Athletic department partners with national organizations for diversity program

Media Credit: File Photo by Auden Yurman | Assistant Photo Editor

John Square said every employee and department staff member will be required to complete the modules. Auden Yurman | Photographer - 20211109_MensBball_AY_1003

The Athletics Department is providing an online diversity and inclusion education program for Athletics employees in partnership with two national collegiate athletics organizations.

The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and Return on Inclusion, a sports-centric diversity and inclusion platform, released a set of online modules last month for collegiate athletics professionals to learn how to implement diversity and inclusion initiatives in their work. Athletics Department officials said the online program, which covers topics like cultivating healthy team culture and vetting prospective candidates, will be mandatory for all Athletics Department employees. 

Associate Athletics Director for Internal Operations John Square said the online modules will give employees materials they can refer back to as they implement diversity and inclusion initiatives in their work.

“You begin to build this journal that allows you to revert back and forth based on the questions so that you can really learn and continue to grow because some of the stuff is new,” Square said. “And if you want to have the impact that we say we want to have, for most people, you’ve got to write notes, you’ve got to take down information and try to figure out how to apply it.”

Participants undergo six modules which include self-reflection exercises, case studies, best practices, knowledge retention quizzes and discussion guides for group participation, the NACDA website states.

Square said the training will be required for every employee and member of the athletic department as a conscious effort of maintaining a strict unconscious bias training. Square said participants will complete a final assessment that includes all of the topics they have learned throughout the modules.

The athletic department’s diversity, equity and inclusion task force, which Square also leads, helped spread awareness for the Black Student Athlete Alliance earlier this year via its website and word of mouth to teams and coaches to recruit more members.

Square said the task force also helps host “Sawubona” sessions, named after the Zulu word for “I see you,” where student athletes, coaches and staff members can talk about events in the news or other topics of discussion to help build trust within the athletic community and allow people from all walks of life to be heard.

Square, who was a student-athlete himself at the University of Miami, said he remembered how some of his Muslim teammates were treated on the football team after the 9/11 attacks. He said he wished he was more versed in how to deal with those situations then and his experience has informed how he handles and teaches about those today.

Square said ROI targeted the NACDA for the partnership due to the wide net they would be able to cast with their resources and the fact it would allow for individuals to receive discounts and boost participation.

“If you’re not in a place where you understand how to have those kinds of conversations, or guide student athletes or staff in your institution, it will lead to more issues and more of a sense of not belonging,” Square said. “And so it’s just a resource to help you understand where you are, and how to work towards being a more inclusive leader.”

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