This semester, the athletic department has engaged in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) education workshops with the Institute for Sport and Social Justice (ISSJ), a Florida-based educational company that couples a passion for athletics with a commitment to social justice. The department is set to participate in six total sessions throughout the course of the 2021-2022 academic year, two of which have already taken place.
Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan explained the athletic department’s collaboration with the ISSJ to this point along with the structure of this programming.
“[The ISSJ] has provided two facilitators to lead our coaches through the sessions that go for about an hour and a half,” Ryan said. “The first session was focused on some foundational information and thinking about our own experiences [with DEI work], and the second one dove deeper into the ways we can support our student athletes.”
According to Ryan, the ISSJ’s workshops have greatly improved the athletic department’s understanding of and commitment to issues surrounding DEI work.
“We have to spend a lot of time on [DEI issues],” Ryan said. “The more time we spend on these issues, the more well prepared we will be to support our students.”
Assistant Athletic Director for Operations and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Katie Greene echoed Ryan’s sentiment, conveying how the workshops have formed bonds between members of the department.
“Our work with the ISSJ has encouraged our staff to be open and vulnerable with each other and has helped to create a strong sense of community inclusion within our athletic department,” Greene wrote in an email to the Orient.
Greene is pleased with the athletic department’s initiative to concentrate more on DEI efforts and integrate these discussions into the hectic everyday lives of athletes this year. She credits part of this success to the return of a full student body to campus.
“Now that we are fully back on campus and back to a more steady routine of practices and games, we are learning to combine our extremely important DEI efforts and education with a full workload,” Greene said. “Finding the balance and being able to continue our education and learning [while] moving forward is the key to creating an inclusive athletic department.”
While coaches and staff members engage with the ISSJ, student athletes will work separately with social justice educator Jen Fry to gain a similar understanding of DEI issues.
“[Fry] spent time with our teams to assure that all [the athletes] come into the [DEI] work we’re going to do with the same background and understanding of the issues we will end up talking about over the course of the year,” Ryan said.
Looking toward the future, the athletic department plans to diligently continue this year’s educational efforts.
“We will always have consistent educational programming related to inclusion and diversity for our staff and students,” Ryan said. “Our DEI committee is already focusing on planning for next year.”
Greene echoed Ryan’s thoughts, explaining the standards the department hopes to instill in its staff and athletes.
“We are working to understand that we need to build an inclusive environment for everyone that participates in Bowdoin Athletics and create a positive experience for all of our athletes each year,” Greene said. “It’s one thing to just participate in athletics, but it’s another thing to feel valued and respected as your authentic self throughout your participation. We want all of our athletes to leave Bowdoin with a positive lived experience within their teams and the entire department.”