Breakthrough leader Dawn Wilson-King

Breakthrough Leader: Dawn Wilson-King

Psychology professor works across disciplines for research to help underserved communities

Dawn Wilson-King has devoted her career to helping people pursue active and healthy lifestyles, and what a career it’s been. Since 2001, the psychology professor has collaborated on more than 30 grant-funded projects that brought some $40 million in grant funding to the University of South Carolina and she served as president of two prominent national organizations.

“My research and scholarship over the past 20 years has focused on developing positive relationships with underserved communities and empowering them to engage in positive lifestyle changes to improve their health and well being,” says Wilson-King.

“This has had a very positive impact on how the larger community has perceived our university as a supportive resource that is participatory and which values their input and needs. This has been a very rewarding opportunity for me.”

Dawn is recognized internationally as an exceptional leader in her field and beyond her most visible contributions to the University of South Carolina, she has also excelled as a mentor and role model.

Robert Kaplan, professor of medicine,  Stanford University

A faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences, Wilson-King has been a team member on grants with faculty members across the spectrum, from exercise science and nursing to medicine, engineering, social work, education, and the departments of health administration and policy and health promotion, education and behavior. She’s also collaborated with the university’s Prevention Research Center in the Arnold School of Public Health.

“Probably the most important way in which I have positively impacted the research of other faculty is through bringing together multidisciplinary teams of researchers to engage in community-based, large-scale health promotion programs at USC and across the state of South Carolina,” Wilson-King says.

But her research efforts tell only part of the story. Wilson-King has mentored more than 500 undergraduate students at the university and recently received the institution’s Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award in 2018 as well as the Outstanding Senior Mentoring award in 2017 from the Society of Behavioral Medicine.

Wilson-King served as president of that society in 2014 and of the Society for Health Psychology of the American Psychological Association in 2017. During her first presidency, she was invited by the White House to give the lead presentation for President Barack Obama’s National Health Advisory Council where she advocated for a more comprehensive definition of health in youth that embraced physical, mental and social wellbeing.

Wilson-King has published more than 180 peer-reviewed publications in high-impact journals and has been an invited speaker at 18 national conferences in the past five years.

“Dawn is recognized internationally as an exceptional leader in her field,” says Robert Kaplan, a professional colleague and professor of medicine at Stanford University, “and beyond her most visible contributions to the University of South Carolina, she has also excelled as a mentor and role model.”

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