College of Sports Medicine, among others. Her research has generated accolades from organizations such as the Society of Behavioral Medicine and the North American Menopause Society. She speaks to academic, health professional, and lay audiences about new methods to foster sustainable behavior change. She has a Doctorate in Psychology (PhD) and Master’s Degrees in Health Behavior-Health Education (MPH) and Kinesiology (MS) from the University of Michigan. Segar is honored to have run with the Olympic Torch in 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

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Philip Veliz, Ph.D. / Associate Director, SHARP 

(734) 764-4186

Assistant Research Professor, Department of Systems, Populations and Leadership, School of Nursing; Institute for Research on Women and Gender

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Dr. Veliz researches the sociology of sport, substance use, gender norms and pressures, and the impact of sport within public education. Dr. Veliz earned his PhD in sociology from the University at Buffalo, SUNY.


Kathy Babiak, Ph.D. / SHARP Scholar

(734) 763-6922

Associate Professor, Sport Management, U-M School of Kinesiology
Co-Director, Michigan Center for Sport Management

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U-M School of Kinesiology
1402 Washington Heights
2120 Observatory Lodge
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2013

Professor Babiak is an internationally recognized scholar in the area of sport management. In particular, her expertise lies in the areas of organizational governance and leadership, sport policy, social responsibility and individual and organizational philanthropy both in professional and Olympic level sport.

Professor Babiak’s work has examined issues related to ethics, social responsibility, justice, diversity and representation in sport. She has examined athlete representation and involvement in decision making around policies and issues that affect them. Her most recent funded project examines athlete philanthropy and uses gender as a variable to explore differences in focus, mission, and involvement of athletes in their own charitable foundations.

Dr. Babiak was recognized as a research fellow for the Center for the Study of Sport in Society, and has worked with the Sports Philanthropy Project as well as Athletes for Hope on various research projects related to corporate and individual social responsibility in sport. She has also lectured nationally and internationally on topics related to corporate social responsibility, the Olympic Games, athlete philanthropy, and athlete representation and involvement in decision-making in international sport federations and Olympic committees.

Professor Babiak earned her PhD in leisure and sport management from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (2003).

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Cathleen Connell

Cathleen M. Connell, Ph.D. / SHARP Scholar

Professor and Chair, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, U-M School of Public Health
Interim Director, Center for Managing Chronic Disease

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Dr. Connell is Chair and Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education in the School of Public Health and Interim Director of the Center for Managing Chronic Disease. Her research focuses on the psychological and social context of chronic disease self-management within a lifespan developmental perspective. She studies the role of physical activity for the self-management of diabetes.

James EcknerJames T. Eckner, M.D., M.S. / SHARP Scholar

Assistant Professor, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Research Director, Michigan NeuroSport

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Dr. Eckner’s research focuses on mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, in athletes: he is interested in determining the role of reaction time testing in this population, long term effects of concussion on cognitive and mental health, as well as, in the rehabilitation of athletes with mild traumatic brain injuries.

Kathryn Heinze

Kathryn L. Heinze, Ph.D. / SHARP Scholar

(734) 615-2146

Assistant Professor, Sport Management, U-M School of Kinesiology

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Kathryn Heinze joined the School of Kinesiology in 2011 as an Assistant Professor of Sport Management, after earning her PhD in Management and Organizations from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Kathryn’s research examines the motivations around, and processes of, organizational and institutional change. She examines these in the context of sport and community wellness.

Anna Kirkland

Anna Kirkland, Ph.D. / Director, IRWG

(734) 764-9537

Director, Institute for Research on Women & Gender (IRWG)
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Women’s Studies

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1136 Lane Hall
204 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1210

Anna Kirkland, J.D., Ph.D., is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Women’s Studies and holds courtesy appointments in Sociology, Political Science, and Health Management and Policy. She is a member of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and served as committee member for the National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering panel charged with producing a report on the impacts of sexual harassment in academia.

Prof. Kirkland’s current research project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is an investigation into the implementation and politics of Section 1557, the non-discrimination clause of the Affordable Care Act that protects patients from discrimination in health care settings. She was an organizer of a National Science Foundation workshop, “Bridging Law and Society and Science and Technology Studies,” (May 2018) at Drexel University in Philadelphia with Professors Kelly Joyce (Drexel University Center for Science, Technology, and Society and Sociology) and Rose Corrigan (Drexel University Department of Politics and School of Law).

The author of Vaccine Court: The Law and Politics of Injury (New York University Press, 2016), Fat Rights: Dilemmas of Difference and Personhood (New York University Press, 2008), and co-editor with Jonathan Metzl of Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality (New York University Press, 2010), she is working on an international research handbook on law, medicine, and society with co-editor Marie-Andree Jacob from Keele University, UK (Edward Elgar Publishing, forthcoming 2018).

color photo of Petra Kuppers

Petra Kuppers, Ph.D. / SHARP Scholar

(734) 764-6330

Professor of English Language and Literature, Women’s Studies, Art, and Theatre and Drama, University of Michigan

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Petra Kuppers is a disability culture activist, a community artist, and a Professor of English, Theatre and Dance, and Women’s Studies. Her current research work focuses on her creative practice: after writing a number of recent books, she is looking (again) at other ways of producing and playing with knowledge. Prof. Kuppers is interested in creative methodologies and their place in university-level research, and has organized a number of events (for instance, The Anarcha Symposium) where she encourages both artists and non-artists to work together using performance and poetic approaches to meaning and knowledge. Thematically, her work encompasses disability studies, performance studies, critical theory and poetics, medical humanities, and the general fields of arts and expression, arts and health, and arts and community building.

Ava Purkiss, Ph.D. / SHARP Scholar

(734) 763-2047

Assistant Professor of American Studies and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan

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Dr. Ava Purkiss joined the departments of American Culture and Women’s Studies as an assistant professor in 2016. Her work explores how the intersection of race, gender, and health shaped the lived experiences of black women in the twentieth century. She is currently at work on a book manuscript about the history of African American women’s purposeful exercise—the first full-length historical study on the subject. Purkiss’ research questions how current health crises facing black women in the U.S. are grounded in long-standing practices of recreational segregation and exclusion from fitness institutions. The lead publication from this project, an article on black women’s exercise and fat stigma in the early twentieth century, will be published in the summer 2017 issue of the Journal of Women’s History. Dr. Purkiss earned her Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin and holds an M.A. and B.A. in Africana Studies and psychology, respectively.

Susan Woolford

Susan J. Woolford, MD, MPH / SHARP Scholar

Medical Director, U-M Pediatric Comprehensive Weight Management Center

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Susan Woolford, M.D., M.P.H., is the Medical Director of the University of Michigan Pediatric Comprehensive Weight Management Center. The Center runs the MPOWER program which is a 6-month family-focused weight management program for obese adolescents. Dr. Woolford also holds an appointment in the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit, in the Division of General Pediatrics. The main focus of Dr. Woolford’s research is on physician communication regarding childhood obesity treatment in primary care and multidisciplinary clinic settings, with an emphasis on ways to enhance communication by the use of technology.