5 to be recognized as Champions of Diversity and Inclusion
The NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, in conjunction with the office of inclusion, is recognizing five individuals as Champions of Diversity and Inclusion for their work in supporting ethnic minorities and other underrepresented groups and individuals.
The honor was created in 2015 to recognize those who have a commitment to advocating for and advancing others in inclusive efforts around athletics. Generally, the one individual is honored quarterly, but with the social injustice and inequities seen throughout 2020, the MOIC and office of inclusion chose to honor multiple people.
The five honorees are:
- Tommy Amaker, men’s basketball head coach, Harvard.
- Jen Fry, community supporter, JenFryTalks.
- Allen Greene, athletics director, Auburn.
- Jacqie McWilliams, commissioner, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
- John Nicklow, president, New Orleans.
“As we move through this challenging time in our country’s history, the committee wanted to recognize five people who lead from different seats within and around college athletics,” said Dena Freeman-Patton, chair of the MOIC and deputy athletics director/chief operating officer at New Orleans. “They have been champions for diversity and inclusion throughout their careers and continue to do what is right in 2021. They have been inspirations to our student-athletes and administrators in athletics, and they play a big part in molding our industry and our country. MOIC applauds them for their intentions and bravery in such unprecedented times. Leading with conviction and courage moves us all to a better place in athletics and certainly as we look to the future.”
Individuals were nominated based on how they are influencers in promoting diversity and inclusion; how they are assisting in diversifying pipeline opportunities in their senior or influential position; how they are providing support to underrepresented populations; and their consistency in supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Here are a few examples of the winners’ efforts:
- In addition to coaching, Amaker has introduced his athletes to cultural programs and ceremonies that focus on positive role models. He has engaged his team in chat sessions with Harvard faculty, staff and other influential minorities who provide encouragement and positive advice. He also facilitated career placement opportunities for minority interns in athletics. His team’s road trips also have been educational experiences. Teams have visited historical memorials and cultural exhibits and were introduced to inspirational Harvard alumni who have shared their life experiences.
- Fry, a former Division II student-athlete and veteran volleyball coach, leads a social justice education firm called JenFryTalks, which uses conversation tactics to educate and empower individuals in athletics on issues of race, inclusion, intersectionality, diversity and equity through an anti-racist lens. She helps athletics administrators and teams through difficult conversations in her workshops, discussion sessions and consultations. The social justice educator has worked with numerous schools, conferences and organizations.
- Along with leading Auburn athletics, Greene is co-chair of the Black AD Alliance, which was formed last summer to create more opportunities for ethnic minorities at administrative levels in Division I athletics. Greene met with his Auburn coaches last year following social injustice protests and opened discussions about current issues. He also addressed the turmoil publicly with video messaging focusing on continued efforts to educate, develop and support student-athletes during the unrest and as the country moves into the future.
- McWilliams is the first female to lead one of the most visible and successful conferences of historically black colleges and universities, the CIAA. Her conference’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments continue to be among the most celebrated and highly attended events in intercollegiate athletics. The motivational speaker has been a member of several NCAA committees, some of which focused specifically on impacting diversity and inclusion within intercollegiate athletics. She is also the past president of the influential Women Leaders in College Sports organization.
- As president of New Orleans, Nicklow has led an effort to make the campus community more diverse and has focused on transformative actions to help all students feel more welcome. He and his staff have improved hiring practices and conducted climate surveys and listening sessions to discuss key issues and bridge gaps. In addition to employing a chief diversity officer, the school also employs a diversity officer focused specifically on students. He created the President’s Award for Advancement in Diversity and has built new community partnerships that focus on equity and access.
The Champions of Diversity and Inclusion will be formally recognized at the 2021 Inclusion Forum, which will be held virtually June 2-4. MOIC and the NCAA will recognize additional Champions of Diversity and Inclusion later this spring.