Inclusivity conversations begin in Hamline’s AD

This semester, the Athletic Department has added weekly inclusion group meetings, a space where athletes can discuss identity within the sports world like women, LGBTQ+, BIPOC and first generation athletes.

Jilly Wortman, Sports Reporter

Students from various backgrounds share their testimony on inclusion of first generation students. (Rachel Peterson)

This semester, the Hamline Athletic Department has created a new lecture series to boost inclusivity within the department. Rachel Pierce, the Coordinator of Athletic Operations, has produced Inclusion groups for the student athletes. Pierce is here due to the Ethnic Minorities and Women’s NCAA grant that funds her employment. 

“They happen weekly and each week is a different topic that we cycle through women in sports, BIPOC in sports, LGBTQ+ in sports, first-generation in sports,” Pierce said. 

This is one of many ways the department leads in inclusion. Back in 2017, Athletic Director Jason Verdugo was appointed to the NCAA Division III Diversity and Inclusion Working Group. The group is made up of members from different Division III athletic departments from all across the United States striving for equity. 

As said in Hamline University’s Statement of Civility, “Hamline University encourages all, whether it be on campus or off, to foster a respectful, and inclusive community defined by a concern for the common good, by developing relationships and through a culture that promotes the rights, safety, dignity, and value of every individual.” 

Inclusivity is something that Hamline has been striving for for a long time and the athletic department is adding a new space to foster this belief for the student athletes of campus. 

The athletic department has held inclusion workshops before and have even been recognized for the work that is being done. Back in May 2020, Hamline was recognized as NCAA’s April Diversity Spotlight. The new Inclusion groups, however, are different. 

“I gathered that in the past we have brought in speakers and had been a once a year kind of thing and the students were like that’s great but it was kind of one and done, nothing actually builds off of that,” Pierce said. 

The new groups are based around community. Each week students have the choice to participate in the conversations surrounding inclusion and athletics.

 “It’s more discussion-based and kind of get to know other student-athletes. We’ll bring up some articles, we will discuss them or peoples experiences,” Pierce said.

The groups don’t plan on ending anytime soon. 

“The goal is to take it into a summer series with the coaches, since none of them are in season then we can focus on this and actually take time on it. Then by the fall we’ll start this up again but by then we will have implemented it into practices and we’ll start having more pride games and stuff like that,” Pierce said.

The student athletes are in full support of the addition of the weekly inclusion groups. 

“I think it’s cool that the space exists to have these conversations with my fellow student-athletes,” said Ellie Biggins, a junior on the track and field team.

The space to learn and share experiences is new but mighty, with big plans in the future, Hamline Athletics is ready for change and equity one conversation at a time.