Abby Kittler | Staff Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Michael’s College Athletics has partnered with RISE – a national nonprofit – to provide diversity, equity and inclusion training for student athletes. The organization aims to equip student athletes with skills to encourage and create change on matters of racism, equality and social justice.
Associate Athletic Director Meggan Dulude said the College had plans to implement training sessions before the partnership with RISE. There was an academic advisory group of athletic administrators and faculty members who reviewed training initiatives for athletics. Dulude heard about RISE and their expertise in DEI training, and inquired about opportunities for the Northeast-10 (NE-10) conference, Dulude explained.
The College joins 14 other institutions in the conference, serving 24 NCAA Division II sports and 4,500 student athletes.
“We wanted to reach out beyond that [advisory] group to include alumni and community members to have better representation and broaden our social representation, past our current structure. Because from a racial standpoint, we are not diverse,” Dulude said.
The conference decided the institutions needed more diversity, equity and inclusion training. The NE-10 shortly became the first DII conference to have a partnership with RISE. Currently, the partnership is in its “discovery phase,” according to Dulude.
This phase consists of two perception surveys from experiences of student-athletes and athletic department members at St. Michael’s. The department held a 90-minute session with select athletes and coaches and concluded with a satisfaction survey. A data analysis and assessment recap are expected to guide how the athletic department addresses diversity, equity and inclusion situations in the future.
According to national survey insights from RISE, 79% of student athletes feel obligated to bring awareness to social justice matters. However, only 74% of athletes are willing to attend additional programming focused on diversity and inclusion.
Ella Saracco ‘23 is a student-athlete on the women’s hockey team who attended the 90-minute session.
“It opened my eyes to things that I wasn’t really aware of beforehand. I think if this approach is taken for our community, people will be more open to listening,” she said.
Dulude said the athletic department, however, did not receive as many responses they hoped for in the perception surveys. She also emphasized a need to follow up with athletes to receive feedback.
By the end of the semester, Dulude and the athletic department want to begin foundational work. The foundational work is expected to emulate leadership workshops, town hall meetings and roundtable discussions.
“Our town hall and round tables series brings together some of the most powerful and progressive voices in race and sports to discuss their intersection and how each of us can make a difference,” according to a RISE pamphlet.
Down the road, Dulude expects to bring opportunities like “Champion of Change” to St. Michael’s Athletics. It is a hands-on workshop that aims to inspire action and empathy by showing the convergence of athletics and social justice. Athletes hear about first-person recollections of how race has affected the lives of other athletes. Afterward, they create self portraits based on words that show a commitment to equality.
Collaborations with organizations like RISE can allow institutions to check off boxes after training sessions. However, Dulude emphasized the importance of extending dialogue beyond the program as a way for students to absorb and reflect on the concepts they learn.
“You want to have a quality experience as a student athlete. It’s hard for someone, especially for someone of color, to come because they don’t feel welcome or like they belong. They don’t see other people who look like them here,” she said.
Dawn Ellinwood, vice president of student affairs, expressed optimism for the partnership and hopes the training sessions can resonate with people.
“More than a quarter of our students are student athletes. The more we do this, the more it is going to benefit the whole. It is about consistent conversation about what it is like living in a diverse world,” she said.
Student Government Association Secretary of Athletics, Shannon Murray, has been working alongside Dulude as a student facilitator.
“As a student athlete at our school under the NE-10 Conference, it is nice to see a partnership that can promote social change at a higher level,” she said.
Dulude says she foresees this partnership as a long term commitment.
“This commitment with RISE does not have an expiration date. It is really meant to be working with them in a way they are supporting us in our accountability to keep this relationship going,” Dulude said.