About Us

The Centre for the Study of Sport & Health (CSSH) focuses on the interconnected relationship between sport and health. We engage in academic research and community outreach related to the physical, mental, and social components of wellbeing.


Established as a Senate-approved Research Centre in May, 2010, the Centre for the Study of Sport & Health facilitates and conducts research on sport, health and wellness. Under the leadership of Dr. Colin Howell, the CSSH has had an active history. Its high profile conferences, Putting it on Ice (2012), the 41st annual meeting of the North American Society of Sport History (2013), and the “Thinking Outside the Box: Transnational Lacrosse Conference” (2014) have brought international recognition to the Centre. The CSSH has been involved in various smaller symposia and lecture series on a continuing basis. In 2017 we were a co-sponsor of a student conference on the Philosophy of Sport organized by Dr. Lisa Gannett, and of an evening celebrating the all-black hockey line at Saint Mary’s (1970) and a screening of a documentary on black hockey, organized by Dr. John MacKinnon. We hosted the 10th anniversary of our renowned Hockey Conference in 2021, and in 2022, held a virtual talk with Oscar winner Ben Proudfoot and a panel of scholars and athletes to discuss his short film about Lusia Harris, The Queen of Basketball. 

In addition to conferences, symposia and guest lectures, the Centre has an active visiting researcher program, including post-doctoral fellows and other academics active in sport and health research. Over the years we have hosted scholars from all over North America, Great Britain, and Europe (including Russia). The CSSH has also been active in community-oriented research initiatives at the local, national and international levels, including work with various sporting bodies such as Sport Nova Scotia, and a number of sport heritage agencies including Canada’s Sport Hall of Fame

Our research projects address a range of concerns, from a SSHRC-supported study of sporting borderlands to work on mental resiliency and the development of mental health strategies for organizations. Within the University we have been especially committed to involving students in our activities, from conference planning to the development of our Here for Peers student mentoring program, the Healthy Teams project and the Student Athlete Mental Health Initiative. We are presently developing a Student Athletes Village initiative in collaboration with the Department of Athletics.

Finally, we were active participants in the establishment of a certificate program in Health, Wellness & Sport in Society in association with the Faculty of Arts, which offered its first course in the winter of 2018.

Dr. Cheryl MacDonald


Photo of Cheryl MacDonaldCheryl MacDonald earned a PhD in Social & Cultural Analysis from Concordia University in Montreal and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Education at the University of Alberta. An alumna of Saint Mary's University, she returned to campus in 2018 where she has taught in Atlantic Canada Studies, Criminology, and the Health, Wellness and Sport in Society program. The majority of her qualitative sport-related research in the areas of gender and sexuality as well as athlete wellbeing has been funded by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.  MacDonald is best known for her hockey scholarship, which has been published in top-tier academic journals such as Sociology of Sport Journal; however, she also maintains an interdisciplinary dossier in research on athlete support and development programming and is completing a Master's in Sport & Recreation Studies part-time through the University of New Brunswick. In her capacity as a public scholar, MacDonald has twice been a media panelist for the Hockey is for Everyone initiative through the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers. In 2022 she was named a Top Social Change Advocate by The Hockey News Magazine. Most recently, she assisted with the co-ordination of a Women in Hockey Operations program and acted as a mentor to participants through the Maritime Junior Hockey League.

Follow Dr. MacDonald on Twitter and visit the website for her co-edited anthology Overcoming the Neutral Zone Trap: Hockey's Agents of Change (2021) 

Ryan Francis

Visiting Indigenous Fellow 

Ryan holds an Undergraduate degree in Science (Sport Management) and a Master's degree in Physical Education (Administration, Curriculum and Supervision). He is a member of Acadia First Nation who currently works as the Manager of Provincial Outreach & Coordination for the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage, in its Communities, Sport, and Recreation Division. Ryan will be leading and contributing to several academic and community-related projects at the CSSH leading up to the 2023 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Halifax. These include organizing Indigenous Sport Week on campus, conducting research on First Nations U SPORTS athletes' wellbeing, and organizing the development of a Brave Space for Indigenous athletes during NAIG. 

Dr. Colin Howell

Founder, Retired

Photo of Colin Howell

Dr. Colin Howell is a retired History professor and the founder of the Centre for the Study of Sport & Health at Saint Mary’s University.  His teaching and research focused on the history of sport, medicine, and health in Canada.  At Saint Mary’s, Dr. Howell was also a co-founder of the Atlantic Canada Studies undergraduate and graduate programs, the Gorsebrook Research Institute, and the Austin Willis Moving Images Research Centre. Dr. Howell has published widely in the field of sport and health studies, authoring Blood, Sweat and Cheers: Sport and the Making of Modern Canada (2001), Northern Sandlots (1995), a history of the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax and several edited collections. As of June 2020, Dr. Howell retired from his position with the Centre for the Study of Sport & Health but will remain on the Advisory Board. We celebrated his 50 years at SMU during summer 2021 at the 10th anniversary of The Hockey Conference, which he founded at Saint Mary’s in 2001.