BGSU athletics recognized for diversity, inclusion

The Bowling Green State University's athletics department earned the NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association's (MOAA) 2017 Award for Diversity and Inclusion. The department was honored at the NCAA Convention on Friday (Jan. 20) in Nashville, Tenn.

The award is a partnership between the NCAA and MOAA to recognize and celebrate the initiatives, policies and practices of colleges, universities and/or athletics conference offices that embrace diversity and inclusion. Past honorees have been recognized for efforts which include community service, professional development, hiring practices and programming activities that enhance opportunities for people of diverse cultures, background and experiences.

BGSU athletics has been proactive in its efforts to engage students in initiatives that promote diversity and address anti-discrimination. The University's student-run program, "We Are One Team (WA1T)" has brought together more than 20 different offices, departments, activist groups and student organizations who are connected by a common goal of promoting social justice, eliminating social injustice and creating an inclusive environment through the power of sport. The program also addresses gender inequality, LGBT issues, racism, sexism, disability, body image, stereotyping and bullying.  

Bowling Green athletics has worked with "We Are One Team (WA1T)" to create dialogue on social justice issues and awareness on campus and within the community. The school has hosted panel sessions, a social media campaign to stand against discrimination and a walk/run event to bring more attention to issues of social injustice and how to solve many of the current challenges.  

Originally created in 2015, the program has gained momentum by bridging values of inclusion, diversity and acceptance, while also promoting friendship between groups that may harbor biases on campus. "We Are One Team (WA1T)" also has a leadership board that meets monthly to go over diversity-related events at the university and in the community in order to create projects that promote inclusion and help the different groups work more collaboratively.  

Additionally, Bowling Green State University has worked with campus units to continue providing educational and work opportunities that are equal and fair through its non-discrimination policy. It has implemented programs that focus on equal access; training efforts for staff that promote inclusive learning and working environments; monitoring systems that keep the university in compliance with federal and state equal opportunity and nondiscrimination laws and regulations; enhanced Title IX compliance training; and implemented classes to educate students and staff on policy.

"We are deeply honored to receive the 2017 NCAA/MOAA Award for Diversity and Inclusion," said Mary Ellen Mazey, Ph.D., president of Bowling Green State University. "Respect for one another is one of Bowling Green State University's core values; it serves as a guidepost as we recognize and celebrate diversity and inclusion in everything we do. I am proud that BGSU and 'We Are One Team' are being recognized as leaders in this important effort."

"We are thrilled and humbled to receive this prestigious award for our work with We Are One Team (WA1T) at BGSU," said Yannick Kluch, founder and president of We Are One Team. "On behalf of We Are One Team (WA1T), I would like to thank the NCAA for this honor. Our work would not be possible without the hard work of our student leaders, the BGSU athletics staff, and our over 25 partners across the university. What unites us is a passion for social justice and sport, and I'm beyond happy to see this passion be rewarded and recognized on a national level."

"It is an honor to recognize Bowling Green State University and its athletics department for their overall diversity and inclusion efforts, as well as the creation of a targeted student-run program like 'We Are One Team (WA1T),' which directly addresses cultural issues on campus as well as in their community," said Bernard Franklin, executive vice president for education and community engagement. "Identifying and addressing inclusion issues becomes challenging because you have to take people out of their comfort zone to create solutions. Bowling Green, its officials and its students are educating people in a non-traditional way to help close the gaps that exist around diversity and inclusion."

The NCAA and MOAA also awarded honorable mention to Purchase College, SUNY; the University of Maryland and its athletics department; and the U.S. Air Force Academy for their ongoing inclusive efforts that promote diversity.  

Members of MOAA, the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics and the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee selected the award recipients each year. Past honorees have included Northern Illinois University, Colorado State University, Georgia Regents University (now Augusta University), and the North Coast Athletic Conference, which received the inaugural award in 2013.