The CIAA has been trailblazing athletic diversity and inclusivity, treating it as important as the sports they administrate.

Their goal is simple: educate and provide resources for the schools to learn how to become more inclusive leaders.

Look no further than Diversity & Inclusion Consultant, Nevin Caple who assists in guiding that mission.

“HBCU’s were founded on racial discrimination so implementing strategies to navigate racism are ingrained in our DNA,” said Caple, “whereas more stigmatized conversations on mental health and LGBTQ inclusion aren’t happening at the same rate.”

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Conversations about mental health through the lens of inclusivity are currently at an apex. As a result, Caple’s diversity training is timely and more relevant than ever.

“I’m intentional to talk about the work of growth instead of the language of fixing and changing – so I don’t enter an institution to change personal values or beliefs.

“Instead, I focus on helping leaders understand how their behaviors are impacting the young people around them. There is trust on the part of well-intentioned coaches and administrators that we are further along with these conversations than we are.”

As a former student-athlete that is a member of the LGBTQ community, Caple understands her audience’s vantage point.

“Starting the conversation is still the biggest challenge at most of the 200+ college campuses I have visited, not just HBCUs.

“There is still lots of work to do but I’m encouraged by the well-intentioned CIAA and HBCU presidents, administrators, and coaches who are actively seeking education, learning the language and identifying resources to be more inclusive leaders.”

The “C” Stands For “Community”

As the nation’s first and longest-running African American athletic conference, the CIAA is keeping its lineage of leadership. This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the storied CIAA Basketball Tournament and community is the focus.

This year, the CIAA Diversity Committee is hosting the CIAA Diversity and Inclusion VIP Reception and Panel Discussion. The theme is “Creating a Culture of Belonging” in celebration of the 75th Anniversary.

A diversity and inclusion education session will be held for the student leaders who attend the Student-Athlete Empowerment Program.

During tournament games, inclusion videos will be played. This is just a part of a larger community-based programming schedule across all age ranges.

In addition, more than 6,000 middle and high school youth attend CIAA Education Day.

Middle school kids gather on Tuesday, February 25 at Ovens Auditorium for a STEM program. Additionally, their high school counterparts meet with college recruiters and get tips on the collegiate experience on Wednesday, February 25 at the Charlotte Convention Center.

On Thursday, February 27th of tournament week, the CIAA Minority and Business Leadership Symposium are held. The event provides comprehensive programming designed to stimulate economic and intellectual growth and development of minority business professionals.

“Whether you are a student at one of our high-achieving CIAA schools or an adult outside of the academic world, there’s always time, and a need, for continued education,” said CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams. “The Symposium allows us to help business owners and other leaders become better versions of themselves through ongoing teaching and networking. You are never too old to learn.”

There is also an invitation-only CIAA Women’s Empowerment Brunch. Later in the day, a Diversity and Inclusion Town Hall Forum will cement the robust activities.

CIAA For Life

However, this is not the beginning but a continuation of the CIAA and Caple’s diversity initiatives. From 2015 to 2016, she executed “The LGBTQ Outreach Tour”. Caple visited 7 HBCU institutions and athletic conferences marking the first time HBCU athletic departments opened the doors to receive sport-specific LGBTQ inclusion training for coaches and administrators.

That Tour led to her work with the CIAA.

“Most of us know or love someone who identifies as LGBTQ. The experience is personalized for more than just LGBTQ people. Straight people are speaking out in support of their LGBTQ loved ones creating a culture of belonging.”

With Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams at the helm, CIAA tournament week is bigger than sports. It’s a vehicle of comprehensive enrichment for its member institutions and the world at large.

“We take our saying ‘CIAA For Life’ quite literally,” said CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams. “We celebrate the accomplishments of our student-athletes at the tournament but we also know that our role is to provide multiple paths to success beyond the court for them, our fans and our alumni. Tournament week is a time for us to enrich the lives of everyone in the CIAA community.”