Many schools have created diversity and inclusion officials at the highest levels of administration, tasking them with helping students, staff and faculty understand the importance of working with individuals with varying perspectives. But the athletics department at Colorado State University has taken that mindset a step further, designating a senior associate athletics director who works specifically with student-athletes.
The choice for the job: Albert Bimper, who comes to the position with insight into what it means to be a Colorado State student-athlete. After graduation, the four-year starting football center played for the Indianapolis Colts during the 2006 season – the year they won Super Bowl XLI. Afterward, he earned a master’s degree from Purdue University and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin, then embarked on a career in academics. He returned to Colorado State in 2013 in the new position of senior associate athletics director for diversity and inclusion.
“I think a lot of people are still trying to get a clear idea of what diversity and inclusion means within college athletics, and what it means to winning, the bottom line, recruiting and retention,” Bimper said. “But now, we have the opportunity to have those conversations specifically within athletics on what it means and what it means to others.”
Bimper is a key voice who communicates the importance of diversity and inclusion while understanding the challenges of working with a sensitive topic. He also is an ethnic studies professor, which helps him easily cross paths and bridge gaps with many university representatives, including faculty who interact with student-athletes and the university’s Office of Diversity and Office of Student Affairs.
“Athletics is the front porch to the university, so whenever you can get athletics involved in various university conversations, it adds a presence that is needed and can be beneficial in most cases, along with discussing diversity,” Bimper said. “If athletics can be of any assistance, I want to be involved.”
The Texas native manages all diversity and inclusion programs within the athletics department for student-athletes, teams and the athletics administration, and implements programming for student-athletes that centers on adjustment to campus and the environment. Additionally, he works with teams that may not be as diverse in helping them better understand how diversity impacts them.
“We talk about diversity from a recruiting perspective often, and we tell parents that we have support in place at CSU,” Bimper said. “We stress to the parents that we want their sons and daughters to be successful now and in the future once they graduate. Many parents have said they appreciate the fact that we brought diversity up because they have thought about it but didn’t know how to approach it.”
It is unknown how many athletics departments have staff who work specifically with diversity initiatives; however, some schools have begun to include it specifically in staff responsibilities and titling.