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My research agenda is centered on socio-cultural aspects of sport and physical activity with a focus on how sport can be utilized as a platform to advance diversity, inclusion, and social justice. Drawing from interpretive-humanistic and critical epistemological frameworks and using qualitative and critical methods, I have started to build a timely and relevant research agenda focused on four primary, intersecting areas of expertise: 1) activism, sport, and social change, 2) inclusive leadership in intercollegiate athletics, 3) identity construction in sport (focus: underrepresented/minoritized identities), and 4) critical pedagogies in academic sports curricula and barriers to inclusion in sport academic programs.


Sport can be a powerful tool to promote positive social change. In this line of research, I examine the power of sport and athletes to be used for activism promoting social justice causes. The primary goal of this research is to identify ways in which athletes and other sporting individuals can be empowered to use their involvement in sport as a platform to facilitate positive social change. 



In recent years, athletes across the United States have used their involvement in sport as a platform for activist purposes. In an article published in the Qualitative Review of Qualitative Research, for instance, colleagues and I used performance ethnography to review athletes' social activism in North American sport. Some of my projects in this area include a look at how college athlete activists define activism and perceptions of social justice activism among college athlete activists.


Since being appointed to the Team USA Council on Racial & Social Justice by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), I have started a series of projects looking at the Olympic and Paralympic Games as an outlet for human rights activism. For example, for one such projects colleagues and I are looking at global responses to IOC Rule 50/IPC Section 2.2, both of which prohibit Olympic and Paralympic athletes from participating in protests and demonstrations during the Games.


Multiple of my projects focus on how sport individuals can serve as allies for social justice causes. In one of these projects, colleagues and I are interviewing white athlete activists fighting for racial justice. Drawing from critical whiteness studies, we are examining how these athletes negotiate their whiteness in activist contexts. In a different project, I am working with a team of scholars to look at the framing of Peter Norman's allyship during the 1968 Olympics. Finally, I am particularly interested in how coaches and administrators can be better allies for athletes promoting activist efforts.


While my first line of research focuses primarily on how individuals in the world of sport can be empowered to use athletics as a platform to promote social justice, my second line of research is dedicated to examining ways in which sports organizations – and the individuals operating within these organizations – drive inclusive excellence at an organizational level. In this line of research, I am interested in how groups operating in organizational contexts within higher education generally and intercollegiate athletics specifically navigate efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. 


Over the past three years, a growing number of athletic departments in the NCAA have created staff positions charged with driving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts within the department. To get a better understanding of challenges faced by individuals holding such positions, one of my research teams conducted semi-structured interviews with peer 20 DEI professionals. Data from this line of research, focused on barriers to inclusive leadership in NCAA athletics, was recently presented at the 2020 convention of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS).



Combining both my research interest in sport and physical culture(s) and in social justice activism is my scholarly work with We Are One Team (WA1T). In addition to using autoethnographic methods to reflect on my leadership for this award-winning initiative, I am currently in the process of establishing an interdisciplinary research team to assess its impact at U.S. colleges across the United States and to create knowledge to guide the future work of similar programs. 


Drawing from my experience working in the NCAA Office of Inclusion, I recently published a case study to provide a road map for athletic departments to engage their athletes in inclusive excellence using social media. The case study traces the development of the 2018 NCAA Diversity & Inclusion Social Media Campaign, documents ideas for engagement in the campaign, and reflects on strengths and weakness of the campaign, which reached over 64 million people on Twitter alone.

By looking at sport and physical culture(s) -- and particularly the people involved in sport -- we can learn a lot about the values, ideals, and fears of contemporary society. In this line of research, I examine the various ways in which sport and physical culture(s) can serve as a platform for the construction of identities on individual, community, and global levels – with a particular focus on underrepresented and minoritized identities. It is the goal of my work in this area to analyze how sporting individuals navigate the complex power relationships at play in sporting contexts and physical culture(s) as they perpetuate, negotiate, and sometimes challenge the status quo.   

identity construction IN sport & physical culture(s)


Given that few sport-specific theories on identity construction have been developed, it is my hope to apply my broader research on identity construction to specific sport phenomena and contexts. One such study, looking at German national identity construction during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, is documented in a book chapter recently published in the edited collection The Athlete as National Symbol: Critical Essays on Sport in the International Arena.


Representation matters. Media representations can provide important points of reference in individuals' identity constructions. Frequently, my work looks at mediated representations of gender, race, sexuality, and the intersections of related identity markers in sport. In an article published in Sport in Society, for example, my co-author Dr. Raymond Schuck and I examine the identity scripts provided to male high school athletes through representations of "the athlete" in U.S. teen drama series.


Sport provides individuals with scripts to construct and perform gender identities. Some of my research to date has focused on the construction of masculinity in U.S. college gym culture. For example, an auto- ethnographic account of my experience as an international student in U.S. college gym culture has been published as a book chapter in the edited collection GenderSpectives: Reflections on Gender from a Communication Point-of-View.


In an increasingly diverse sports industry, it has become crucial for graduates from sport management and related programs to critically reflect on their identities and strengthen their diversity and inclusion competencies. Critical pedagogy, with its emphasis on creating awareness of the relationship between power, culture, and identity, provides a meaningful avenue to empower students to become change agents in their future careers.


My research informs my teaching -- and vice versa. That is why I have a research interest in critical pedagogy, which aims at transforming the world and making it a more just place both in- and outside the classroom (Fassett & Warren, 2007), particularly as it can be used in courses focused on sport. As part of this work, I am currently writing a paper outlining how diversity, equity, and inclusion competencies can be advanced in the sport management/communication classroom. 



Because a lack of diversity in sport industry leadership starts with a lack of diversity in the classroom, this line of research is dedicated to identifying barriers to inclusion for students from historically underrepresented/minoritized  populations, including women, LGBTQ+ individuals, students with disabilities, BIPOC and Latinx students, and international students. Using a mixed-method approach, we examine the sense of belonging, academic preparation, mentoring needs, and overall experiences of these students.


During my time at BGSU, I had the opportunity to develop the WA1T Team Player Program, a first-of-its-kind inclusive leadership certificate program – an apt illustration of my commitment to create educational experiences that center DEI. Additional, colleagues and I recently submitted a grant proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to create an interdisciplinary minor focused on "Sport, Civic Leadership & Community Impact."

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