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Letter from our Director

Although stories of division, hate, intolerance, and natural disaster have dominated headlines for most of recent memory, another reality is present: Sport has the power to rebuild communities and strengthen the bonds that connect us to others.

Dr. Sarah Hillyer, Director of the CSPS stands smiling with her hands in her pockets. Out of focus in the background is a gym with exercise equipment.Through the often untold stories of change—like that of legendary coach Pat Summitt who helped rebuild women’s basketball in war-torn Iraq or a Filipino dragon boat team comprised entirely of persons with physical disabilities who won gold against their non-disabled counterparts, or the new generation of women and girls in Kenya who are learning to fight for their rights through boxing—sport is perhaps the most powerful tool to promote equality and inclusion around the world. Empowering global leaders in sports to make a positive social impact in their communities is the heartbeat of our work.

At the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000, former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.” At the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, we’re committed to expanding this message and using sport to bring people together.

To do this, we engage in scholarly research, deliver community-based curriculum, and expand the footprint of solidarity through mentorship and international exchanges. Since our founding in 2012, we’ve been awarded more than $6.9 million to promote equality and inclusion among underserved populations worldwide and have worked with nearly 10,000 women and girls, persons with disabilities, youth, refugees, university students, and student-athletes.

Specifically, each year, we host two installments of the U.S. Department of State Global Sports Mentoring Program—an initiative that aims to empower women and girls and persons with disabilities through sport—lead a student-athlete leadership academy and international service-learning exchange, and implement our award-wining “Better World” curriculum to audiences worldwide.

In the past six years, we’ve also premiered the documentary film, “Pat: A Legacy of Love,” developed partnerships with executives at top, U.S.-based organizations (e.g., ESPN, Google, P&G, Under Armour); inspired social entrepreneurs and advocates to implement their vision for change; delivered keynote speeches worldwide; and created our own unique model of empowerment for social change and innovation.

We believe in what’s possible: a world where gender, mobility, race, religion, and sexuality don’t define individuals but instead are celebrated qualities that enhance our shared humanity. In a society that often feels confined to our differences, we work diligently to create a more peaceful, equitable, and inclusive world through sport.

We are eager to take bold steps forward to increase the scope of our work and invite you to join us as we work to change the world.

Sarah Hillyer, PhD
Director, Center for Sport, Peace, & Society