In November of 2019, Chancellor Donde Plowman delivered an inspiring address to the University of Tennessee during her investiture ceremony. The ceremony formally recognized Plowman as UT’s ninth chancellor, 225 years after the university’s founding. Plowman eloquently praised the work of leaders who have come before her, including chancellors, lawmakers, business leaders, faculty, coaches, and students. But her most vital words encapsulated a vision for the future that will require courageous action.
“We are standing at a pivotal moment of extraordinary opportunity,” stated Plowman. “What we do next is up to us.”
She shared that she believes innovation and discovery often happen at the “intersection of our disciplines,” whether it’s business, art, engineering, or another vast combination of forces. Plowman envisions a campus where students and faculty work together to solve complex social problems.
This vision is exactly why the UT Center for Sport, Peace, and Society (CSPS) is so excited for a future under Plowman’s leadership. It just so happens that working at the intersection of multiple disciplines in pursuit of social innovation and impact is at the heartbeat of everything the center believes. Since 2012, CSPS has engaged 873 students and 50 UT faculty members, logging more than 10,000 hours of community service, including partnerships with:
Dr. Erin Whiteside (JREM), Melanie Frazier (JREM), Sarah Lowe (Design School), Lars Dzikus (KRSS), Diem Tran (Geography), Jason Scott & Angela Wozencroft (Therapeutic Recreation Program), and Ann Fairhurst (Hospitality, Retail, & Journalism). CSPS has worked alongside several of the named faculty to create new courses within their respective departments and/or contributed to course syllabi and learning outcomes, specifically in the areas of global engagement, intercultural fluency, cultural competence, sports diplomacy, leadership, and social entrepreneurship. The passion for working with students and faculty across campus has seen even greater activity in recent years.
In 2019, CSPS mentored 246 undergraduate and graduate students across campus, while collaborating with 3 graduate students from other universities. In the spring of 2020, students from five different colleges at UT contributed to the global impact of the CSPS. Each student brought a unique skill set to help the center achieve its goal of utilizing sports to make positive change in the world.
Taylor Winkel is one of the students who brings a diverse range of interests and expertise to the CSPS. She boasts a dual-degree in Dietetics and Kinesiology, specifically focusing on exercise and fitness. She also brings experiences as a former athlete, having competed on UT’s swim team during her years as an undergraduate student.
“My knowledge is not only college sports themselves, but the policies behind them created by the NCAA,” said Winkel.
In two semesters of work, her main role has been examining the rights of persons with disabilities, more specifically policies such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“By having a background in sports at a policy level, I’ve been able to pick through important information and determine equity policies between different countries,” said Winkel.
Veronica Allen’s major in geospatial science and technology couldn’t have been more unique to the team, yet a perfect complement to Winkel’s research efforts. Allen and Winkel worked together, combining desk research with technology, to create an interactive map highlighting disability rights policies in more than 49 countries, with hopes that this will become a helpful resource to disability rights advocates, especially those working in the sport sector.
“I’ve learned that everyone has talents, skills, knowledge, and even personality traits that are valuable,” said Allen. “When you put all of these together towards a common goal, every student on the CSPS team has a place to feel important and make a difference.”
For Camryn Cupp, a senior in therapeutic recreation, the center inspired her to be a more informed and active citizen. And just like the others, she realized the importance of working together by embracing differences.
“Everyone brings valuable insights and can use each other’s academic interests to create a unified, multi-disciplinary team,” said Cupp. “It was really impactful to see so many distinct majors in pursuit of a common goal.”
Rob Ruiz, a recent graduate student in the Haslam Business College, is another member of the team who contributes to the multi-disciplinary, collaborative efforts of the CSPS. Ruiz uses his Bachelor’s degree in business to help advance the work in many different areas.
Whether it is managing the center’s social media, leading cultural competency training seminars, or contributing to administrative work, he is more than happy to be a jack of all trades and help wherever needed. Additionally, he loves working with other students and is proud to contribute to the empowering culture of the CSPS.
“I think it’s really cool we all bring something unique to the center,” said Ruiz. “These [student] leaders on campus have so many commitments, yet still find the time to serve the CSPS. Every single one of us has nothing but amazing things to say about the Center and the work that is done here.”
“And of course, I’m honored to be a part of the team myself as a journalism major. Last semester I supported the global work of the center by writing biographical stories for sixteen women leaders in sport from fourteen countries. I loved being able to help spread the message of innovative women from across the globe working to empower other young women by promoting gender equity in the sport sector.
Despite our different academic disciplines, various ages, and diverse life experiences, we work well together using our individual strengths. With this in mind, we are collectively helping the CSPS use sport to make a positive difference on our campus and around the world. We all agree that we are better together and appreciate the courage of the CSPS to bring us together to achieve something greater than we could ever do on our own.”
In the words of Chancellor Plowman, we must have the courage to lead. By setting aside our differences, we will create a better world. At the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, we will bear the torch.