Building Deep and Sustainable Connections among Sport, Academics and Community

June 28, 2016

Initial curators: Kerrissa Heffernan, Brown University & Eli Wolff, Brown University


Most universities and colleges believe athletics to be a critical part of the academic experience. Sport programs enhance the university’s reputation and teach student athletes important life lessons about perseverance, cooperation and leadership that complement the academic mission. However, the significant demands of sport can isolate athletes from the larger student population and contribute to a disparaging stereotype of athletes as less engaged in the life of the university and in the community. The response of many universities is to develop separate service initiatives for athletes, however these service programs tend to place more demands on the limited time of student athletes. A more productive path is to explore the way sport enhances the academic and civic lives of student athletes and build upon these capacities. By integrating athletes and sport into the University or College’s engaged agenda we can expand conversations about the role of sport in the academy and create more opportunities for sport to serve the academic agenda the community and the nation.

Key resources

A) Diversity and Inclusion

B) Research

C) Global/Peace Building/Civic


There are a growing number of organizations and institutions, nationally and internationally, across the public and private sector, recognizing the power of sport and the opportunities sport presents for development and social change. Below is a sample of some of the organizations noted for their work in sport.

A) NGO’s

  • Aspen Institute: Sports & Society Program
The mission of the Sports & Society program is to convene leaders, foster dialogue, and inspire solutions that help sport serve the public interest, with a focus on the development of healthy children and communities. The program provides a venue for thought leadership where knowledge can be deepened and breakthrough strategies explored on a range of issues.

  • The Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) health-matters-initiative#sthash.kaq5L5ww.dpuf
CHMI works to improve the health and well being of all people by activating individuals, communities, and organizations to make meaningful contributions to the health of others. CHMI’s goals are to reduce the prevalence of preventable health outcomes and close health inequity and disparity gaps by improving access to key contributors to health for all people.

  • Grassroot Soccer
Grassroot Soccer uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize communities to stop the spread of HIV. GRS continuously works to provide innovative HIV prevention and life-skills curriculum and utilize the popularity of soccer to increase our impact.

  • Laureus Sports for Good
Laureus comprises the Laureus World Sports Academy, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the Laureus World Sports Awards, which collectively harness the power of sport to promote social change (and celebrate sporting excellence).

  • Sport 4 Socialisation
S4S works to improve lives and to stimulate social inclusion of children with disabilities and their families in Zimbabwe. S4S aims for a society that knows, accepts and feels that disability doesn’t mean inability – where no disabled children live in isolation – where children with disabilities have developed themselves to the maximum of their potential – and where families have the insights and economical means to take care of their children’s needs.

B) Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Basketball Without Borders
Basketball without Borders (BWB) is the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program. BWB works to promote the sport and encourage positive social change in the areas of education, health, and wellness.

  • Nike Access to Sport
Works to tap the power of sport for social change. Nike believes that every young person in the world should have access to sport and has partnered to develop and deliver programming and activities.

C) Government

  • USAID Sport for Development
Promoting sport as a unique and powerful tool in the advancement of international development goals. Responsible for the integration of sport into USAID programs around the world.

  • UNOSDP UN Office Sport for Development and Peace
The United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), based in Geneva and supported by a Liaison Office in New York, provides the entry point to the United Nations system with regard to Sport for Development and Peace, bringing the worlds of sport and development closer together.


  • Brown University: Engaged Sport
    Launched in 2016 the Engaged Sport Initiative (ESI) is a program of the Swearer Center for Public Service in partnership with Brown Athletics. The Engaged Sport Initiative is an immersive, interdisciplinary initiative for Brown student-athletes that explores the ways sport can enhance the academic enterprise and engaged scholarship through engagement in immersive experiences away from campus. ESI assists students in developing the dispositions and skills needed for engaged global citizenship and provides opportunities for student athletes to explore and develop their own commitments to civic engagement, ethical practice, respect for human diversity and public purpose. ESI seeks to be a national model for gathering athletes, scholars and advocates committed to examining the ways well-constructed sport initiatives can shape ideas of global citizenship and social justice.
  • University of Connecticut: Husky Sport
    Founded in 2003 Husky Sport is a community-campus partnership that has utilized the power of sport to connect Hartford and UCONN stakeholders University of Louisville The Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice advances the work, study and practice of peace building, social justice and violence prevention through the development of innovative educational programs, training, service and research. Each year the Institute hosts a national gathering/conversation on sport and peace building.
  • Stanford University and Duke University, Rubenstein-Bing Student-Athlete Civic Engagement Program(ACE)

A joint program between Duke and the Stanford Athletic Department, including DukeEngage and the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford. The program provides funding for student-athletes to participate in a one-time, international, summer, service immersion program.

  • Tulane University ELEVATE and the Devlin Center for Leadership Development

Works to connect students athletes to the New Orleans community. The mission of Elevate New Orleans is to elevate the life skills and abilities of inner-city student athletes through athletic, academic and social development. We help close the achievement gap by ensuring that inner city youth have access to highly effective afterschool and summer developmental programs.

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