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Towson earns 2021 NCAA/MOAA Diversity and Inclusion Award

Maryland school to be honored at NCAA Convention

Towson has earned the NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association’s 2021 Award for Diversity and Inclusion. The university will be honored Jan. 14 during the 2021 NCAA Convention, which will be held virtually.

The NCAA/MOAA Award for Diversity and Inclusion recognizes the initiatives, policies and practices of school and conference offices that embrace diversity and inclusion across intercollegiate athletics. This can be achieved through community service, professional development, hiring practices or programming activities that enhance opportunities for people of diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences.

“We are thrilled that the Towson University athletics department has received this national recognition,” said Tim Leonard, Towson’s director of athletics. “Our goal is to foster a climate that is grounded in respect and inclusion for staff, coaches and student-athletes.

“We take great pride in the gender equity program headed up by our senior woman administrator, Tricia Brandenburg. The Total Tiger Program, under the direction of Antwaine Smith, has been a staple of Towson athletics for years. The program gives our student-athletes opportunities to engage and interact with the Greater Baltimore area through community service and has helped turn them into leaders off the field. Although much work remains to be done, everyone involved should be proud of what we have already accomplished.”

This is the first NCAA/MOAA award for Towson, which is located in Towson, Maryland.

“The Towson University athletics staff and student-athletes have demonstrated a consistent pattern of developing instrumental programming and activities that put a spotlight on the importance of inclusivity and diversity, and we’re proud to honor them with the 2021 NCAA and MOAA Award for Diversity and Inclusion,” said Derrick Gragg, senior vice president of inclusion, education and community engagement at the NCAA. “Towson is a role model, as staff and student-athletes have engaged in critical conversations and they’ve been bold with their initiatives on campus and in their community, despite having to navigate these challenging times. They deserve a round of applause for their hard work and commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

China Jude, MOAA president and University of Wyoming senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator, said, “The year 2020 was challenging for all of us; however, we must not lose sight of celebrating those who make a positive impact in the diversity, equity and inclusion space. MOAA and the NCAA are excited to continue the tradition of the Award for Diversity and Inclusion by honoring Towson University for its impressive efforts. This award showcases the great work that our institutions continue to do, both within the college athletics community and campus as a whole.”

Towson athletics has focused on building an inclusive environment for its student-athletes and staff through programs and initiatives, assessments and community engagement. Athletes and staff have been visible and vocal on many fronts. Towson’s Total Tiger Program continues to be one of the guiding forces for athletics diversity efforts, as it centers on developing student-athletes through education, advocacy and mentorship activities in the Baltimore area.

The program includes a first-generation student-athlete mentorship initiative, which has helped improve graduation and retention rates. The athletics department also has witnessed student-athlete and team NCAA Academic Progress Rate improvements and a rise in grade-point averages.

Through the program, student-athletes and coaches have focused on diversity efforts within their respective sports. The athletics department conducts its diversity, equity and inclusion education and training through the program. The athletics department also began a diversity series that included conversations around current events, perceptions on campus, recruiting black student-athletes to a predominantly white university and diverse hiring practices.

Towson also took a step in support of social justice, creating an athletics department video called “Am I Next?” that includes messaging from African American student-athletes and coaches. The video series was created following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black individuals that generated national attention. Student-athletes also engaged in nonpartisan voting process and registration education during the fall.

Student-athletes wrote digital blogs as a part of another series called Her/His Words, which centered on personal experiences with racism and bias and how to become a better ally. The athletics department then created committees in which student-athletes, coaches and staff could continue conversations. One of the committees was formed specifically to plan programming around anti-racism efforts on campus and in the community.

Towson has been proactive with internal assessments, too. The athletics department has a Gender Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Program Review Guide that draws on resources and best practices to guide questions and areas to assess and review. Athletics works with the university’s Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity and other campus offices to keep the guide up to date. Athletics also surveys student-athletes through a program called Real Recruit to assess programming and department culture, and it has a coaching assessment tool to evaluate sports programs within the framework of the department’s strategic plan.

Additionally, athletics staff are involved with campus committees that focus on university policies and procedures related to nondiscrimination, hate bias and sexual misconduct.  Athletics also developed a community partner program that focuses on building diversity in sport and an autism awareness program. Workshops, inclusive training and sessions with local police also were held in an effort to open dialogue with key groups.

The following web site provides additional details on the Leadership Collective: