On Friday, Aug. 14, the Valparaiso University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) leadership team voted on and determined its primary initiatives for the committee for the 2020-21 academic year.
Coming at a time surrounding much uncertainty and unprecedented waters, the leadership team of six nominated and elected Valpo student-athletes, led by co-Presidents Kiera Pratt (senior; women’s soccer) and Corey Shannon (senior; football), were eager to put in place several initiatives and events that would best serve the well-being of Valpo student-athletes, enhance their experience and represent their desires. Joining Pratt and Shannon on the SAAC leadership team are Jaclyn Bulmahn (senior; volleyball), Maranda Donahue (junior; women’s track and field), Brett Seward (senior; men’s golf) and Lauren Torhorst (senior; women’s soccer).
In light of the recent announcement that fall athletic competition has been postponed, co-President Pratt assures that this by no means will inhibit the effort and work done by this committee.
Pratt - “SAAC leadership is excited to welcome back student-athletes on campus and we are saddened that fall sports competition is postponed; however, we have a great opportunity to effect change this school year. We are passionate about the work we are going to do and we look forward to serving Valpo's student-athletes.”
SAAC 2020-21 Initiatives
Shannon - “SAAC is to have a united student-athlete voice – to our peer students, faculty/staff and administration here at Valparaiso University, but also on a larger scale to the entire Valparaiso community, our respective athletic conferences and even on the national level.”
With Shannon’s words in mind, the SAAC leadership has come up with three initiatives to focus on during the 2020-21 academic year:
SAAC will place a large emphasis on Diversity and Inclusion this academic year.
Shannon - “Diversity and Inclusion are key points in making change, especially in our current climate. SAAC is here to bring people together, which means putting in the necessary work to build bridges.”
Pratt - “As a result of the recent social climate regarding systemic racism and social injustices relating to the Black community, SAAC is seeking out ways to create a safe environment for Black student-athletes to speak and share their experiences. In addition, we wanted to create a group for non-Black student-athletes to educate themselves on various topics such as the foundation and history of racism, implicit bias, white privilege and other areas where there’s room for learning.”
The next initiative – Student-Athlete Mental Health – is one that has been in the works since last spring. SAAC will work in collaboration with several on and off-campus partners to provide student-athletes with events, programming and resources to better support their mental health and emotional well-being.
Pratt - “SAAC discussed implementing a space that provides support for the mental health of our student-athletes. This semester, we are working to provide student-athletes with resources and education that will make mental health a priority, helping to ensure that student-athletes are healthy and receiving the assistance they need and deserve.”
The third initiative is to start the Crusader Cup. SAAC will develop a points system which will reward student-athletes for community service, personal development, career development, athletic event attendance and SAAC involvement. The average number of points per student-athlete on each team will be calculated and the team standings updated on a weekly basis. The team that has the most points per team member at the end of the academic year will win the Crusader Cup trophy and $500 to put toward their team budget.
In addition to the three primary initiatives, SAAC will also be hosting events such as Special Olympics, Pancake Breakfast, Reading with Kids and an Indoor Field Day for local schools.
What is SAAC?
SAAC is a student-athlete led and organized committee that unifies as the voice of Valpo student-athletes. SAAC offers several benefits to student-athletes, in addition to providing a platform for student-athletes to use their voice. Student-athletes are able to:
SAAC meets on a monthly basis, with sub-committees meeting twice a month and the leadership team meeting weekly.
Those student-athletes wishing to get involved in SAAC should reach out to either JT Klopcic, Assistant Academic Support Coordinator (JT.Klopcic@valpo.edu) or Elizabeth Conard, Assistant Director of Athletics for Academic Support and Student Services (Elizabeth.Conard@valpo.edu).