Since last spring, the Department of Athletics at the University of Mary Washington has been engaged in the development of a comprehensive diversity and inclusion plan for all student athletes and staff. A committee comprised of coaches, administrators, as well as faculty and staff from outside of the athletic department has met regularly to put together elements of a plan that will serve as a model for NCAA Division III.
A major part of that plan will be ongoing education and training. The department gathered in Ron Rosner Arena en masse on November 13 to listen to special guest diversity and inclusion speaker, Dr. Rosita Lopez. Dr. Lopez shared a presentation with more than 500 student-athletes, coaches, and athletic staff about equity, strength, and overcoming obstacles.
Dr. Lopez is a national expert on educational reform and promoting diverse and inclusive environments. She is a Professor and previous faculty chair of the Department of Educational Administration and School Business Management, Department of Leadership and Educational Policy Studies, at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb, Illinois.
"This evening, the real important message was that we can't leave anyone behind", commented Dr. Lopez after her remarks. "We need to reject rejection and we also have to understand that diversity and inclusion and connecting and addressing social justice issues around us is everyone's responsibility. I'm so proud to be connected with UMW in this diversity and inclusion journey to make everyone safer, and make this world a better place."
Dr. Lopez's presentation is one of an ongoing series of educational opportunities that will be presented to the athletic department moving forward. In addition, student athletes and staff have engaged in trainings on microaggression, implicit bias, and Title IX/sexual assault. Other elements of the diversity and inclusion plan will include regular surveys of student athletes and staff, focus groups,and exit interviews. A diversity and inclusion mission statement, a diversity and inclusion officer, a diversity counsel within the athletic department will be developed, and the department will be working with admissions to develop plans to enhance minority recruitment, working with human resources to identify strategies to attract diverse job candidates, applying for grant opportunities at the conference and NCAA level, branding and messaging our efforts and emphasis, and providing leadership opportunities for diverse student athletes and staff.
The work of the athletic department will mesh with the diversity efforts of the university and the strategic vision of the president and the board of visitors. "We are undertaking this effort because it is the right thing to do at the right time", said UMW Director of Athletics Ken Tyler. "We want to serve as a positive example for the university and our community. We want to be leaders in this important effort and we want to create a model for others to follow in our community and in Division III."
Members of the committee include head swimming coach Abby Brethauer, head softball coach Dee Conway, head men's basketball coach Marcus Kahn, assistant women's soccer coach Emily Kelly, head cross country and track and field coach Kunle Lawson, professor of classics, philosophy and religion Dr. Mary Beth Mathews, associate professor of sociology and anthropology Dr. Kristin Marsh, associate director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center JoAnna Raucci, and director of athletics Ken Tyler.
"We're very proud and excited about the work that we have done, continue to do and will do in the future", said Tyler. "Athletics has a special opportunity and obligation to lift people up and bring them together. We welcome that opportunity and look forward to the submission of our plan on December 15, 2017."