Professor Janice Wright

Emeritus Professor

Citation delivered by Professor Glenn Salkeld, Executive Dean of the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Janice Elizabeth Wright as an Emeritus Professor of the University on 18 April 2017.

Vice-Chancellor, I present Janice Elizabeth Wright.

A student once said that having Jan Wright as a supervisor, “…was like having Michael Jordan on your under 12s’ basketball team”.

Professor Wright is recognised nationally and internationally by her peers as a remarkable scholar in the area of Physical and Health Education, focusing her ground breaking research in the area of socio-critical/cultural approaches to body image and schooling, drawing on both feminist and poststructuralist theories.

Her early critical work using semiotics to reveal the sexist language of PE classes made her a pioneer in research on gender in physical education and her co-authored book with Michael Gard has made a most significant contribution to the fields of physical activity and health, health and physical education and obesity studies.

Along with a cousin, Jan was the first in her family to go to University, and she credits her success to her father, an “articulate and argumentative working class man who encouraged his three female children to think differently”; her great aunt who encouraged her to aspire beyond her station and coached her academically; and the “supportive but demanding academic government high school environment”, as well as her inspirational teachers – especially her (“possibly Marxist”) history teacher.

Jan trained to be a health and PE teacher, graduating from Sydney University in 1968 with a Bachelor of Education (Physical and Health Education). She went on to complete a Masters in Education in 1976, followed by a PhD in 1992 while at UOW.

Commencing with the Wollongong College of Advanced Education as a lecturer in 1976, then as a lecturer with UOW from 1981 to 1991, she went on to hold a number of key University positions including Director, Physical and Health Education Program, Associate Dean Research with the Faculty of Education and Acting Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research). From 2010 to 2015, Jan held a Professorial Fellowship with the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.

She has been a state and national advisor on gender issues in school-based Education and has been influential in the adoption of a more socio-critical position in State and National curriculum, including the current Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education.

Over the course of her UOW career, Professor Wright has supervised 40 doctoral students and 20 honours students, with many of her former students becoming leading academics in Education, and Health and Physical Education, and/or holding influential positions in education bureaucracies.

Aside from her important work in governance roles, it is Professor Wright’s achievements through her professional research career that allows her to stand out as a national and international scholar. In 2008, she was an Executive member of the Australian Association for Research in Education, the peak body for educational research dissemination in Australia. She held the role of National President, Research Development Co-ordinator and President Elect for this distinguished organisation. In 2014 she was made the first Distinguished Fellow of the Australian Association for Research in Education for “outstanding service and contribution to the Association over a sustained period of time”.

Professor Wright has published over 100 journal articles and book chapters and edited or authored nine books. Internationally, Jan has been recognised by the British Educational Research Association, and in 2011 was invited to present the highly distinguished Scholar Lecture. In 2014, in recognition of her scholarly contribution to the field, Professor Wright was invited by the International Association of Physical Education in Higher Education to present the prestigious Cagigal Scholar lecture.

Professor Wright has led and contributed to many successful research grants from a variety of national and international funding bodies throughout her distinguished career. She cites as among her most cherished memories the thrill of receiving the email advising of a successful ARC grant. Indeed, there are very few Australian academics that can list seven successful ARC Grants, including both Discovery and Linkage, especially in the area of education. She has also served as an ARC Grant Reviewer from 2000-2015 and was a National Excellence in Research Assessment (ERA) Assessor in 2012 and 2015.

As a colleague, University of Queensland Emeritus Professor Richard Tinning, affirms:
“Professor Jan Wright is arguably the most outstanding female scholar working in the field of health and physical education in Australia and certainly one of the most respected internationally.”

Vice-Chancellor, for her sustained and outstanding contribution to the study of gender and social inequality in the field of Education, and more specifically, physical and health education, and her exceptional service and dedication to this University, it is a privilege and pleasure to present Jan Wright for admission as an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wollongong.