Amid nationwide social justice movements, the MSU Athletics Department is working to promote diversity, equality and inclusion for student athletes and coaches across the MSU campus. On Monday, Sept. 28, Bobcat athletics director Leon Costello announced the establishment of the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Committee.
The committee is working to promote an environment that supports student athletes while providing resources for their personal growth and development. Under the direction of Aaron Grusonik, Director of Student Athlete Wellness, the committee of 14 individuals from Bobcat Athletics and the MSU community will promote a culture of learning, acceptance and collaboration.
“This is an important initiative that brings together people with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. MSU is a very diverse campus, and we’re always able to accomplish greater things when we work together,” Costello said. “This group will be a tremendous resource for our department and will work to create real change that positively impacts people.”
The development of this committee began in the 2019-20 academic year when the Athletic Department felt the need to offer more support to student athletes of color, those who identify as LGBTQ+ or those who identify with another marginalized group. In an interview, Grusonik said that “the Bobcat Athletic Administration and the Student-Athlete SAAC group began to talk about the importance of providing education and training and raising awareness in the areas of diversity and inclusion.” He continued, “recognizing that having a diverse group of staff and students, combined with education, understanding and unity, creates a more robust and competitively sound group of athletes and organization.”
Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee continued its campaign, slowly. In the spring and summer, “the motivation remained and intensified,” Grusonik said, especially after the rise in attention to the social justice issues that came to the forefront of discussion and action across the country. Although the feeling of immediacy to confront social injustice was overwhelming at moments, the committee took its time in enlisting the perfect team members and, under the leadership and support of Leon Costello, sought help and resources from the Diversity and Inclusion Student Commons on campus. “With their wisdom and guidance, we began the process of reaching out to student-athletes, staff and coaches for their input and eventually solicited them for nomination for the committee,” said Grusonik.
When asked about what resources are going to be available to the MSU community and what kind of growth and development this committee is hoping to see, Grusonik said, “in order to accomplish [the goal of this committee] within Bobcat Athletics, education in the forms of traditional learning and training (which builds knowledge) and experiential learning (which builds wisdom and understanding) is our paramount emphasis. In order to educate ourselves within the organization, we are looking outside (of ourselves) with the hope of forming partnerships with groups on our campus and within the community.”