Sarah Hillyer is recognized as one of the leading practitioners in the field of sport for development and peace and is an international sports development consultant with more than 25 years of experience. She works diligently to promote peacebuilding and empowerment among girls, women, refugees, and persons with disabilities around the world.
Hillyer has worked on the ground in countries across the world, with the majority of her efforts spent developing sports programs with Muslim women in the Middle East. For her work and impact, Hillyer was named the 2009 Eva Mag’s Woman of the Year and the 2011 Generations for Peace Post-Doctoral Fellow.
At the Center, Hillyer sets the vision, writes grants, crafts curriculum, and develops applied research projects that promote peace and inclusivity for all through sport. She also serves as the lead coordinator on the U.S. Department of State Global Sports Mentoring Program, which has hosted more than 400 youth athletes and women’s empowerment and disability rights advocates from 75 countries on sports-based exchanges.
Hillyer earned her PhD from the University of Tennessee in sport sociology and a master’s degree in sport psychology from Murray State University. Hillyer completed her undergraduate work in sport management at Liberty University, where she also played basketball.
Alicia Malnati, PhD, Chief of Communication and Strategic Partnerships and Clinical Assistant Professor
Alicia Malnati is the Chief of Communication and Strategic Partnerships at the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society and is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. Malnati helps advance the mission and efforts of the Center by providing leadership in the following three areas: development of strategic partnerships, oversight of communication and innovation, and contributions to academic research. In addition, Malnati helps coordinate all media and communication efforts for the U.S. Department of State Global Sports Mentoring Program. Malnati has more than eight years of experience empowering underserved populations through sport and in conducting research at the intersection of women’s empowerment and community development. Malnati earned her PhD from the University of Missouri in Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology in 2014. She is also a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is a former member of Mizzou’s gymnastics team.
Carolyn Spellings, PhD, Chief of Evaluation, Research, and Accountability and Clinical Assistant Professor
Carolyn Spellings is the Chief of Evaluation, Research, and Accountability at the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society and is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. Spellings helps advance the mission and efforts of the Center by providing leadership in the following three areas: development of a CSPS research agenda at the intersection of sport and community development, economic empowerment, and leadership; management of strategic research partnerships and collaborations; and oversight of a research internship program for graduate and undergraduate students. In addition, Spellings leads all monitoring and evaluation efforts for the U.S. Department of State Global Sports Mentoring Program. Spellings has more than 10 years of experience conducing international and cross-cultural research with underserved populations. Spellings earned her PhD from the University of Tennessee in child and family studies in 2009.
Cherry Brewer, PhD, Program Coordinator
Cherry Brewer is a program coordinator for the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society and leads logistics, organization, hospitality, and communication efforts for the U.S. Department of State Global Sports Mentoring Program. Brewer began working with the Center in 2016 and earned her PhD in 2017 from the University of Tennessee in Hospitality Management after defending her dissertation titled, “The Impact of Restaurant Review Website Attributes on Consumers’ Internal States and Behavioral Response.” A native of Thailand, Brewer has more than 15 years of experience studying and working internationally and in cross-cultural environments.
Morgan Irish-George, Media and Content Manager
Morgan Irish-George is a media and content manager for the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. In addition to managing the website and social media presence of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Sports Mentoring Program, Irish-George also serves as a graphic designer and photographer for the Center. She also assists in the monitoring and evaluation process and in distributing small grants to program alumni. She previously worked with the Center as a media contractor and joined as a full-time member in 2019. Irish-George earned a bachelor’s degree in media communications from Asbury University in Kentucky.
Rainey Johns, Program Assistant
Rainey Johns is a program assistant for the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. In addition to her full-time job as the director of the Versailles-Woodford County Parks and Recreation Department and President of USTA Kentucky, Johns assists with logistics, budgets, and record-keeping. She has worked with Hillyer for more than 20 years, traveling to the Middle East and North Africa to coach softball, soccer, basketball, and adaptive sports. Johns earned bachelor’s degrees in recreation and psychology from Campbellsville University, where she also played on the softball team and was goalkeeper on the first women’s soccer team at the university.
Josh Pate, PhD, Affiliated Faculty Member
Joshua R. Pate is an associate professor in the Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. His research is in sport for people with disabilities with an emphasis on the experiences of individuals and media coverage. Pate has published more than 25 research manuscripts and book chapters and has delivered more than 50 research presentations at national or international conferences. He teaches undergraduate courses in sport sociology and sport communication as well as graduate courses in facilities and event management. He collaborates with the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society for the implementation of the U.S. Department of State Global Sports Mentoring Program focused on developing women and leaders in disability sport from around the world. Pate earned his PhD in sport management from the University of Tennessee in 2012.