Although Dr. Clark is retired, she is involved in mentoring future leaders,
leading a journal club, and contributing professionally to the literature.
Recently, she did a virtual research translational event for SHAPE America’s
We hope you enjoy reading the Q&A below to learn more about her background
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background, including
what drew you into the fields of health and/or physical activity?
My favorite subject in high school was physical education. As an
undergraduate student, I was challenged to do more by a professor, so I
did a senior thesis on how we learn motor skills. If you try to teach a
young child a skill and they can’t do it, you’re immediately struck with
why not. (For example, trying to teach a 7-year-old to hit a badminton
birdie). So, I became really interested in how we learn motor skills.
After graduation, I worked as an instructor at Purdue University, and
they had a program for preschoolers. I taught preschoolers how to swim
and it was the best part of my day. Because of my wonderful experience
at Purdue and the people that were there, I was pretty sure that I was
going to do my Ph.D. in motor development. I went to the University of
Wisconsin and got my degree there.
What is your primary line or lines of research?
I’ve studied the development of movement coordination and control. In
motor behavior there are three domains: manipulation, locomotion and
posture, generally. I’ve done research in all three. My first line of
work was the development of walking. If you study walking, then you have
to understand posture, so that was my next line of work.
Then, I became interested in studying children who have developmental
coordination disorder. That is when I went into motor learning, so I
went into adaptation and tasks such as reaching.
How you have worked alongside other professionals to promote health and
One of the things I’m proudest of is
Active Start, which
is a document that NASPE (now SHAPE America) first published in 2002. It
has since been modified by Jackie Goodway, Nancy Getchell and others.
When you teach, you touch a future. In all of my years of teaching, I’d
say I am proudest of my students. The students in my classes,
undergraduate students working in my lab, and those I’ve trained for
their master’s and doctoral work.
Can you give an example of how you’ve worked with local and community
members to promote health and physical activity?
When you’re first starting in your field, you have a lot more
connections with the community. When I was at the University of
Pittsburgh, I worked on a project where I went into the preschools in
Pittsburgh that were Title I schools.
I helped the preschool teacher figure out what to do in the preschool
that would help the children in their physical activity and in their
motor skills. By going to the centers, I could see the problems that
confronted teachers. I went all over the city of Pittsburgh, and we
eventually developed this idea of movement centers.
What advice do you have for graduate students and junior faculty members
who hope to achieve status as a SHAPE America Research Fellow someday?
Always be a learner. Be a lifetime learner. If you’re a lifetime
learner, you’ll always be curious, you'll always have questions, and
you'll always be interested in either pairing with someone who’s doing
research to answer those questions or you’ll be interested in developing
a different way to do it and then testing it out with other people and
coming to the conference and presenting your ideas.
So, think of yourself as a lifetime learner and then always think of
yourself as trying to challenge the ideas around you. For those who go
off into academics, stay connected to the real world. Don’t forget your
How have you supported SHAPE America, either through service, research,
or other ways?
I was recently involved in a virtual session to restart a special
interest group. By mentoring people, I have a couple of people that I
still work with on paper and I’m still writing and still contributing
professionally to the literature. Also, contributing to the development
of future leaders.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted (or changed) your research agenda
and research productivity?
It’s actually connected me more with people because of Zoom. I’m on Zoom
calls about three to four times a week, talking with others about
research and organizational things. It’s caused me to be more
For example, we had a meeting in Greece, which was accessible on Zoom.
Before the pandemic, grad students would not have been able to afford
flying to Greece from Brazil or from Australia. I now have good Greek
friends from meeting with them on Zoom. I would have loved to have gone
to Greece, but it’s particularly important for people from developing
countries to attend for a low price rather than flying there.
Lastly, what are some hobbies you participate in during your free time?
I enjoy reading, listening to audiobooks, and playing bridge, especially
during the pandemic.