Student athlete led group aims for inclusion at UND

Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 10:42 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Over the last several months conversations have been taking place surrounding social justice across the world.

“I have a lot of friends who are people of color, minorities, and I kind of saw the things they were going through on campus just being dropped in here, because Grand Forks, it’s not a particularly diverse area and I just wanted to help them and help make experiences for other people coming better,” Katie Bierstedt said.

Bierstedt is one of the original members of SAID, the Student Athlete Inclusion and Diversity committee.

The group started in 2019 to create a dialogue for all student-athletes from all different backgrounds coming to the University of North Dakota to feel welcomed, included, and heard.

Bierstedt, a junior on the Fighting Hawks softball team, is serving as an ambassador for the second year, said she wants to continue to build on the momentum created in year one.

“I think it’s a really awesome group and I think we can have a huge impact on our campus, in our state, and honestly we want to have an impact nationally as well.”

Tyler Burmeister serves as an adviser to the group, which has 16 student-athlete ambassadors ranging from first-year students to seniors and all of UND’s athletic programs.

“We wanted it to be a student focused, student driven group so we relied heavily on creating a welcoming and safe space for our student athletes to voice their opinions and be able to talk about to topics of diversity, inclusion, and equity and really that’s where the beginning stages happened,” Burmeister said.

The group also helps each student-athlete understand as someone who represents the university on the playing field they also have a platform they can use to promote inclusion and equity.

Some share personal experiences, like Jacob Odom, a junior on the UND Football team.

“Being a person of color presented certain issues. So, I mean, growing up I faced a lot of racial prejudices, a lot of challenges from growing up just being a black male and a lot of the trauma that you go through being black and having certain encounters with other people.”

Odom says he’s taking the topics from SAID to the rest of the team and the coaches. Who have been making a point to have conversations surrounding social justice and racial prejudice as the team meets virtually during the pandemic.

“Being able to know that my school is already trying to strive towards making a difference and really embrace the diversity we have on campus and include more people. Obviously that was a good thing to know that it was already in place and all I had to do was just join.”

With the death of George Floyd in May and the social injustice highlighted nationally and globally, this year’s group has extra motivation to turn their dialogue into action.

Recently the group has set a goal to make sure every student athlete on campus is registered to vote, and continuing to use their platform to promote the goals of the group.

“Really the hope is that we’ll always have constant dialogue and constant learning. The push will be to always stay up to date, always be prevalent, always really checking in on our teams and their teammates,” Burmeister said.

“So we want them to really be the catalyst and be the voice of not only their team’s but also be the voice for our campus as well.”

To learn more about SAID and see the list of Student Ambassadors for the 2020-21 school year click here.

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