Beyond the Field: Facilitated conversation around current social & political issues as they intersect with sport, featuring esteemed practitioners and scholars.  Series will cover a variety of issues such as gender equity, activism, and racism.  Expand our understanding - both within the realm of sport and in society.

What is Beyond the Field?

Beyond the Field was started in the spring of 2016, as a culminating project led by Wura Olusekun, a former master’s student in the Sport Management Program.  The series began with Wura’s desire to extend conversations that were happening in the classroom and to deepen the understanding of critical issues in the sport industry and the world around us.

Branching from the initial idea, the series has evolved to include multiple offerings per semester as a way to engage partners, students, faculty and staff across the university campus and beyond.  The Beyond the Field series seeks to create open dialogue around current social and political issues as they intersect with sport by inviting esteemed scholars and practitioners to share their experiences and research.

Facilitated conversations with guests will cover a variety of issues such as gender equity, activism, and racism.  By examining these topics through the lens of sport, we aim to create a space to further our understanding-both within the realm of sport and in society.  We're excited to engage in these critical conversations then #Connect them back to our courses and experiences as part of the UConn Sport Management Program.

Stay tuned for more Beyond the Field Events this spring!


Previous Beyond the Field Events


Sport Industry Professionals and Social Justice

November 18, 2020

In recent times, there has been a prominent spotlight focused on athletes and social justice. We have seen a rise in athlete activism and response to racial and social injustice. It is also important to consider other roles within sport organizations and how these important topics are addressed.  In this Beyond the Field, we explored what it means to work as a professional in a sport organization leading organizational initiatives that promote social justice and racial equity.

This event was recorded thanks to the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and the Neag School of Education.

Panelists from Sport Industry Professionals and Social Justice Event:

Butler family photo


Alana Butler has been an academic counselor at the University of Connecticut since July 2006 and assistant director of the Student Athlete Success Program since 2017. Her primary academic counseling responsibilities include working with field hockey, men's ice hockey, and softball. She additionally serves in a leadership role with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, co-created the Connecticut LGBTQIA+ Athlete Ally Safe Space, and is the curriculum coordinator and a course instructor for UNIV 1800 & 1820 courses. Alana is responsible for the oversight of GradesFirst and served as the tutor coordinator from 2006-2016 as well as an academic counselor for Baseball (2006-2016) and Tennis (2006-2011). Alana is an active member of both the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) and the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A). Prior to Connecticut, Alana worked as a collegiate field hockey coach for four years and earned her graduate degree in athletic counseling from Springfield College in 2005. A native of Massachusetts, Butler completed her bachelor's degree at the University of Connecticut, and was a four-year letter winner in field hockey celebrating two NCAA Championship quarterfinals appearances, two NCAA semifinals appearances, and four BIG EAST Championships from 1997-2001. Alana currently resides in Mansfield, Conn. with her wife, Moe, their daughter, Calynn, and grandfather, Jim.  Alana appreciates her "awesome family support" while striving to live a life with an open-mind, being an honest communicator and challenging herself (and others) to think differently.  She encourages others to think critically and has had the opportunity to present at various conferences around the country and in Canada primarily on promoting LGBTQIA+ inclusion in athletics, has developed various programming at UConn, and currently facilitates the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in Athletics.  She shares, "the best part of my job is always watching students (and staff) discover their 'ah-ha' moments whether academically, athletically, professionally, socially, or in exploration of life after UConn."

Caitlyn Dorah headshot


Caitlyn Dorah is a senior undergraduate Sport Management student at UConn who is minoring in Philosophy and Digital Marketing and Analysis. When she's not in class, she is busy working with the UConn Women's basketball team as a student manager, interning at SiriusXM NBA Radio and serves as the co-president of the UConn Women In Sport club. While incredibly involved, she remains humble outlining her greatest asset as her empathy, sharing "it doesn't matter how good I am at any given task or skill, what matters to me is how I can help people and how I impact them."  Which makes her social justice lens and activist efforts all the more empowering, such as the Black Lives Matter protest she led in her hometown earlier this year.  She credits her accomplishments to a competitive drive and tenacity which pushes her to produce the best work possible, opens the door for new opportunities and strives for the next level in any role. She shares gratitude for this approach crediting the "incredible support I've received from those around me - where I've gotten and what I've achieved isn't about me, it's about them!" As she looks ahead, she hopes to gain more media and writing experience in the sport industry, and welcomes all opportunities in the field, specifically with basketball and the WNBA.

Wura Olusekun headshot


In 2016, as a UConn Sport Management master's student, Wura Olusekun created and established the Beyond the Field series, as we know it today. This idea was to compliment the conversations happening in the classroom and deepen the understanding of critical issues in the sport industry. As a program, we're excited to have Wura join the conversation as a panelist and share what life is like as an assistant for social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs with the National Hockey League (NHL). In this role, she is responsible for bringing attention to wonderful, heartfelt stories in the hockey community. Wura continues to be inspired by the power of sports and its impact in communities, locally and globally. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and traveling.

A Global Pandemic and College Athletics

October 21, 2020

College athletics is an American tradition that captures the collective attention of so many on college campuses and across the nation. However, the global pandemic has illuminated countless issues within college athletics thrusting them into the national spotlight. Racial inequities, player abuse, inequitable power dynamics, and concerns over health and safety have been brought to the forefront of the college athletic conversation. This panel addressed what has been happening in college athletics during the pandemic to contextualize Athletic Department decisions and players’ fight for representation.

This event was recorded thanks to the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and the Neag School of Education.

Panelists from A Global Pandemic and College Athletics Event:

Victoria Jackson headshot


Dr. Victoria Jackson is a Clinical Assistant Professor of History and affiliated faculty at the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University. Dr. Jackson’s work focuses on the 100-year history of higher education and college athletics that has landed us in the mess that we are in today. Specifically, Dr. Jackson focuses on how college professional football teams and the athletic performances of disproportionately Black football and basketball players essentially subsidize the Olympic development of many countries' national teams. She explores how (white) gender justice has been used to excuse (or ignore) racial injustice, how Black athlete labor pays for white athlete privilege at PWIs, and how big-time college sports serve as technicolor illustration of the failure of residential and educational desegregation in the United States. In addition to being a faculty member and conducting research, Dr. Jackson has written for the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Slate, Letras Libres (Mexico), Epoca (Brazil), and The Independent (UK), and frequents podcast, radio, TV, and documentary films on sport and society. Dr. Jackson is a former Division I runner and still enjoys running to this day.

Derek Silva headshot


Dr. Silva is an Assistant Professor of Criminology at King’s University College in London, Ontario. Dr. Silva’s work focuses on social issues and the interventions we employ to alleviate harm. He is also a co-host of The End of Sport podcast which focuses on a range of topics in sport including the abusive culture of gymnastics, African American swimming culture, and of course college athletics in a pandemic in addition to much more. Dr. Silva is passionate about illuminating the harm and injustice that exists and persists in the sporting world.

Derrick E. White


Dr. Derrick White is a Professor of History and African American and Africana Studies at University of Kentucky. He has previously held titles as a Visiting Associate Professor at Dartmouth College and has been recognized for several publications by the American Library Association, for his work Blood, Sweat, & Tears as an outstanding title in its genre. The Association of College and Research Libraries’ Choice Magazine also named the book to the Outstanding Academic Titles list in 2019. It was also shortlisted for the North American Society for Sport History Book Award. Dr. White has managed to transform his love of African American history and sports, into a profession.

Nyah Willis headshot


Nyah Willis is a Division I basketball player at Presbyterian College in South Carolina. The game for her began in grade three which has led to many successes and accolades. In high school she earned the Joshua Award, Female Athlete of the Year (both as a junior and senior) and excelled academically on the honor roll.  Her dedication is seen on and off the court, earning a full scholarship, more than 1,000 career points and serving as captain for Blue Hose. She continues to listen to her heart while tending to others, which is helping to frame her involvement in this conversation and beyond, as she shares, "it's just the beginning".

Black Lives Matter & Athlete Activism

September 16, 2020

This segment of Beyond the Field examined how sport is a vehicle for acknowledging racial injustice and inequity. The panel explored and connected historical protests against racial injustice in sport, with contemporary examples of athletes demonstrating against injustice in sport. The goal of this panel was to illuminate how contemporary protests have had a connection to historical protests and how disparate generations of athletic protest differ from their counterparts. The panel included athletes who have protested, speakers knowledgeable of the history of Black athlete protests, and individuals who addressed the socio-cultural and socio-political nature of athlete protests.

Panelists from the Black Lives Matter & Athlete Activism Event:

Dr. Akilah R. Carter-Francique Headshot


Dr. Carter-Francique is the Executive Director for the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society, and Social Change (ISSSSC) at San Jose State University. She is also an Associate Professor at SJSU in the Department of African American Studies. Her scholarly endeavors and field of focus encompasses the intersection of sport, society, and social justice that is inclusive of issues of diversity, social movements, and the dynamics of social change and development. Carter-Francique served as the 2018-2019 President of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS), currently serves as a member of Laureus “Sport for Good” Research Council in the U.S., and she is the co-editor of Athletic Experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Past, Present, and Persistence and Critical Race Theory: Black Athletic Experiences in the United States.


Genevieve Florig headshot


Genevieve is currently in her 5th year at University of Connecticut, pursuing her Master's in Sport Management. She plays middle blocker on the women's volleyball team. She is the founder and president of the Student-Athlete Equity Coalition, which promotes unity and collaboration to achieve transformative change within the UConn Athletics Community. This space also serves as a platform for student-athletes to be vocal and educate one another on social injustice while also leading action against discrimination.

Sport Management, B.S. ’20, M.S. ‘21
Founder & President of the Student-Athlete Equity Coalition
Women’s Volleyball player #8
University of Connecticut

Omar Fortt Headshot


Omar is a Senior at University Connecticut and is currently majoring in Urban & Community Studies with a minor in Communications. He plays Linebacker on the football team and is currently on the UConn Husky Leadership Council. He currently serves as the Vice President in UCSAEC, which promotes change in the UConn athletic community through breaking barriers of social injustices in the system and promoting a healthier and inclusive environment at UConn.

Daniel Thomas Headshot


Daniel earned his bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Maryland, College Park. He then earned his master’s degree in Education from Johns Hopkins University and spent two years as a high school teacher in Maryland before working in the academic unit of athletics for the football team at UC Berkeley. Daniel's research interests centers on historical and contemporary issues related to Black male teachers and high school student-athletes in schools. Daniel's research has been published in Race Ethnicity and Education and the Peabody Journal of Education.

Interview between Dr. Jennie McGarry and Claire SmithFebruary 11, 2019

Pioneering Journalism in Major League Baseball 

Claire Smith was at the forefront of a revolution in sports writing, a pioneer who did not knock down clubhouse doors, but righteously persisted until they opened. Ms. Smith, currently an ESPN news editor, is the first woman Major League Baseball beat writer and first woman to win the prestigious J.G. Taylor Spink Award, presented annually by National Baseball Hall of Fame. This event was part of National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Co-sponsored with The Women's Center, UConn Athletics and the African American Cultural Center.

Related readings from the discussion

Sarah Hillyer speaking in front of students in Gentry, fall 2018October 11, 2018

Women’s Empowerment through Sport

Named a 2018 Stuart Scott Sports Humanitarian Award Honoree, the Global Sports Mentorship Program (GSMP) was launched in 2012, through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State, espnW, and the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society at the University of Tennessee.

GSMP is a sport-based mentorship initiative that seeks to empower women and girls through sports. Individuals from around the world who exhibit strong leadership skills and a drive to make change are nominated by the State Department and immersed in a mentorship program with top sports leaders. These delegates foster connections with mentors and create an action plan to bring back to their home country, focused on implementing initiatives and strengthening communities through sport. GSMP has graduated 99 delegates who have gone on to impact 225,000 lives in more than 55 countries.

For the October 2018 edition of Beyond the Field was a panel that featured two GSMP delegates, Dr. Tra Giang “Jane” Nguyen (Vietnam, current class) and Aline Silva (Brazil, ‘16), as well as Dr. Sarah Hillyer, Program Director.

Learn more from GSMP's website and check out the event photos

Women in sport panelist with Sofia Read at April 25, 2018 eventApril 25, 2018

Breaking Glass: How Women Fearlessly Navigate the Sport Industry 

Mary Ellen Gillespie - Mary Ellen is Director of Athletics of the University of Hartford. Previously, Mary Ellen served as the Director of Athletics at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay for 4 years. She has also held leadership positions at Bowling Green State University, Purdue University's Schools of Nursing and Health Sciences, the North American Interfraternity Conference, the University of Iowa and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. In addition to these impressive accomplishments, she is a member of the NCAA's Division I women's basketball committee and the Division I-AAA Board of Directors.

Alaina Di Giorgio - Alaina is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts. She has held positions at the University of Tennessee and Western Illinois University. At Tennessee, she was a member in the Multicultural Mentorship program and Ad Hoc Diversity Committee. Prior to Tennessee, she founded Women Empowering (WE) to strengthen community and support for female athletes at Western Illinois University. DiGiorgio is an active member of the North American Society for the Sociology for Sport and has presented at numerous conferences on topics related to the intersection of race and gender in collegiate athletics.

Beth Goetz - Beth is currently the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Woman Administrator at the University of Connecticut. She oversees all internal departments within Athletics, serves as a key member on the Division's leadership team, and is the sport administrator for football. Beth previously served as the deputy and interim AD at Minnesota, the Associate Athletic Director and the Senior Woman Administrator at Butler, and also held several different roles at Missouri - St. Louis including women's soccer head coach, assistant athletic director, and senior woman administrator.

Watch the full recorded event

Ryan-Martin guest speaker at beyond the field series

March 28, 2018

Inclusivity vs. Accessibility: Why adaptive sports makes sense at the collegiate level

Ryan Martin is the founder of the Ryan Martin Foundation, and also spends time a consultant for the NCAA on their Inclusive Sports Model. The mission of his foundation is to help youth and adult athletes with disabilities live independent, impassioned, productive and full lives through sports training, mentoring and education. Ryan is a graduate of Southwest Minnesota State University and led SMSU to the NWBA National Title Game in 2001. After graduation, Ryan joined the Phoenix Wheelchair Suns and played in the 2005 NWBA All-Star game. In 2007, Ryan joined the professional basketball league in Europe.  He played 10 season in Spain and France. This season Ryan is playing for the New York Rolling Knicks of the NWBA.

Visit his website to learn more about the foundation and listen to the full recorded event

Ellen Staurowsky

February 14, 2018

Holding Systems Accountable: Title IX, Amateurism, and Social Justice in Sport 

Dr. Ellen Staurowsky is an internationally renowned expert on issues about social justice throughout sport. This includes the rights of college athletes, gender equity and Title IX, in conjunction with the misappropriation of American Indian symbolism. Not only is she an expert in these fields, she is also the lead author on the Women's Sports Foundation's 2015 report Her Life Depends on It III:  Sport and Physical Activity in the Lives of American Girls and Women, and the book, College Athletes for Hire: The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAA Amateur Myth.

She has also co-authored numerous reports with Executive Director of the National College Players Association, Ramogi Huma, including The $6 Billion Heist:  Robbing College Athletes Under the Guise of Amateurism. Dr. Staurowsky has made many appearances in high profile news organizations such as Forbes, Huffington Post, The New York Times and U.S. News & World Report.

Watch the Motivational Jumpstart radio interview and the full recorded event

Sofia Read, Shireen-Ahmed and Charlie Macaulay

November 8, 2017

Burn it All Down: A Conversation with Shireen Ahmed

Shireen Ahmed is a writer, public speaker and sports activist focusing on Muslim women in sports. She is an athlete, advocate, community organizer, and works with youth of colour on empowerment projects and is an avid sports coach and mentor. She is a regular contributor to Muslimah Media Watch, a Global Sports Correspondent for Safe World For Women and Works on the Muslim Women in Sports website.

Her work has been featured and discussed in Sports Illustrated, Racialicious, Policy Mic, The Globe and Mail, Jezebel, VICE Sports, Islamic Monthly, Soccer Politics/ The Politics of Football, A Football Report, Huffington Post, Football Beyond Borders, International Museum of Women, Best Health Magazine, Aquila Style, Muslim Voices, Women Talk Sports, Footynions, espnW and Edge of Sports Radio.

To learn more:

Watch the Motivational Jumpstart radio interview and the full recorded event

Sofia Read and Charlie Macaulay with Soccer without Borders guest speakerOctober 11, 2017

Playing for Change

The Soccer Without Borders mission is to use soccer as a vehicle for positive change, providing under-served youth with a toolkit to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion, and personal success. SWB is an international organization with locations across the United States as well as Kampala, Uganda and Granada, Nicaragua.  SWB Boston serves newcomer refugee, asylee, and immigrant boys and girls ages 7-16 living in East Boston and surrounding cities with an emphasis on family engagement. The SWB curriculum involves soccer, educational support, civic engagement, team building, and cultural exchange. 

This year, Soccer Without Borders was awarded the 2017 Urban Soccer Symposium Impact Award from the U.S. Soccer Foundation for using sport to enact measurable and sustainable positive change within an underserved community for at least five years.

Check out their website at:

Watch Motivational Jumpstart's radio interview and the full recorded event

Charlie Macaulay, Jennie McGarry, Sofia Read and Eli Wolf from 9/2017 Speaker Series

September 13, 2017

The Power, Potential, and Purpose of Sport

Eli Wolff is a Program Director of the Sport and Development Project at Brown University and also directs the Inclusive Sports Initiative at the Institute for Human Centered Design. His work focuses on the intersection of research, policy and practice to advance sport and human rights, development and social change.

Wolff coordinated efforts to include sport within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He has also been active in Olympism and Olympic education, as well as athlete activism. Wolff has contributed to advancing sport and development through research, policy and practice.

For more information, please visit:

Motivational Jumpstart's radio interview

Dave Zirin speaking to the Beyond the Field speaker series attendees (Photo credit, Zhelun Lang from The Daily Campus)April 27, 2017

Brazil’s Dance with the Devil; Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down; What's My Name, Fool!; The John Carlos Story
The Sports Moment That Changed the World, among others

Dave Zirin is a contributor to The Nation and SLAM Magazine where he focuses on the intersection of politics and sport.  He has published a variety of books that examine the effects of specific athletes and events in our sporting history, including John Carlos, Muhammad Ali, Ethan Thomas, and others.  His most recent book, Brazil’s Dance with the Devil, explores the effects of hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics on the culture, politics, and economy of Brazil.  

Zirin’s work focuses on the intersection of sport and politics, athlete’s roles in society, and how mega-events emphasize the extreme commodification of sport and exemplify neoliberalism in its purest form. Dave Zirin’s writing forces readers to reflect, ask questions, and change the way they think of sport. As an institution that is continuously aiming for the holistic development of students as socially and politically conscious individuals, everyone will benefit from a discussion with Dave Zirin, especially in light of the recent controversies surrounding the 2016 Olympics.

Read more about Dave's visit from The Daily Campus news article and check out Dave's Website and Twitter account

Sofia Read and Charlie Macaulay at the Beyond the Field speaker series, fall 2016April 20, 2017

Criminalized and Commodified: New Racism and African Americans in Contemporary Sports; After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness

One of the speakers who is very interested in visiting is David J. Leonard, Ph.D. Dr. Leonard is a Professor in the Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University. His work focuses on transformative teaching, interdisciplinary scholarship, and the continued significance of race in popular culture. In his book, Criminalized and Commodified: New Racism and African Americans in Contemporary Sports, David Leonard discusses the illusion of racial progress often pointed at within the athletic arena. David Leonard discusses how the modern sporting arena places athletes in a contradictory position. In After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness, Dr. Leonard discusses how the Artest, “Palace Brawl” ushered in a new era of racialized disciplinary actions and policies governing the actions of basketball players.

Dr. Leonard’s interest and expertise has the potential to reach a wide audience of students, faculty, and staff and the University of Connecticut. This is a school with highly successful intercollegiate athletic teams. Our Sport Management Department is focused on using sport as a platform for education and social justice. And there are several campus organizations which directly or indirectly discuss these issues. All these reasons make the University of Connecticut an ideal host for a conversation with David Leonard, athletics, and racial politics.  

The Motivational Jumpstart radio interview

Advertisement for Jessica Luther conversation on College Football and the Politics of Rape

March 20, 2017

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics or Rape; Frequent contributor to ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Freelance Journalist

Jessica Luther is a freelance writer and journalist who primarily focuses on sports violence off the field as well as college football and sexual assault. Jessica is also a member of the Texas Program in Sports and Media at the University of Texas and the Association for Women in Sports Media. She has recently published, Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape. The book covers the vast number of sexual assault cases directly related to athletic departments on college campuses across the United States.

Luther’s continued work on and activism against sexualized violence is an important conversation that needs to be taking place here at the University of Connecticut. While Luther has primarily focused on sexualized violence within the athletic world, the knowledge she possesses regarding this subject matter allows her to delve into the intricacies of this complex issue that is prevalent throughout college campuses and our society.  

Watch Motivational Jumpstart's radio interview and visit Jessica Luther's Website and Twitter account

Neil deMause at the Beyond the Field speaker series in 2016

November 4, 2016

Field of Schemes; How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit

Neil deMause is a regular contributor to Vice Sports, Extra!, the Village Voice, and City Limits, among other publications. He has appeared on television several times as well as testified before congress regarding the public funding of athletic arenas and sports venues. In, Field of Schemes; How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit, deMause discusses how wealthy owners, zealous politicians, and fearful fans manipulate and are duped into the financing of large, expensive stadiums and arenas.

DeMause’s expertise has been highlighted before Congress when testifying on the issue of public funding for stadiums and arenas. The knowledge deMause possesses on this issue and specifically the state of Connecticut’s own soiree with publicly funding several stadiums will be intriguing for all active and engaged citizens. The political arena is not immune to the athletic world and vice versa. It is important to understand the complex political posturing that takes place to complete these complex deals.

Motivational Jumpstart's radio interview


Sarah F. Fields speaking to Beyond the Field Series Attendees

October 4, 2016

Game Faces: Sports Celebrity and the Laws of Reputation, and Female Gladiators: Gender, Law, and Contact Sport in America

Sarah Fields is an Associate Professor and Acting Associate Dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado, Denver Campus. Sarah Fields’ work is primarily focused on the intersection of gender, race, sexuality and law as it pertains to athletes and sports personalities. She has recently published, Game Faces: Sports Celebrity and the Laws of Reputation, which examines how high profile athletes fought against, what they believed to be, violations of their privacy and image.

A unique examination of sports celebrity is a vitally important conversation as we continue to hurdle into technologies of the 21st century. Many of us, if not all, have a computer in our hands with capabilities of capturing and sharing our mundane to most intimate moments.  It is important to be engaging in a conversation around what athletes and sport celebrities have done to ensure their privacy while providing a distinguished perspective on this issue.

Read more about Sarah's discussion at UConn and listen to a recent radio interview by Motivational Jumpstart