Editor’s Note: This piece originally was published on UConn Today.
Jaci L. VanHeest, an associate professor in the Neag School of Education, has been named UConn’s new Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR). The NCAA requires member institutions to have a FAR to serve as a liaison between the institution and its athletic department.
VanHeest replaces longtime UConn FAR Scott Brown, who recently retired from his position as a professor in the Neag School.
“We are very pleased that Dr. VanHeest is our new Faculty Athletics Representative,” says UConn Director of Athletics David Benedict. “I look forward to working with her to help ensure that our student-athletes have the best possible experience here in all facets of life.”
“I am keenly interested in what the student-athlete has to say, what they do and how they can become successful from both a wellness and academic standpoint.”
— Jaci VanHeest, Associate Professor
and UConn Faculty Athletics Representative
VanHeest is also a University Teaching Fellow and the faculty director of the Public Health Learning Community at UConn. She has served on the President’s Athletic Advisory Committee, was the chair of the Institutional Review Board, and served as UConn’s representative on the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics.
“I am keenly interested in what the student-athlete has to say, what they do and how they can become successful from both a wellness and academic standpoint,” VanHeest says.
VanHeest was a student-athlete herself as a field hockey player at Hope College in Holland, Mich., where she earned her undergraduate degree in 1984. She also earned a master’s degree and doctorate from Michigan State University.
“I was a student-athlete of the early Title IX era,” says VanHeest, who is UConn’s first female FAR. “It’s very positive to see women taking more of a leadership role in athletics.”
Before coming to UConn, she served as the director of physiology for USA Swimming from 1993 to 1998.
“This is really full circle for me to come back to a position like this,” VanHeest said. “I’ve always been engaged in working with athletes in terms of my research.”
Her academic areas of expertise include childhood obesity and physical activity, performance of elite athletes, and exercise, bioenergetics and reproductive endocrinology.