At VWU and many other NCAA member schools, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is made up of student-athlete representatives from each sport who assemble to provide insight on the student-athlete experience. They also offer input on rules, regulations and policies that can affect student-athletes’ day-to-day life.
This year, SAAC has prioritized its mission towards a more inclusive environment for athletics on college campuses. For the past four years, SAAC has been promoting its campaign #NCAAInclusion. This is the fourth year the NCAA is doing #NCAAInclusion week. The campaign ran from Tuesday, Oct. 19 through Thursday, Oct. 21, with each day having a theme of its own.
Day one focused on student-athletes being able to talk about their own identities and perspectives and experiences surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion. Day two’s theme was about being able to outline any personal or institutional action steps to achieve inclusivity. Finally, day three was focused on the definition of “belonging.”
Through Oct. 20-22, Virginia Wesleyan’s SAAC participated in the annual NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Week to discuss and promote diversity, equity and inclusion and provide efforts on how to create a more inclusive athletic community.
“VWU SAAC has been promoting diversity and inclusion on campus by informing the students when and where certain diversity events are happening. Some of the students in SAAC are also involved with the diversity and inclusions group,” sophomore Cecelia Aten, a member of SAAC, said.
“SAAC participated in the NCAA diversity and inclusion week social media campaign where we utilized different media outlets to showcase how our teams and athletic department embraces diversity,” said senior Mackenzie Kerns, Chair of SAAC. Here at VWU, student-athletes and SAAC contributed to the campaign by posting on their Instagram (@vwu_saac) for days two and three. VWU SAAC for day two provided a message from VWU Athletic Director, Andrea Hoover-Erbig, and on day three they provided a compilation of VWU student-athletes to talk about what it means to be a part of their respective teams. This campaign will become an annual tradition, as VWU participated in it last school year, as a way to kick-start VWU athletics efforts towards a more inclusive community.
Another way student-athletes are able to voice their opinions and perspectives is through their teammates that serve as SAAC representatives, who then are able to go to meetings and express concerns from the student-athlete community.
“Student athletes are able to bring any ideas or opinions to their team representative, to the executive board directly, coaches, or to athletic director, Coach Hoover-Erbig,” Kerns said. There are routine meetings that happen on Thursdays where members of SAAC go and discuss any topics that may arise during these meetings that are sometimes attended by the Athletic Director Andrea Hoover-Erbig, Assistant Athletic Director Jeff Bowers or the coaches.
The past year and a half has been challenging for athletes, but VWU SAAC continues to support NCAA’s initiatives for diversity and inclusion because they understand that it is important to provide a platform for athletes to voice their concerns and opinions about diversity, equity and inclusion.
They make sure that the Marlin community is able to get involved with their initiatives and forums as much as possible. “During SAAC meetings, members are always made aware of the events happening on campus. SAAC promotes being involved within many of these different groups,” Aten said.
SAAC also encourages panels that are held on campus that discuss the topic of diversity, and that these panels and other events are going to appear in the future. “There have been diversity panels held on campus that were sent out to student athletes from their team representative,” Kerns said.
Kerns stated that all athletic teams have representatives in SAAC and have plans laid out for future endeavors hosted by SAAC for student-athletes. “We are currently working on planning future events for the student-athlete body and with student government on a few things,” Kerns said.