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SUNY promotes physical education professor to ‘Distinguished’

SUNY Cortland professor Lynn Couturier MacDonald, former chair of SUNY Cortland’s Physical Education Department, recently was appointed to the rank of Distinguished Service Professor by the SUNY Board of Trustees in recognition of a dedicated career that raised the bar for physical education instruction at the university and well beyond.

The Distinguished Service Professorship is conferred upon instructional faculty who have achieved a distinguished reputation for applying their intellectual skills and research to interests of public concern in their community, New York state or nationwide.

The appointment constitutes a promotion to the SUNY’s highest academic rank.

“It is clear that Dr. MacDonald’s institutional, professional, community, state and national service has been extensive, exceptional and impactful,” said SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum. “The standard-setting and assessment work Dr. MacDonald has done over decades has involved careful, nuanced attention to detail, clear and visionary leadership and coordination with other physical education scholars and practitioners.”

MacDonald was formally honored during SUNY Cortland’s 2022 Commencement Ceremonies on May 14 in the Park Center Alumni Arena.

She earned a Doctor of Physical Education from Springfield College in 1986. MacDonald has a B.S. in physical education from Springfield College and received a Master of Science in Biomechanics from University of Illinois and a Master of Arts in American Studies with honors from Trinity College. She has a graduate certificate for advanced feminist studies from University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

MacDonald began her college teaching career at Springfield College, continuing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the United States Coast Guard Academy before joining SUNY Cortland in 2008 at the rank of professor and chair of physical education. She chaired the department for the next nine years.

MacDonald, who was recognized in 2017 by the State University with a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service, approaches her work in a way that colleagues consistently describe as embodying the “servant-leader” ethos.

“In her work with program and college-wide accreditation, Dr. MacDonald sets the course as well as conducts the necessary research, data collection and analysis that inform that vision,” one nominator said. “She has a generative capacity as a leader, someone who can marshal disparate groups toward a collective goal.”

Her leadership is evident in her scholarly work, improving the state of P-12 physical education in the U.S. through standards and assessment, and in her approach to instruction in SUNY Cortland’s physical education teacher preparation programs. She has excelled at connecting service, teaching and scholarship. Her record reflects a highly commendable clarity of vision and purpose.

“[Dr. MacDonald] is a dream colleague because her work is always of the absolute highest quality and grounded in both research and practical application,” said Charlene Burgeson, the chief program officer of Action for Healthy Kids and Executive Director of Active Schools. Burgeson collaborated with MacDonald on a national P.E. standards project.

“Lynn is a quiet and confident leader who leads by example, and as such, she engenders commitment and loyalty. She is willing to work on grueling projects because she knows they will be the bedrock for high quality professional practice. She is not motivated by attention and recognition but rather by professional contribution and a job well done.”

MacDonald is a well-known scholar and prolific researcher who has published well-cited works in her field on assessment, outcomes, physical literacy and physical education teacher preparation. At Cortland, she is the published author of two books, eight peer-reviewed articles, two research reports and findings that have appeared in international journals.

A past president of the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) from 2009 to 2012, she has written invited pieces about her role in crafting the P-12 physical education standards and related learning outcomes in NASPE: Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.

MacDonald drew on her scholarly expertise of physical education standards in her national service, including her long-standing involvement with NASPE and the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE, formerly the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance or AAPHERD).

She was invited both in 2006 and again in 2015 to be a member of the NASPE task force to revise the P-12 grade level physical education standards for U.S. schools.

From 2011 to 2013, she chaired the work of creating a curriculum framework with grade-level benchmarks to accompany those standards. Far from a one-off appointment, membership on this task force included research into best practices in physical education, deep study of the current accreditation standards through the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and continuous involvement with concerned stakeholders through information sharing and feedback sessions.

She was also invited by SHAPE to edit and write books aimed at helping physical educators enact the standards in their classrooms, conduct outcomes-based assessment and integrate technology in their curriculum.

MacDonald’s service to NASPE was so valued by CAEP and NASPE that she was asked to join a national team to conduct quality reviews of CAEP reports from physical education teacher education programs across the U.S.

Lynn Couturier MacDonald

An active participant in the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance from 2008 to 2013 and 2015 to 2017 (NYS-AHPERD), MacDonald in 2013 was recognized by the organization for her contributions with the Amazing Person Award, Higher Education Section.

At Cortland, she has led numerous accreditation efforts that have a ripple effect across the institution and programs in terms of meeting standards or strategic goals.

Currently, she co-chairs the university’s Middle States Accreditation Committee. Her expertise on student learning and experience with accreditation has been key to authentically evaluating and articulating the campus work that led to a successful reaccreditation.

MacDonald has filled other “high-profile, high-impact” roles on campus, including serving as Faculty Senate chair, a role in which she shepherded several important initiatives.

In addition to her prominent service to her department and the School of Professional Studies, MacDonald has engaged in shaping curriculum, personnel procedures and physical spaces on the campus.

At the institutional level, MacDonald also tackled the issues of expanding diversity, equity and inclusion hiring in her department. She has served on the Center for Intercultural and Gender Studies.