Sun Belt Conference hosts first Diversity and Inclusion Summit on May 17

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POINT CLEAR, Ala. – The topic of diversity and inclusion is definitely on the rise in the Sun Belt Conference.

Long known as a league willing to take bold steps to positively shape college athletics, the Sun Belt is taking another step in that vein – hosting its first Diversity and Inclusion Summit on May 17 as a part of the conference’s annual spring meetings in Point Clear, Ala.

“Educating to Become More Aware” is the theme of the half-day session designed to open up the conversation on diversity and inclusion and explore information, techniques and solutions that can be implemented in the hiring or developmental process.

“I’m excited that this Summit is one of the first things I’m getting to be a part of,” said newly appointed Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill. “This is going to be a good way to raise awareness of the topic for our member institutions and also keep it in the forefront for us as a conference office. I am hoping people will become more aware in terms of what the opportunities are to increase diversity, why it is important to talk about diversity and also why it should be valued.”

Dr. Katrice A. Albert, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Inclusion and Human Resources at the NCAA national office, will kick off the Summit by discussing the importance of diversity and why inclusiveness is so important in today’s world of college athletics. A scholar and administrator in college athletics for more than 25 years, Albert will hit on topics such as the diversity data trends and retention practices specific to the Sun Belt and its membership.

“Our student-athletes deserve diverse talent in those that coach, teach and lead them, especially those in leadership positions,” said Albert.

Leadership will be the central topic during the second part of the Summit as Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) will engage in an interactive session with the Sun Belt student-athletes in attendance to give them tools to use on how to be leaders on their respective campuses.

“We focus on educating and empowering the sports community and eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice, and improve race relations,” said Kim Miller, Vice President of Leadership and Education of RISE. “So we can inspire those in the sports communities to be leaders within their teams or their schools or on campus but really thinking broadly on how they can impact the larger society.”

The Summit will conclude with a group discussion focused on a review of the New York Times bestseller “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” by Mahzarin A. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald. The seven-person panel will elaborate on takeaways from the book and discuss best practices across the conference supporting diversity and inclusion.

“It is very important for the Sun Belt to be a leader in the diversity and inclusion efforts,” said Patrick Hairston, Associate Commissioner/Chief Compliance Officer at the Sun Belt office. “We want to make sure to provide opportunities not only for our conference office to educate our member institutions on the direction of diversity and inclusion initiatives nationally but also for our institutions to be able to educate each other in an open and collegial forum.”

The topic of diversity and inclusion is one that is complex and receiving more attention in the Sun Belt – as it is across all of college athletics. That is something that Gill wants to make sure remains front and center as the conference embarks on its next chapter.

“Champions are diverse and diverse staffs create a championship culture,” said Gill. “A diverse Sun Belt Conference will ultimately create the best Sun Belt Conference.”

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