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Sports and Society Initiative

The Sports and Society Initiative builds on activities from the 2018-2019 academic year with the goal of providing a framework to further campus engagement in investigating how sports impact our society and vice versa. In support of this initiative, seven faculty were awarded micro-grants in July 2018. Funds supported: bringing eight speakers to campus, engaging over 150 students, faculty and staff; the purchase of source material, research equipment and software; the development and enrichment of undergraduate courses; and the enhancement of internal and external collaborations.

This effort will continue the momentum by mobilizing those who have already expressed interest and expertise and will help further develop a community of scholars at Vanderbilt.

History of the Sports and Society Initiative

As sports continues to serve as an important venue for spotlighting societal issues, Vanderbilt University has established a new initiative exploring the intersection of sports, race, gender and culture in society.

The Sports and Society initiative supports the university’s overall mission of discovery and teaching and its focus on trans-institutional initiatives. An initial emphasis is placed on activism by using sports as a vehicle for change.

“Few activities capture popular attention like sports, where our society’s greatest successes and deepest failures play out,” said Vanderbilt Chancellor Emeritus Nicholas S. Zeppos. “The stories of Vanderbilt pioneers like Perry Wallace and Godfrey Dillard underscore this, and truly showcase the role that universities—for better and for worse—play in the fight for equality,” Zeppos said.

The initiative’s first public event took place in Washington, D.C., with a panel discussion on the intersection of activism, race and sports moderated by David Williams, former vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director.

“That event is an example of the types of programming that the initiative will sponsor to elevate awareness and understanding and promote progress. The world of sports provides a unique platform from which to study many of the most timely and important issues in American culture,” Williams said.