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CSPS Presents on 4-E Model of Empowerment at Ali Athletes for Social Change Forum

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On Saturday, April 9, Carolyn Spellings (“Dr. C”), monitoring and evaluation coordinator for the Center, was given the honor of presenting on behalf of our team at the 4th Annual Athletes and Social Change Forum.

The forum, hosted by the Muhammad Ali Center and held in collaboration with other universities, organizations, and leaders in the field of sport for development and peace, is a one-of-a-kind experience that spotlights the ways sport and its practitioners have and can continue to spark positive social change in local, national, and international communities.

For those who missed Dr. C’s presentation—”The Importance of ExposingEquippingEngaging, and Entrusting Local Audiences: Reflections from 20 Years of International Sports Development Experience”—there is no need to fret. We’ve included highlights below.

Let’s start with two questions that are a constant consideration for the Center in our work with both the Global Sports Mentoring Program and VOLeaders Academy:

1.What role do we, as cultural outsiders, have in sport for development and peace work in an international setting?

2.How can local leaders be empowered to create sustainable sport and physical activity opportunities for marginalized populations?

We take these questions quite seriously because we do not want to assume a paternalistic/or colonial view of the world or SDP work. Yet we have resources, knowledge, support networks, and experiences that many of the international participants do not have access to in their home countries/communities.

So, we seek to do this work in a culturally sensitive and culturally grounded manner; in a manner in which we view the international participants as experts on the issues in their communities as well as experts in solutions to those issues.

It is from 20 plus years experience in the international SDP sector and continually working through these questions that we have developed and refined the Center’s philosophy on changing communities.

The 4-E Model of Empowerment

Expose – participant to new people, resources and networks so that they can have access to political support, business support, academic support, peer support they may need when trying to create positive, sustainable change in their communities.

Equip – participants to tackle issues in their communities by:

  1. helping them identify a manageable issue that they can address through sport and physical activity
  2. helping participants identify gatekeepers (parents, religious leaders, community leaders, teachers, etc.), whose support in the community is critical
  3. helping participants develop leadership skills – communication, conflict resolution skills, etc.

Engage – participants in new experiences and exchanges in order to apply skills they are learning in two ways:

  1. Service learning: Hands-on, experiential learning, where they have an opportunity to apply newly developed skills in a real-world setting
  2. Reflection on the impact of these new experiences on their own personal and professional development. We have found this to be very helpful for the participants to internalize what they are learning and how they are growing

Entrust – participants to carry out their own vision for change through Action Plan development and presentations. Action Plans are concrete actions the participants will do when they return home to address a particular social issue. Oftentimes, these Action Plans are developed in conjunction with program mentors, peers, and Center staff. However, the purpose is not for the mentors, peers, or Center Staff to be a co-author of the Action Plan but to provide feedback and access to resources. It is critical for us that we view the participants as experts and give them a sense of ownership.

What is important is that by using the 4-E Model of Empowerment we are not telling the participants how to use sports to address a social issue. We are not giving them a blueprint of what has worked in an American or Western context, and telling them to duplicate or even adapt this blueprint. We are inviting the participants to create their own blueprints. We view them as the experts on what issues need to be addressed, as well as experts to the solutions. Our goal is to provide additional support, knowledge, resources, and skills so that through Center programs we have increased the capacity of local leaders to use sport for social good.

Since 2012, 86% of participants in the Global Sports Mentoring Program have implemented at least one component of their Action Plan. The 17 members of the GSMP 2014 class alone mobilized over 3,300 volunteers and coaches to implement their plans, and over 7,000 individuals have participated in the SDP programs they’ve developed.

Again, our philosophy of change at the Center is not to create communities that are dependent on us or on an outside group, but rather to increase the capacity of local leaders to create SDP programs that address a critical issue in their community. We believe that this philosophy of change is respectful to all individuals and culturally sensitive.

VOLeaders Organize Student-Athletes for UT Sexual Assault Awareness

VOLeaders Hike the Hill 1

On Friday afternoon, the University of Tennessee (UT) campus community kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness month with their second annual Hike the Hill in Heels (H3UTK) event.

More than 200 students gathered at the Europa Fountain and walked the famous UT “Hill” in high heels to raise awareness about sexual assault, consent, safety, and violence prevention on campus.

Our Center was very proud to be present at the event and walk with roughly 100 student-athletes who collaborated to show they care about the UT community as much as any other group. We were even more proud of the work of the VOLeaders Academy, 13 student-athletes representing 10 sports teams, for playing a large part in organizing their teammates and getting them out to demonstrate their support.

“We’re not doing this to get media attention for ourselves, but really to support the cause,” said Juan Carlos Serrano, a VOLeader and member of the men’s golf team. “This is not something we’re doing as the Athletics Department, but as individual members of the university community.”

Through VOLeaders and his role with the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), Juan Carlos co-lead the effort with Raina Hembry from volleyball. Before leaving for the walk, the Thornton Center was packed with student-athletes as Juan Carlos and Raina addressed them. Members of all the different sports teams walked together to the fountain, where they met with the rest of the campus community.

During the spring semester, Drs. Hillyer and Huffman, co-directors of the CSPS, have been teaching a sports-based leadership class with the VOLeaders focusing on how they can use their platforms as student-athletes to create positive social impact. Joining with the rest of the university for a big event like the Hike the Hill in Heels and mobilizing teammates was a great way to apply the leadership skills they’ve learned to rally their teams and make a difference on campus.

“We’re so proud of the student-athletes that participated in the H3UTK event. And we’re especially proud of the VOLeaders who took a leadership role in organizing it. It’s everything we’ve talked about in class – finding a way to stand up for something that you believe in and using your time and talents to make the world a better, safer, and more inclusive place. And that’s exactly what they did.”

The Center for Health Education and Wellness will host other events all month for sexual assault awareness. To find out more, visit its website.

Reflections on Experiences with Powerful Women during Women’s History Month

Janine Dima and Batoul in Jordan 2

By Janine Al-Aseer, CSPS Research Assistant & PhD Student

As we come to the end of Women’s History Month, I reflect on the amazing women I’ve had the privilege to work with over this month. There is Paula Korsakas, the coordinator for the Human Development Program for Sport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Dr. Alicia Malnati (“Dr. Hatch”), the design guru and writer extraordinaire of the Center, Dr. Carolyn Spellings (“Dr. C”), the backbone of programmatic monitoring and evaluation for the Center, and Shannon McCall (“Sha-nay-nay”), the Center’s project manager and organizer supreme. That’s not to mention the superstars that create the foundation of everything we do, our co-directors, Dr. Sarah Hillyer (“Dr. SJ”) and Dr. Ashleigh Huffman (“Dr. Ash”).  

On top of all of these incredible women, in March I was given the distinct pleasure of meeting Dima Alardah and Batoul Arnaout, two emerging leaders from the Global Sports Mentoring Program on their home turf in Amman, Jordan.

But, first I had to get there!

On the way to Jordan, I was detained for six hours at an Israeli checkpoint. In a sectioned-off area, my Palestinian family and I watched through the low bars as countless Israeli citizens passed by us. The detainment section filled with other Palestinian families, the children playing with toys (the parents had anticipated the wait) and getting out bags of food to share.  

After being released and crossing the King Hussein Bridge over the now completely dry Jordan River, I finally arrived to meet Dima and Batoul. The women greeted my family and I warmly and shared in our frustration over travel issues during the ongoing political conflict.  

I couldn’t believe that here in front of me were two Palestinian-Jordanian women of whom I had seen pictures, heard incredible stories, and listened to for hours in audio interviews. I admired them from afar for their great sacrifices and commitment to women. Strong and confident, they welcomed me into their lives and shared about their current work.

See more of Dima and Batoul in this video from the Center’s trip to Egypt and Jordan in December

Together, Dima and Batoul strengthen the team at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), empowering young Syrian refugees with skills that will give them purpose and a way to make a living while in the camps. Batoul, the NRC’s communications coordinator, now works in the same office as Dima, a youth program officer for the Zaatari and Emirati Jordanian camps. Their friendly banter and ability to finish one another’s sentences is evidence of their deep friendship.  

During our time together, they regaled me with stories about their daily routines.  On top of her regular job at the NRC, Batoul founded the nonprofit organization BOOST, which runs sports projects around Jordan aimed at increasing access to sport for the country’s underserved athletes. Dima makes similar sacrifices of her evenings and weekends with SHUTTLERS, the first badminton academy in the Arab world. In spite of their incredibly busy schedules, these women make time for their families, friends, and even an evening to spend with me at the Wild Jordan Center.  

After a two-hour meal, Batoul was forced to depart and we reluctantly said goodbye. With traditional Arab hospitality, Dima offered to take my travel partner and I around downtown Jordan. We walked Rainbow Street, perusing shops and people watching. Some young men stopped to take pictures with her.  From their laughter, she was obviously just as funny and charming in Arabic as she is in English. At the end of the evening she wouldn’t hear of us taking a cab home and went out of her way to drive us across town to our family.
I am humbled to have spent an evening with such icons in Jordan. These women are famous in their sports—Dima in badminton and Batoul in cycling—and for the way they’ve used their achievements to show that Arab women are strong, confident, and capable. Despite their status, they have dedicated their lives to something larger than themselves by empowering women and youth to create the kind of transformation that will spread like wildfire through Jordan. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I can’t help but think about these remarkable women, the historical impact they are making in their country, and the honor of spending a day in their world.

A Chat with Celia Slater of True North Sports

Celia Slater, Sarah, Ash

Coaching may be one of the most important professions in the lives of young men and women. Coaches influence millions across the United States yearly, from peewee football players all the way to professional and Olympic athletes.

That is why Celia Slater, chief visionary of True North Sports in Gainesville, Fla., dedicates her life to making coaches better leaders, mentors and influencers.

In the decades prior to launching her own company, Celia was a NCAA Div. 1 college basketball player, head coach, and executive director of both the NCAA Women Coaches Academy and The Alliance of Women Coaches. Thousands of coaches have taken part in Celia’s programs, seminars and conventions—truly, her influence reaches across the country.

In February, the Center welcomed Celia to Knoxville to speak to student-athletes in the inaugural class of the VOLeaders Academy, the exciting partnership we have with UT Athletics and the Center for Leadership and Service.

After Celia’s time with the students, we were able to sit down with her and talk about why she finds coaching so important, the way she hopes to influence the profession, and her hopes of helping to lead a brighter future for both college coaches and athletes.

So, what is True North Sports?

Celia Slater: We are a company that works primarily with collegiate coaches to develop everything from coaching philosophy to different skill sets—communication, conflict resolution, program management—to how to create a positive team culture. I named my company after Bill George’s work around being an authentic leader and following your “true north” because I really want to help coaches be more authentic and genuine, instead of trying to be the coach that coached them. I want them to really stay in tune with who they are as a person, their highest values, how they want to impact the world, and never forget why they got into coaching in the first place: because they love the kids and they want to make a difference in their lives.

What made you aware of the need for this kind of work with coaches?

Celia Slater: I was a coach and I learned everything the hard way. I made every mistake in the book. You learn on the fly and are never really trained on stressors like communication, or conflict, or how to organize your program. There are people leaving the profession and it’s not because they don’t know their sport. They’re leaving and getting fired because of the stress that comes with the lack of a skill set to handle managing, leading, and motivating people. In my personal experience, I realized how hard it is to just kind of learn as you go. And it’s too important of a profession, where you are touching millions of lives, to not train them.

How many coaches have you worked with since launching your company?

Celia Slater: Since I started TrueNorth Sports, I’ve had one pilot program with 22 assistant coaches—15 women and seven men—from all sports and divisions of college athletics. Prior to that, I did a lot of programming with just female coaches. Since 2003, I’ve probably worked with at least 1,200 women.

How do coaches respond?

Celia Slater: For coaches, the X’s and O’s and strategy are the most important things, and they put a tremendous amount of their time, energy, and money into that. I’m going against the grain when I ask them to think about the other skill sets they need to really be great coaches.

And in our country everything is organized by sport, so I really think coaches become very tunnel visioned within their sport. I really feel this is a missed opportunity to unify coaches. The profession is greater than the sport that you coach and I believe there should be a standard of excellence across the profession.

When you get all of these coaches from different sports in a classroom together, it’s like there is this unbelievable connection. I was just at East Tennessee State University running a session for 18 coaches. I broke them into groups and they were talking about what they struggle with as coaches and I said, “Feel the energy in this room. How many times have you all gotten together to talk and share ideas as coaches across sport?” And they were all shaking their heads. It’s like they walk down the hall and they miss all these coaches in their department that have incredible stories, incredible experiences, incredible ideas.

In a best-case scenario, what do you want to see happen from your work for these coaches?

Celia Slater: I want to see people joyful in their work. I want to see them being creative and innovative because to me that’s a lost art in coaching. I like to see coaches willing to ask for help and share ideas. It’s okay to make a mistake and it’s okay to learn and grow from those mistakes and to love their kids in the process.

Ultimately my dream is that we have a university for coaches to go to in this country. And the NCAA. NAIA, and all the other governing bodies help to support it. And at this university we start to train student-athletes who want to become coaches. We help them explore the profession. And we bring athletic directors and administrators to this university so they can help the coaches learn how to navigate the hiring process. We start connecting our rising star coaches with the right schools. I want to be at the grand opening of that ribbon cutting.

IWD 2016: Why I Took My 4 Year-Old Daughter to the SheBelieves Cup

Mother and daughter at the SheBelieves Cup in Nashville, Tenn.

By Carolyn Spellings, PhD, CSPS Monitoring & Evaluation Coordinator

For the record, this is not something I would have normally done.

Spend almost $75 to take my 4 year-old-daughter to a sporting event she knows nothing about? No way. Too impractical.

Skip a family lunch with parents and siblings for a game? Really? That is so not like me. I love my family and making memories together.

Plus, my daughter doesn’t even really understand soccer. She doesn’t have a favorite player or position. She doesn’t know the rules of the game or what it means to be on a sports team. She doesn’t understand the concept of “country” or nationalism. In fact, at one point during the game we were cheering for all of her imaginary friends. So, why then? Why would I make such an impractical decision?

Because it was about showing her that women can be skilled enough in their craft to captivate an audience—male and female, young and old, seasoned and first-time fans. It was about exposing her to a world of possibilities and pointing her to successful women to look up to, role models. It was about letting her know that she can be whoever she wants to be because women have gone before her, blazing a path for her to follow. As research shows role models can foster resilience and generate a positive sense of self-worth among children and youth. And women who exemplify success in a particular field are key motivators for young girls to strive for similar levels of achievement.

Women sharing their dreams during a session at the Zaatari Refugee Camp

Attending the SheBelieves Cup was also about laying the foundation for future discussions. It was about giving her a context one day to tell her the story of the 1996 U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer Team and the way they forged a pathway for women’s soccer and fought wage discrimination within the U.S. Soccer Federation. It was about giving her a context to understand how successful female athletes all around the world are fighting injustice and giving back by investing in their communities. Women such as an Egyptian national basketball team player who turned in her sneakers to start a school for under-privileged children, a Jordanian badminton champion who strives to provide opportunities for play and physical activity for Syrian refugees, a mountaineer from Bangladesh who climbs the highest peaks to raise awareness for gender discrimination, a Danish Paralympic swimmer who creates sporting opportunities for children with disabilities, a Kenyan soccer official using her platform to provide women and girls a chance to learn a technical skill and a pathway to a better life, and many, many more.

Over the past year I have followed 17 of these women; interviewed them, emailed with them, and learned from them. Over the past year these women have mobilized more than 3,300 volunteers and coaches to use sport to empower women and girls. Approximately 2,000 people have participated in community development, sports-based programming organized and led by these women. What incredible stories. What incredible role models.

So, what do I say to my daughter if she asks why we attended the SheBelieves Cup? I say, if you work hard enough, you too may be able to play on that big soccer field one day. You too may have thousands of fans cheering your name. But even more importantly, regardless of your natural athletic talents and abilities, you can strive to make your community better, more equitable and inclusive for all.

You can work to provide educational and employment opportunities for those who would otherwise not have them. You can advocate for the right to play, the right for all to be heard, seen, and valued. You can do this because you have role models right in front of you. You are connected to hundreds of women all around the world who are using sport and physical activity to empower others—to make their communities better for all who live in them. You are connected to women who are committed to making a positive change in the world, regardless of the cost. And you are connected to the young girls all over the globe these women inspire.

Three girls in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan

It is my hope that our afternoon spent at the SheBelieves Cup will not only broaden my daughters’ expectations of what she can be, but also ignite a passion in her to begin to consider what she can do for others. How she can one day be a role model to the next generation of young girls.

And that is something I wouldn’t miss out on for the world.

Celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Day

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By Alicia H. Malnati, PhD, CSPS Program Assistant

Out on the PGA Tour, where my husband Peter Malnati plays, I see kindness everywhere.

I see kindness on the faces of thousands of volunteers who give their time to support important causes. I see kindness in the hands of Tour players when they toss balls to eager kids during tournament rounds. I see kindness in the millions of dollars donated to charity every year.

Today, Random Acts of Kindness Day, we at the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society celebrate the depth and breadth of kindness that makes life a bit more beautiful. We recognize and appreciate that no act of generosity, humility, kindness, or caring is ever wasted.

On this day, we honor the life-changing work of global leaders like teenage Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who advocates, in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world, for the right of girls to attend primary and secondary school. We honor the efforts of everyday heroes like Richard Joyner, who revitalized rural Conetoe, N.C. with a youth-led community garden, and Dr. Jim Withers, who offers free, quality healthcare to homeless individuals in Pittsburgh. Today, we also honor those small, often fleeting, moments of kindness and the people who bring them to life: the stranger who holds the door, the friend who shares a treat, the colleague who offers a helping hand.

But, so what?

Why do random acts of kindness matter, and why should I care?

CSPS Director Sarah Hillyer comforts a woman at a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan

Acts of kindness not only contribute to the Butterfly Effect – the idea that one small act can inspire chain-reactions that lead to substantial change elsewhere – but research shows that spreading kindness can actually boost happiness.

Happiness is the inner joy that emerges from knowing you’ve inspired someone else’s good day. It appears as a sense of calm from remembering that relationships still matter and people still care. Happiness might be the much-needed reminder of goodwill amid the chaos of our crazy world. Importantly, random acts of kindness reveal the power of the human connection, bring novelty to the mundane, and tug on our heartstrings when we need it most.

These acts of kindness – large and small – remind me of the work that KIND Snacks, one of Peter’s new golf partners, celebrates. They dub these kindness-spreading, happiness-sharing, smile-inducing, paying-it-forward champions of joy #kindawesome. They believe in the power of “being kind to your body, your taste buds, and your world.” They believe that making kindness a state of mind can help communities flourish. They believe that kindness can make the world a better place.

Here at the CSPS we believe in that, too.

Every year, we empower new generations of international change-makers to leverage the intersectional power of sport, education, and media to tackle some of the world’s most complex issues. The results of more than 20 years of work in the field of sport for development and peace can be seen in the progress of our alumnae.

In Jordan, Batoul Arnaout empowers underserved children to become sports champions through outdoor activity. In Mexico, Cecilia Vales works tirelessly to end cycles of poverty for girls through soccer. In Indonesia, Hanna Fauzie challenges gender imbalances through sports journalism. In India, Nungshi and Tashi Malik empower women and girls through mountaineering and outdoor adventure. In Kenya, Veronica Osogo enriches the lives of children and works to alleviate poverty in Kibera slums through tennis.

Batoul Arnaout, founder of BOOST, with a woman at her annual 100KM Cycling Challenge in December to empower female athletes and benefit underserved communities in Jordan

Through acts of kindness and generosity, these women selflessly give their hearts and minds to confront issues in their communities. They enter uncharted arenas with boldness and vision. They dedicate themselves to improving the lives of others despite the surrounding risks and chaos. They show unwavering commitment to growth and development with compassion and love.

On this special day, we proudly highlight their efforts to spread and celebrate kindness across the globe.

We think they’re #kindawesome.

Pat Summitt, CSPS Directors Work with Iraqi Women’s Basketball Featured by ESPN

 We Back Pat Sarah Ash_Fotor

A story of international friendship between Pat Summitt, CSPS co-directors Sarah Hillyer and Ashleigh Huffman, and an Iraqi women’s basketball coach was released by sports media giant ESPN over the weekend.

The story, produced for the espnW platform, was intentionally aimed for the lead-up to the Lady Vols basketball game against South Carolina on Big Monday (the story and video can be viewed here)

“The network thinks this is one of the incredible stories about Pat Summitt that we haven’t heard before, and it is amazing to be able to share it,” said Lynn Olszowy, a feature reporter and producer for ESPN.

Last week Olszowy was in Knoxville shooting interviews with Tennessee coach Holly Warlick, visiting Iraqi basketball coach Rizgar Tawfeeq, and Drs. Hillyer and Huffman.

 In 2007, Hillyer, director of UT’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, traveled to Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdish region of Iraq to host the first women’s basketball camp in the country’s history. After learning of the serious need for basketballs and other equipment, Hillyer and Huffman, assistant director of the CSPS, approached Summitt during one of her basketball camps to ask for help.

“We were supposed to be coaching 60 girls with only four basketballs, and we thought, ‘Where in the world are we gonna get 60 basketballs?” said Hillyer. “Then we thought, ‘Who cares more about empowering girls and women through basketball than Pat Summitt?’

“When we asked, she immediately called over her team managers and told them: ‘Anything these ladies need to get women’s basketball started in Iraq.'”

Pat Summitt and Team_Fotor

Drs. Hillyer and Huffman with Pat Summitt, Rizgar Tawfeeq, and the girls from Serwane Nwe Basketball Club in Knoxville

The relationship grew even deeper in 2009 when Summitt invited the girls from Serwane New Sports Club, where Tawfeeq is the head women’s basketball coach, to one of her camps in Knoxville.

“Coming here, you see this huge arena, the big screen and all these parents bringing their kids from all over just for the chance to be with Pat Summitt,” said Tawfeeq. “To me, it meant Coach Pat’s program must be amazing and that women’s basketball is important to this community.”

Tawfeeq was so touched by the reception his team received from Summitt and the Lady Vols basketball team that he credits it for completely changing his coaching philosophy.

“Pat Summitt is like my big sister and I want to be just like her,” said Tawfeeq. “She taught her girls to be better women off the court and, at the same time, on the court they were winning championships. She changed lives through basketball, and I want to do the same.”

After Summitt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and stepped down from coaching, Tawfeeq organized a We Back Pat basketball tournament in Sulaymaniyah. Hillyer and Huffman traveled to assist with the tournament, where girls wore We Back Pat shirts and created a banner with personal messages thanking the coach.

In addition to the ESPN piece, Hillyer and Huffman are working with filmmakers on a documentary about Summitt’s work to inspire women’s basketball in Iraq, which will be released in April.

Martin Luther King Day Reflections: Service-Learning and the VOLeaders Academy

The 2015-16 VOLeaders Academy class

The 2015-16 VOLeaders Academy class

By Janine Al-Aseer, CSPS Research Assistant & PhD Student

As we reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., we are reminded of a long-standing commitment to service for the community. MLK Day of Service is a transformational time to empower our communities with the spirit of Dr. King’s life and teachings. Accordingly, today over 200,000 Americans are anticipated to contribute their time toward service projects around the country.

At the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society (CSPS), our team understands, endorses, and contributes to service-learning projects locally, domestically and internationally. Service-learning in the sport-related disciplines is sometimes confused with community service. Although both are incredibly valuable in varied settings, service-learners are change agents and have a distinct responsibility to engage and support the community, while also remaining respectful of local culture. This requires a delicate balance between the traditions and needs of the community and the academic knowledge of the service-learners.

Regard for local culture is a cornerstone of our practice. Traditionally working with international audiences, the Center has hosted more than 275 women on sports-based exchanges with goals of advancing the rights and participation of women on a global scale. This involves careful navigation of cultural issues in diverse contexts. Relatedly, the Center simultaneously engages University of Tennessee (UT) students at a local level in service-learning opportunities that grow their intellectual, interpersonal, and leadership capacities.

Last semester, the Center partnered with UT’s Center for Leadership and Service and the Department of Athletics to engage our campus community with service-learning through the VOLeaders Academy. This program consists of hand-selected, principal student-athletes who participate in curricula surrounding the impact of service in the community. Principal student-athletes, or VOLeaders, learn how to positively impact their team while using their passion of sport and their influence to enact positive change that transcends athletic success.

Leadership development was the focus during the fall VOLeaders Academy class. VOLeaders continue with the academy this semester in a Sport for Social Change course, shedding light on how to use their positions of athletic prominence for community good. The final piece of the VOLeaders academy is a 10-day service-learning opportunity in Brazil, assisting communities in preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games.

At the Center, we understand that service-learning must be enacted as a reciprocal relationship between the university, the student practitioner, and the community itself. By allowing communities to choose issues that are important and relevant in their own cultural contexts and providing them with safe spaces to brainstorm possible solutions, community participants can perceive themselves as empowered solution-makers. It is our hope that service-learning can be used in wide application to raise successful—and culturally sensitive—programmatic execution for this year’s VOLeaders Academy class.

Just a few days ago the VOLeaders academy was awarded the NASPA 2015-16 Gold Award for outstanding contributions to the transformation of higher education through exceptional programs, innovative services, and effective administration. We know that receiving this award is just a small indication of the amazing work that is to come from our servant leaders.

We truly look forward to seeing how our first VOLeaders Academy class impact their communities both locally this semester and in Brazil this summer. We know they will do great things—for their team, their school, and for others. As you reflect on MLK day and its long history of service, keep in mind the words of Dr. King, “Life’s most persist and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?

International Mentoring Day: The Value of Mentorship


On this special day, January 17, in commemoration of the 74th birthday of boxing legend and social activist Muhammad Ali, the Center is honored to participate in the first International Mentoring Day.

At the Center, we cannot overestimate the powerful role played by mentorship in our lives. Our entire team has been touched deeply by mentors — parents, coaches, teachers, friends, colleagues — who support and guide us in the moments that we most need it. This comes across in our work, from the service-learning classes taught by Drs. Hillyer and Huffman to the four years we’ve spent proudly implementing the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP).

Lonnie Ali, the wife of the former heavyweight champion, said, “Mentors are gifts to the world. They encourage, motivate, reinforce, and guide others to reach individual greatness. Mentors have the power to change lives.”

We agree wholeheartedly.

Watch the video below to see what mentorship means to the dozens of our closest friends and partners: the women who have taken part in the Global Sports Mentoring Program since 2012

In addition to the video collage, we want to share the words of six women who we’ve been fortunate to know through the GSMP. These are some of the top women in marketing, business, sports administration, and many other fields, who have dedicated time to supporting emerging leaders around the globe. They are sources of knowledge, encouragement, strength, and connection, and we are very grateful for the amount of passion they’ve poured into this program.

What they have to say about mentorship…

“It is so incredible to me that after four years of doing the GSMP, it just continues to get more powerful for me. I don’t get tired of it. I look forward to it every year. It brings me the opportunity to learn stories about women — and meet them firsthand — who are making change in their countries in such significant ways. As a mentor, I want to give them the tools to go home and tell their stories in a meaningful way, to get the message out about their cause, to move people to help and create the movement they’re looking for.”

– Joan Coraggio, Group Communications Director – Brand Integration, Saatchi & Saatchi LA

“One of the things that I have really focused on as a mentor is making sure that I spend more time, more focus and more of my own personal credibility to make a difference, whether that’s in Cincinnati, India, or Brazil, or wherever my mentees live. Because I really do believe that one person, or a small group of people, can make an extraordinary difference in girls’ and womens’ lives.”

– Julie Eddleman, Global Client Partner, Google

“As a coach, my professional goal is to win soccer games for the University of Central Florida. But, at the same time, my personal goal as a coach is for my players to be successful in life. My teaching goes way beyond the soccer field. Really, I’m using soccer as a tool to achieve that bigger goal.”

– Tiffany Sahaydak, Head Coach, UCF Women’s Soccer

“The most interesting part of a mentor is when they tell you their own stories because those are stories of hope and inspiration and they can help you as you continue to move on through your own career.”

– Marina Escobar, Vice President of Visual Technology, ESPN

“As a mentor, you need to be curious. You should want to learn all the time and be very resourceful and very interested in asking questions. Anyone can be a mentor as long as they’re willing to give their time and give something back to somebody.”

– Ann Wells Crandall, Chief Marketing Officer, Big East Conference

“The women I’ve mentored make me want to be a better person and a better mentor. We’ve heard it over and over again from our emerging leaders that the GSMP gives them this feeling of knowing they’re never alone. Even in their darkest moments, they know that any time of day or night, when they’re feeling they can’t go on, there’s always somebody that they can pick up the phone and call. This program has built such a phenomenal support system for women around the world to help them support making change.”

– Gwen Conley, Group Media Coordinator, Saatchi & Saatchi LA

Mentorship is not carving an hour out of your schedule once a week to sit down and lecture someone. It is not easy being a mentor. It is time-consuming. It requires you to open up parts of your life and learn things about others that can be uncomfortable. And, on the other hand, it is not easy being mentored at times either. To allow a person to speak into your life and challenge you requires a level of vulnerability that can be difficult to summon. But, we know from experience, when a true mentorship connection blossoms, it revitalizes your spirit and opens up your mind and heart to a whole new world.

Nneka Ikem, a sports journalist and special advisor within Nigeria’s Ministry of Sports, participated in the inaugural GSMP in 2012 and perfectly summarizes one of the many reasons we believe so strongly in mentorship: “When you change one person’s life, you change the life of a whole community. Changing my life has changed the lives of hundreds of girls in Nigeria. For that reason, the GSMP means the world to me.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. So, here’s to mentors everywhere: we are grateful for you and celebrate you today. Happy International Mentoring Day!

When Tragedies Affect Our Family: A Statement from the Center on Recent Events

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By Carolyn Spellings, PhD, CSPS Monitoring & Evaluation Coordinator

We at the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society are deeply saddened over the acts of terrorism that have recently occurred in Egypt, Lebanon, and France. We grieve over the many lives that have been lost, and the thousands who have lost loved ones and a sense of peace and security. Our hearts also break over the Syrian children and families who have fled the terrors of war and still do not have a safe place to lay their heads. Just this week, the United States Institute of Peace published a report that found that of all terrorism related deaths in 2014, 78 percent occurred in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In addition, the report found that Boko Haram, not the Islamic State, was the deadliest terrorist group in 2014, killing more people than ISIS and other extremist groups (citing this report is in no way meant to reduce the horrific events that have recently occurred, but to remind us of how pervasively violence is used to promote some religio-political agendas).

At the Center, we feel a sense of unity with those who are impacted by war. It affects us because our own family has been affected. For the past four years, we have had the privilege of working with 66 women from 43 countries through the U.S. Department of State and espnW’s Global Sports Mentoring Program. One of the aspects of the program we stress each year is that these women are joining a global sisterhood of like-minded, passionate women who strive to create positive change in their home countries and communities through sports. We challenge the participants each year to rely on each other, support each other, and love each other like family. But they are also our sisters, our family.

As we sat glued to our television sets watching the horrific events of the past two weeks unfold and frantically checking social media for any indication that our sisters were okay, we saw a world perforated by violence, divisiveness, and hate. But we also saw hope. Hope because there are women – our sisters – who bravely step outside their homes each day, despite the risks, and work tirelessly to make the world better, safer for the next generation. Women who believe that guns can be replaced by badminton rackets, and bullets by basketballs. Women who see a world that offers the same opportunities to girls as it does to boys. Women who know that fear, aggression, and violence can dissipate in the face of compassion, respect, and dignity for all humanity. For us, they are the rays of light amidst the storms of oppression and terrorism.

In Pakistan, our sisters are using sports to encourage young girls to stay in school despite the cultural pressures to remain in their homes. In Lebanon, our sisters are using basketball to teach conflict resolution skills to mothers and their daughters, as well as teaching women leadership skills that can translate into job promotions and career advancement. In Egypt, our sisters are using sports to teach math and literacy skills to children of all ages. In France, our sisters are using roller derby to show women that they do not have to give up on their dreams, no matter what shape or how old they are. In Turkey and again in Egypt, our sisters are using soccer and taekwondo to make their societies more inclusive for people with disabilities. And there are many others. Sisters who face oppression and repression daily. Sisters who, despite the risks, look at their own families and say, “I am committed to empowering others. I am committed to a better world.” Their bravery is an inspiration amidst the chaos. Their bravery commands our respect.

We are proud of these women – these sisters. We are proud to call them family. And as the chaos and hurt and tragedy surrounds us, we are encouraged, knowing they will never give up because they are brave, strong and fearless.


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