Emma Morgan-Bennett '20, a native of New York, N.Y. and member of the Swarthmore College volleyball team, recently spoke to the NCAA about diversity in athletics and what it means to be a student-athlete.
NCAA: You were recently selected as a participant in the NCAA Division III Student Immersion Program. What was most memorable about the program?
Emma Morgan-Bennett '20 (EMB): For me, the Student Immersion Program provided me with the incredible opportunity to network with both professionals who are experts in their fields while also meeting and bonding with my peers who were also participating in the program. Having the ability to learn about the variety of backgrounds, aspirations, and accomplishments from both these groups was a priceless opportunity that I appreciate immensely. It was also really cool to be able to meet an astronaut.
NCAA: Did you learn any lessons at the NCAA Convention that you want to share with other students interested in a career in Division III athletics?
EMB: I think what was most encouraging was the recognition that the NCAA is trying to increase their diversity and in that manner, they want young, smart, and engaged students of color to contribute professionally to Division III. As a Black woman, I think it’s incredibly vital for institutions like the NCAA to not simply praise the values of diversity (in regards to race, gender, class etc.), but to also actively recruit diverse personnel to contribute to their workplaces. Ultimately, I believe that diversity will make places like the NCAA have more talented and skilled staff who can better address the needs of the diverse spectrum of student-athletes that the NCAA protects and works with in Division III.
NCAA: What have you enjoyed most about your Division III experience as a student-athlete?
EMB: I love so many things about my experience as a student-athlete! I love feeling strong, I love the community that my team provides me with, I love the athletic administration that I know works incredibly hard to provide a wholesome and fun experience for their students, and I love that I did not have to choose between being a smart scholar and a successful athlete.
NCAA: What is the best advice you have received from coaches and athletics administrators to help early career professionals, like yourself, get started in Division III athletics?
EMB: I’ve gotten so much helpful advice recently, but I especially want to give a shout out to my boss, Nnenna Akotaobi, the associate athletic director of Swarthmore College, who has taught me by example that professional success comes from finding institutions and professionals that will support you to combine doing what you love with ambition, while always remembering your ethical compass. I think my generation, having grown up in the recession, has been raised to be incredibly stressed about finding financial security in our professions, but all my mentors advocate that I remember to incorporate my passions into my future career. For me, that might look like working to help remedy issues of racial and gender inequity within spaces like the NCAA and Division III; that drive for justice has a place in my professional career.
Swarthmore has launched the Rise Up with the Garnet athletics challenge. If 300 people make a gift before noon on Thurs., April 5, a generous alum-athlete will donate $25,000 to support student-athletes.