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Northern Illinois wins diversity and inclusion award

Northern Illinois will receive honor at NCAA Convention in January

Northern Illinois University’s athletics department has earned the NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association’s 2016 Award for Diversity and Inclusion. The department will receive the honor at the NCAA Convention in January in San Antonio.

The award is a partnership between the NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association to recognize and celebrate the initiatives, policies and practices of colleges, universities and/or athletic conference offices that embrace diversity and inclusion. Past honorees have been recognized for efforts which include community service, professional development, hiring practices and programming activities that enhance opportunities for people of diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences.  

Northern Illinois athletics earned the award for its campus programs and partnerships in the DeKalb, Illinois, community. The athletics department recently revised its vision statement and strategic plan to reflect a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The department also dedicated one of its core values to inclusion.

Sean Frazier, Northern Illinois associate vice president and director of athletics, has also been a visible leader in making key decisions to enhance inclusion and diversity. Frazier co-chaired Northern Illinois’ inaugural diversity and inclusion task force, which recommended hiring the university’s first chief diversity officer; co-presented an inaugural campus workshop called “The NIU Experience: A Journey of Discovery into Affirmative Action, Diversity & Equal Opportunity”; and appointed staff within athletics who will specifically monitor diversity, inclusion and equity. Athletics also served as a co-sponsor in collaboration with other campus offices to host a conference called “Diversity: Strengthening the Pillars of Community,” and formed a task force to work on projects that include a diversity and inclusion action plan and a work-life climate survey.

“We are absolutely humbled by this recognition and firmly believe that diversity and inclusion is not a sometime thing, but rather an all-the-time thing,” Frazier said. “Diversity requires a top-down leadership approach rooted in bringing campus and community constituents together to promote civility, accountability and the creation of a shared agenda.”

To enhance the awareness of equality and diversity issues, Northern Illinois athletics provides its staff and campus administrators with professional development opportunities, including training seminars on Title IX and diversity and inclusion topics, which are facilitated by external constituents and the school’s affirmative action staff. The group has also hosted webinars that cover gender and sexuality topics; programming to increase graduation rates; violence prevention seminars; and programs that bring university, athletics and community cultures together for dialogue. Additionally, the Northern Illinois vice provost’s office funds some programming for athletics staff who work with athletes on a daily basis.

“I congratulate Sean Frazier and Northern Illinois University’s athletics department on being selected to receive the NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association diversity and inclusion award,” said Bernard Franklin, NCAA executive vice president of education and community engagement and chief inclusion officer. “Northern Illinois is a role model for other institutions as it has created programs and initiatives that have helped bridge gaps at the university and in the community. Northern Illinois athletics has placed more awareness on the importance of inclusion within its own department, and those efforts will enable their student-athletes and administrators to maneuver more effectively and strategically on campus and in our diverse society.”

Stated Mario Moccia, current Minority Opportunities Athletic Association president and director of athletics at New Mexico State University: “The Minority Opportunities Athletic Association is honored to recognize the commitment to diversity and the efforts of Northern Illinois University and its athletics director, Sean Frazier, who was also past president of the association. In its fourth year, this award encompasses what each of our departments strives to emulate: a culture of diversity and inclusion, both internally and externally.”

Additionally, the NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association bestowed honorable mention to the University of Kansas and University of California, San Diego athletics departments for their departmental, campus and community efforts that enhanced the culture and furthered the awareness of diversity on and around campus. A group consisting of individuals from the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association membership, the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics and the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee selected the overall winner and honorable mention honorees. Past overall winners have included Colorado State University, Georgia Regents University (now Augusta University) and the North Coast Athletic Conference, which received the inaugural award in 2013.

About the NCAA

The NCAA is a membership-led nonprofit association of colleges and universities committed to supporting academic and athletic opportunities for more than 460,000 student-athletes at more than 1,000 member colleges and universities. Each year, more than 54,000 student-athletes compete in NCAA championships in Divisions I, II and III sports. Visit and for more details about the Association, its goals and members and corporate partnerships that help support programs for student-athletes. 

About the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association

Administered by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association promotes equitable employment opportunities for minorities in the athletics industry through the exchange of ideas, the creation of networking opportunities and the avocation of an increase in employment for minorities in athletics administration positions at all levels of the sports industry. The association also promotes cultivating a sports environment that supports the values necessary to accept aspiring professionals from all walks of life. For more information on the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association, please visit