Indianapolis – Transylvania University and the Transylvania Athletics Department were recognized by NCAA in receiving the February 2019 Division III Diversity Spotlight Initiative.
"We applaud the institution's celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day with the hosting of a program that engaged student-athletes with female campus leaders," commented Dan Dutcher, the NCAA's Vice President for Division III. "We applaud Transylvania's efforts and know that this program will positively impact all of your student-athletes and the entire campus."
As part of the annual nationwide observance of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, a day traditionally held in the first week in February, the Transylvania Athletics Department connected current female student-athletes with female Transylvania staff and coaches who have past experience as collegiate student-athletes.
The two broad groups converged together in small group and one-on-one settings for a two-hour period over one evening on campus as Transylvania's female staff members shared stories and insight from their past experiences as collegiate athletes and how it has helped shape them in their future careers, personal lives, and as leaders.
Over 150 student-athletes participated in the event with staff members coming from on-campus departments of Student Life, Study Abroad, and Campus Ministries, all who shared their experiences of participating in collegiate athletics and how it catapulted them into their current careers.
"Each year, we have done something different to celebrate women and sport, but this year our event was very powerful," reflected Vice President for Enrollment and Student Life, Dr. Holly Sheilley (a three-sport athlete during her collegiate playing days who participated in the event as one of the small group speakers). "I believe it is important for our female student-athletes to see the number of female staff working at Transylvania who played sports in college and how playing sports have changed their lives.
Transylvania women's basketball head coach Juli Fulks participated in the event as one of the staff representatives, sharing experiences from her collegiate playing days in NCAA Division III basketball with Transylvania female student-athletes and reflected on the unique evening: "National Girls and Women in Sports Day created a unique opportunity to do one of the most important things we can do in athletics – connect personally with each other and find commonalities rather than differences," said Fulks. "Our student-athletes have a passion for learning and I am grateful for a night set aside to share stories, advice, and encouragement for their own dream chasing!"
Other participating staff members shared their takeaways from the evening:
"As a non-athletics based employee, I am very proud to have been able to participate and talk to our Transy student-athletes as my days as a college volleyball player shaped me in so many ways. Being able to share with the women of athletics the possibilities to complement their athletic experience with study abroad opportunities to prepare them for their future is something I am grateful for. Sharing my professional and personal journey from my time as an athlete until today is something I hope showed them that women, and more specifically women athletes, are powerful people who can be leaders and potentially change the world someday." – Courtney Smith, Director of Global and International Engagement
"I thoroughly enjoyed the Transylvania Athletics National Girls and Women in Sports Day 'Lead her Forward' event. The room was powered with driven, positive and inspirational female athletes, each with their own story of success. The night had a personal feel and it was a great opportunity to familiarize with and relate to athletes from other sports. As leaders of our crafts, I believe it is our right and responsibility to pay it forward, not only in coaching these women, but helping to shape them as strong, upstanding female members of society. I believe events such as this exemplify the spirit of this endeavor." – Ashley Reinecke, Transylvania Assistant Women's Soccer Coach
Many Transylvania female student-athletes in attendance at the February 7 event shared their enriching reflections from the evening:
"Coach Fulks spoke with our group about how while our generation of women has grown up with many opportunities in sports, we are still part of the first generation who didn't know a different world. This perspective really helped me to further appreciate and understand the role athletics has played in my development as an individual and also excited me for the future of women's roles in all aspects of sports." – Senior Ally Benz, field hockey, women's lacrosse
"I learned that as a female student-athlete, we must play to our strengths such as passion, strength, competitiveness, and determination in order to defy the odds society has created for us to be valued in sports." – Senior Celia Kline, women's basketball
"These women taught me so much in such a short time. (Assistant Softball Coach) Kimi Blewett explained the importance of not putting too much pressure on myself, while still doing everything with a purpose. You never know when a little girl is watching you and you can inspire her to do great things!" – Senior Jordan Kramer, softball
"Through the National Girls and Women in Sports Day event, I gained an appreciation for being a collegiate athlete. While boundaries for female athletes are still prevalent, conversations with female coaches highlighted for me the progress that has been made since their time as athletes. This not only deepened my respect for them, but for all female college athletes." – Senior Emma Oliver, women's lacrosse
The NCAA Division III Diversity Spotlight Initiative recognizes and promotes outstanding diversity-related projects, programming, and initiatives that are occurring on Division III campuses and in conference offices. The Diversity Spotlight Initiative award recognizes an institution or conference in regard to a diversity-related event, program or initiative. Along with the award, Transylvania received a $500 award towards its next diversity initiative.
Past events for Transylvania with National Girls and Women in Sports Day have involved panels bringing in prominent local female figures in sports, administration, broadcasting, and pioneers in their sport. Transylvania Athletics continue to pursue new avenues and opportunities for future National Girls and Women in Sports Day events in connecting our current Pioneer student-athletes with mentors, alumni, and community figures.