In 2015, at the recommendation of the Division III Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, the Division III governance staff and the NCAA Office of Inclusion partnered on a new program that brought 40 ethnic minority students to the NCAA Convention. The selected students are fully funded to attend the Convention, and they are exposed to Division III, its members and its governance process. In addition to the scheduled Division III programming, grant recipients receive DiSC training, and attend welcome and debrief meetings. The goal is to build a pipeline of talented ethnic minority candidates, with an interest in Division III coaching and/or administration, in an effort to ultimately diversify the division.
The Division III Student Immersion Program is held annually in conjunction with the NCAA Convention. Ethnic minority students, preferably juniors and seniors, with a strong interest in a career in Division III athletics (coaching and/or administration) are encouraged to apply.
UMW field hockey goalie Jessica Cavolt attended the convention this year, representing UMW and the Capital Athletic Conference. We caught up with Jessica to talk about her experience.
How was your experience?
· The student immersion program was an amazing experience. It was amazing because I had the opportunity to meet other student-athletes, members of the CAC (both administrators and fellow student-athletes), and athletic administrators from all around the country. This experience was also eye-opening because I was able to hear about the jobs and opportunities available to me after I graduate. I also had the privilege of seeing what goes on behind the scenes within the NCAA from meeting and talking with the directors and administrators of the NCAA.
What did you learn about?
· We learned about numerous things in our four days at the NCAA Convention but I can attempt to summarize a few.
o I was extremely excited and pleased to hear about the programs the NCAA has enacted to become more diverse. More specifically, I was excited to learn about initiatives and programs that athletic institutions have put forth for the LGBT community.
o Another learning experience came from hearing about the experiences of the Year 2 Intern mentors who are currently interning around the country at different universities within Division III and hear about their experiences and the possible career outcomes for them after they complete their internship.
o One of my favorite learning experiences was the DiSC workshop which allowed me to see what type of leader I am. In finding out what type of leader I am I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses as well as being able to learn how to work with others that have a different leadership type.
o Finally, the program taught me a lot more about professionalism. The NCAA staff that organized this program for us stressed that a big part of being successful within the program, at the convention, and in life was to learn how to properly network with others as well as remaining professional within appearance and conversation.
What did you do at the convention?
· I met many other student athletes who came from different backgrounds in regard to location of their school, their sport, and academic year
· I had the privilege of sitting in on two educational programming sessions, which is where various topics that are popular within athletics currently are discussed within a panel.
o At the convention I also had the privilege of sitting in on the CAC's conference meeting and learn more about the behind the scenes of the CAC.
o We also had the opportunity to talk with the National SAAC as well as hear about the processes they go through to address the issues student athletes bring to their attention which can lead into new legislation being passed.
How did you learn of the program?
· I initially knew about the program because I knew Malia Rogers went last year. I found out about the opportunity from my coach because she emailed me and asked me if the student immersion program was something I would be interested in.
What will you take away from the program as you move forward in school and in field hockey?
· From this program, what I will take away is that the relationships I have formed in the classroom, on campus, in school clubs, and field hockey are important to maintain. The other thing I learned is that the first impressions that you make impact how someone views you as a person, it's important to always show up as your best because you never know what opportunities may arise from that first impression, just like my opportunity in attending the Division III Student Immersion Program at the NCAA National Convention.