Big East Grants Show Commitment to Diversity In Athletics Administrators Ranks

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by Lois Elfman

The need is there. Just a quarter of the women and minority collegiate athletics staff seeking the Big East Professional Development Grant for Women and Ethnic Minorities received funding this year. Now, advocates hope the program, which they say demonstrates a commitment to diversity, can set an example that other Division I conferences will follow.

“Women and minorities are underrepresented in administration in athletics,” says 2006 grant recipient Maisha Palmer, athletic academic advisor/life skills coordinator at Rutgers University. “It’s important for the Big East to continue to sponsor programs like this that give the tools and the resources for minorities and women to advance themselves and get out there and advocate to college presidents and athletic directors to really expand their searches when they’re filling senior positions.”

Floyd A. Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches and Administrators, offers a similar sentiment. “I believe initiatives such as the Big East Development Program for Females and Ethnic Minorities are of great value,” he says. “This program, and similar programs instituted by other conferences, at the very least, will increase the numbers in the pipeline, promote networking and create professional development.”

With 16 member institutions, the Big East is the largest conference in NCAA Division I athletics, including the University of Connecticut, DePaul University, Notre Dame University, the University of Pittsburgh, Rutgers University and Seton Hall University. Developed by the Senior Woman Administrator committee, the grant program provides a total of $8,000 for the professional growth activities of assistant coaches, athletic directors and sports information officers aspiring to go further. The money can be used for leadership development seminars, conferences and other development activities.

Each applicant must note what career path they’re looking to follow and explain how the grant money will be used to further that goal, says Mia Brickhouse, assistant director of sport administration for the Big East, who puts together application packages for them. The maximum amount any individual can receive is $2,000, regardless of the cost of the program.

“We want to make sure the applicants know exactly what they’re getting into and they’re fully prepared and excited about it,” Brickhouse adds.

Palmer says the timing was perfect for her, as she’d already been accepted into the year-long NCAA Leadership Institute for Ethnic Minority Males and Females. Although Rutgers was helping with some of the cost, she knew there would be additional expenses. The Big East grant of $1,500 helped cover the cost of five round-trip flights from Newark, N.J., to the leadership institute in Indianapolis as well as hotel costs.

“I’m big on professional development,” says Palmer, who had previously applied for grants to attend other seminars. “I thought the Big East process was fine. It worked well for me, because I was already in the Leadership Institute and I knew exactly what it was I wanted to do.”

This year’s recipients come from the University of Connecticut, DePaul University, the University of Louisville, South Florida University and Villanova University. Among the seminars, programs, conferences and workshops they will be attending are the International Conference on Eating Disorders of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators/HERS Institute for Administrative Advancement.

–Lois Elfman

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