On April 14-16 the NCAA hosted the seventh annual NCAA Inclusion Forum where hundreds of leaders from administrators, to student-athletes, came together in Indianapolis to share ideas and discuss what has been done so far to foster diversity across intercollegiate athletics, and what can be done to keep that momentum going. Kim Doran, a member of the Buckeye Equality Committee comprised of coaches, administrators and athletics staff members, made the pilgrimage to Indianapolis to share what we’ve done/planning to do at the Ohio State University. In addition learning from what other schools are doing that could help boost the student-athlete experience here in Columbus.
“The whole purpose of the forum is to bring everybody together to discuss, collaborate and find ways to implement plans to make sure that everyone is included,” Doran said. “We’re doing a great job at OSU, but being able to show and speak about what we’re doing while listening to what our peer institutions are doing allows us to examine our efforts and make sure that we’re providing the best experience for our student-athletes.”
The forum featured sessions that addressed all areas of diversity, from gender, race, LGBTQ, anything and everything was covered. “Getting to do exercises that show us how some of our student-athletes feel when they get to campus without knowing anyone like them really opens your eyes to the struggle they face, in addition to the general stress of being a student-athlete.”
Doran is no stranger to the NCAA Inclusion Forum. She presented there with Caity McCandless, detailing how university officials from both the Student Athlete Support Services Office and Student Life Disability Service Office collaborate to educate colleagues, coaches, administrators and the students on the differences between learning disabilities and ADHD, and how we work to ensure that the student-athletes facing these issues have the resources they need. “I got a chance to sit in on some presentations last year while I was there to present myself, and with being part of the Buckeye Equality Committee I knew that going back to continue my education was an important step in keeping us on the right path.”
Implementing change can be a difficult process, but it’s one that Doran and the Buckeye Equality Committee remain committed to. “The impact of this forum, going forward, could be huge, but it all depends on the universities wanting to make changes. Luckily at OSU we’re afforded the luxury of having resources to dedicate to making these changes, and our leadership knows that we have to stay focused on the change so we can provide the best experience for our student-athletes.”
The Buckeye Equality Committee has made a point of letting the student-athletes know that they’re being heard when they bring up issues, and the Inclusion Forum has helped the attendees learn how to address these issues when they’re brought up. “Going to the forum allowed me to hear what other institutions are doing and the programs they’re utilizing. Speaking to counterparts at other schools and discussing how they got a program up and running is a huge resource, and the forum allows all of us to do that comfortably,” Doran continued.
“While a lot of this may be just us scratching the surface,” Doran concluded, “we know that the only way to establish long-term change is by breaking through the surface to start building for the future.”
On Wednesday night, Ohio State Athletics kicked off its first event of its equality program with a Q&A panel for all student athletes, coaches, and administration to learn about resources available to student athletes. The panel was hosted two hours prior of tipoff of the women’s basketball game vs. Penn State. As the players on the court sported ‘equality’ t-shirts, other athletes from across many different teams learned what the word equality meant for them.
On the panel, three guest speakers shared the spotlight to answer questions, share stories, and inform students of different resources available. The panel was comprised of, Karen Alsbrooks, executive director of organizational development at Ohio State and former student-athlete, Gretchen Metzelaars, senior associate vice president of student life, and Alana Jochum, attorney and executive director of Equality Ohio.