- Dr. Edward Scott, Deputy Athletics Director, University of Virginia & Current MOAA President (Moderator)
- Sean Frazier, Vice President & Director of Athletics & Recreation, Northern Illinois University
- Monique Bernoudy, Assistant Vice President, Academic Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Northern Illinois University
- Morgan Hooper, Student-Athlete, Women’s Gymnastics, Northern Illinois University
- Courtney Vinson, Senior Associate Athletic Director, Sports Administration, Northern Illinois University
The Northern Illinois University (NIU) department of intercollegiate athletics recently received the 2022 NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association (MOAA) Award for diversity and inclusion, becoming the first institution in the history of the award to earn the prestigious honor twice. The Award recognizes and celebrates the initiatives, policies, and practices of school and conference offices that embrace diversity and inclusion across intercollegiate athletics. Many of NIU’s diversity initiatives stem from the department’s Diversity Integration Group (DIG), which prioritizes diversity across departmental decision-making.
In that light, on Thursday, LEAD1 hosted its latest webinar with Sean Frazier, Vice President and Director of Athletics, at NIU, and other NIU administrators to highlight DIG’s action plan, which can be emulated across other LEAD1 campuses. Here are some of the key takeaways from the discussion.
- As one of the few Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions with both a person of color as their head coach in men’s basketball and football, NIU strives for “intentionality” when making hiring decisions. Frazier’s process for hiring (and other diversity-related initiatives) can be broken into three steps – “theory, practice, and measurable outcome,” Frazier said. In terms of theory, one of DIG’s main goals is to “monitor the representation of diversity among coaches and staff.” In terms of practice, for example, each NIU senior staff member is charged with reviewing their unit’s current diverse representation, determining if any adjustments need to be made to attract more diverse candidates. Measurable outcome obviously speaks for itself, but Frazier also stresses retention to ensure diverse candidates thrive once they come to NIU.
- Receiving feedback from all campus stakeholders, including athletics department staff, college athletes, and other campus units, can be instrumental to assess the success of diversity planning. NIU, for example, administers an annual DIG Climate Survey to athletic department staff, conducts exit interviews for coaches and staff to provide strengths and areas of growth for the department in diversity, and includes diversity program evaluation questions for its college athletes. Such feedback allows NIU to determine areas in which its climate related to diversity may need to be improved.
- Amplifying the college athlete voice is paramount. DIG, for example, encourages the representation of diverse college athletes in leadership roles (for example, ensures that diverse athletes are on SAAC and other committees), monitors the progress of diverse athletes (NIU annually reviews the diverse athlete population per sport team), and ensures that NIU athletes can safely voice their opinion on social issues, including by creating safe spaces for black men and women athletes.
- Working with resources on campus can also be instrumental in creating more inclusivity.DIG, for example, prioritizes working collaboratively with university partners to identify diversity resources that athletics can utilize such as campus cultural resource centers, and other campus partners.
DIG’s action plan, some of the core elements stated above, has become part of the fabric of NIU’s athletics culture. Other LEAD1 institutions should consider taking some of the elements from Thursday’s discussion, and implementing them on their own campuses, based on the measurable outcomes and success in NIU’s department.