UNCG Research Excellence Awards 2020-2021

2020-2021 Research Excellence Awards

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020-21 UNCG Research Excellence Award winners, Professor Jennifer Etnier and Associate Professor Gabriela Livas Stein.


Professor Jennifer Etnier receives the Senior Research Excellence Award for her scholarship on the connections between physical activity and cognition.

The Julia Taylor Morton Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology is best known for her work in examining the relationships between physical activity and cognition in people with the APOE genotype that results in dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. She has received $5.4 million in federal funding and $639,000 in foundation and private funding for her work. Her largest award to date – $3.7 million – was granted by the National Institutes of Health in 2017.

Dr. Etnier found that exercise correlates with an improvement in memory – particularly for people with the APOE genotype who are affected by cognitive decline. Work on this impactful research has continued even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Etnier has received numerous accolades at the local and national levels. She is a fellow of the National Academy of Kinesiology – which reserves only 250 positions for the most widely recognized professionals in the field – and of the American College of Sports Medicine.

At UNCG, she holds the Julia Taylor Morton Distinguished Professorship in Life and Health Science as well as an HHS Senior Research Award, two HHS teaching excellence awards, a Graduate School Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award, an HHS Graduate Mentoring Award, and a UNCG Alumni Teaching Excellence Award.

Etnier currently serves on five editorial boards, and has been editor or associate editor for four journals. She is also a former President of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity.

She has published more than 90 peer reviewed articles, 2 popular books – “Bring Your A Game, and “Coaching for the Love of the Game” – and numerous scientific book chapters. Her work has been cited extensively – approximately 11,500 times.

With some of the highest student teacher ratings in her department, Etnier is also an exemplary teacher-scholar. In the last six years, 25 of her manuscript publications have incorporated students, with students serving as first author on 14. Many of her students have gone on to pursue postdoctoral and faculty positions.


Associate Professor Gabriela Livas Stein receives the Junior Research Excellence Award for her scholarship on how familial cultural values impact youth development, how cultural stressors affect mental health, and how to improve access to mental health care for marginalized populations.

Dr. Stein is recognized for her emphasis on diversity and inclusiveness. Much of her community-engaged, interdisciplinary work focuses on Latinx youth and families, and several programs designed to support this and other marginalized groups have emerged from her work, including One Talk at a Time; Strong Minds, Strong Communities, and Padres Efectivos.

Since she joined UNCG, Stein has published 53 peer-reviewed articles. Her work can be found in some of the top journals of her field, including Developmental Psychology and the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

She also is known for her rigorous pursuit of funding. In the last five years, she has received 4 internal awards and 3 external grants totalling approximately $5.5 million. The largest of these grants is a $4.3 million multi-site collaborative R01 project that involves 13 different community partners.

Stein regularly involves both undergraduate and graduate students in her research. Nearly all of her peer reviewed publications involve students, with more than 10 students appearing as first authors.


Written by Hope Voorhees