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Cornell gymnast to lead Division I SAAC

Benched by injury, Morgan Chall embraced role representing student-athletes

Back on the floor for Cornell this year, Morgan Chall helped the Big Red qualify for the USA Gymnastics Women’s Collegiate National Championships. CORNELL UNIVERSITY PHOTO

Morgan Chall was elected co-president of the Cornell Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in December 2016. About the same time, the college gymnast and global and public health sciences major suffered a torn meniscus in her knee. The injury forced her to sit out competition for two seasons but also opened new opportunities to devote more time to SAAC.

“I could not give my all to gymnastics, and that was really hard for me,” recalls Chall, who began gymnastics at age 4 and spent her rookie season as a floor specialist for Cornell. “So I poured my heart into SAAC, which provided me an outlet and a solid way to contribute to the athletic community without competing.”

Now Chall faces a new challenge: In January, she was named chair of the national Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The committee also appointed Samuel Perelman, who played tennis at Old Dominion and graduated with a sport management degree, and Ethan Good, a basketball player and neuroscience major at Bowling Green, as the new vice chairs. The pair represent the student-athletes of Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference, respectively. Chall, Perelman and Good will begin their terms in June, serving through May 2020.

Chall, a native of San Mateo, California, says she looks forward to tackling the committee’s priorities for the 2019-20 academic year. Those include pushing for appropriate mental health resources for Division I student-athletes, improved personal and professional development to prepare student-athletes for careers after college, and diversity and inclusion hiring efforts in athletics departments.

At Cornell, Chall says, her proudest accomplishments included improving the resources for and awareness of SAAC’s role on campus. She helped develop and spearhead a number of initiatives, including Cornell’s #DontBearItAlone campaign, which focused on reducing the stigma of mental health issues.

She has represented the Ivy League on the national SAAC since January 2018 and, as part of that role, served on the Division I Committee on Academics. That experience, she says, gave her newfound faith in student-athletes’ influence within NCAA governance.

“At first I didn’t understand why my voice was as important as the other members of the Committee on Academics with decades of experience,” she says. “Those same members encouraged me to use my voice as a student-athlete and express my opinions. I now feel so much more confident in my abilities on a national level, largely because of that committee.”

Chall is also eager to add her voice to those of other women serving on the Division I Board of Directors, which she will become a member of in June as chair of the Division I SAAC.

“I believe that having a woman as chair of national SAAC will send a resounding message to the entire membership,” Chall says. “With any governing body that makes decisions for an entire association, it’s important that those appointed are representative of the diversity of the student-athletes the membership serves.”

After two years away from her sport, Chall finally was able to return to the gym this January to complete her senior season. She claimed a starting spot in the floor lineup for the Big Red, competing in every meet and posting a season high of 9.725 at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship meet.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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