Athletics' SEA of Change returns for second year to continue fostering inclusion

Grand Valley student athletes listen to speakers
Student athletes listen to SEA of Change's keynote address by Kenton Mack and Audra Koopman on Aug. 26 at the Haas Performing Center for the Arts.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

An initiative by Grand Valley’s Athletics Department to foster engagement, communication and understanding between student athletes returned for its second year on Aug. 26. 

SEA (Supporting, Elevating, Activating) of Change united more than 350 student athletes to listen to speakers and connect through workshops addressing issues of diversity and inclusion. 

Assistant volleyball coach Callie Youngman, one of the initiative’s committee members, said feedback from participants allowed the program to build on last year’s experience and promote connections with incoming students.

“We’ve started to develop a big core of internal and external partners that our student-athletes are saying they connect with,” Youngman said 

"We used the feedback from last year and our continuing discussions to add new topics such as the intersections of mental health and systems of oppression. It’s something our student athletes have been really asking for.”

Student athletes hug at SEA of Change keynote address
More than 350 student athletes participated in this year's SEA of Change program.
Amanda Pitts
A student raises his hand during the SEA of Change keynote address
A student athlete raises his hand in response to question during the SEA of Change keynote address
Amanda Pitts
Director of Athletics Keri Becker speaks with student athletes at SEA of Change.
Director of Athletics Keri Becker speaks with the group of student athletes at SEA of Change.
Amanda Pitts

One of those external partners, Kenton Mack, returned for Friday’s discussion. Mack, a former basketball player at Northern Michigan University, is a co-founder of Athletes Igniting Action, a nonprofit which seeks to develop empowerment in college athletes for social and racial justice.

Mack and former Penn State track and field star Audra Koopman delivered the keynote address, reminding students that their identity as a student athlete is fleeting. 

“You get so involved in being a student athlete that you forget it only lasts four years, and then you are something else after that,” Mack said.

This year’s workshops covered issues related to social action in college athletics, the LGBT community and understanding the Black student experience. 

Student athletes who participated in last year’s discussions progressed into Tier 2, focusing on knowledge and theory, and helped incoming first-year and transfer students better grasp their Tier 1 path. 

“I never had the opportunity to have anyone close to my age come back and speak to me, especially topics that were not mandates like Title IX, sexual assault and misconduct,” Mack said. “What Callie and the SEA of Change committee has put together in terms of diversity and inclusion is incredible.”

Keynote speaker addresses crowd
Former Penn State track and field star Audra Koopman delivers her keynote address during SEA of Change.
Amanda Pitts
Student athlete asking a question during SEA of Change
A student athlete asks a question during a Q&A segment at SEA of Change.
Amanda Pitts
Keynote speaker delivers his address to group
Kenton Mack, a former basketball player at Northern Michigan University and a co-founder of Athletes Igniting Action, was one of the keynote speakers for this year's SEA of Change.
Amanda Pitts