Jennifer Hunter began her role as the University’s first ever associate director of athletics for diversity and inclusion initiatives Aug. 30. Prior to her arrival at Brown, Hunter worked in similar positions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California at Berkeley.
“She brings a great track record of expertise and experience,” wrote Eric Estes, vice president for campus life and student services, in an email to The Herald. Estes, who co-chaired the search committee for Hunter’s position, added that Hunter has worked “on inclusion efforts at the big picture, strategic visioning and planning level, and with people, especially coaches and student-athletes.”
When President Christina Paxson P’19 and Estes “approached us about wanting to add this position to athletics, we were thrilled,” said Jack Hayes, director of athletics. “We are appreciative that we had the opportunity to bring (Hunter) to this position.”
Hunter plans to assess the University’s current environment and evaluate the athletic department’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, she said. From there, she would be able to identify specific areas that she could help improve.
One of Hunter’s main goals is to ensure the full integration of student athletes with the student body. “Are students athletes heavily involved in campus life? How can we get students on campus … more involved with students athletes and their endeavors too?” she said.
“The students at Brown have so many things they’re interested in, and there’s an (unbelievably) wide range of passions here,” said Patrick Laughlin, coach of the men’s soccer team. Hunter said that co-hosting events with other campus organizations could help bring student athletes closer to the broader student population.
Campus Life noted that it has sponsored events to “bring athletes and non-athletes together” in its 2017 Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.
Hunter said she also wants to create spaces where people can ask difficult questions and be vulnerable about their experiences.
Hunter emphasized the importance of diversifying candidate pools for hiring staff. “Representation is important, and we just want to make sure we are working to diversify our own staff,” she said. “Students of color, women, LGBTQ students always need representation.”
She also intends to connect with student athletes and alums to understand what new programming and initiatives should be introduced.
Hunter’s love for education and her hopes for the future made her feel comfortable at the University, she said. “It’s just an amazing opportunity to do what I love and to be in an environment that’s just so academically enriching,” she added.
“As soon as I stepped on campus, … everyone at Brown made me feel like I was at home. People were very honest and direct,” Hunter said. “I could tell from the students and staff that there is an ideology of wanting things to be better for everybody.”