UofL Expands S.O.A.R.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – University of Louisville Athletics has been active with a series of sustained initiatives that focuses on diversity, inclusion, social responsibility and ending systemic racism.

In recent months, the department has dedicated time each week to listen and learn with student-athletes and staff members while identifying personal action steps to continue to expand initiatives to enhance a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion that is focused on making sustainable changes to our community, state and nation.

“Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion are highlighted in our departmental goals and values statements,” said UofL Vice-President/Director of Athletics Vince Tyra.  “We are creating change.”

The 2020-21 academic year affords the department a unique opportunity surrounding the social unrest nationally and within the city to institute change with the valued input and guidance from student-athletes, coaches and staff.

The department has participated in multiple sessions facilitated by staff members and student-athletes, as well as campus and community partners, to educate and support the needs of the department.  Those sessions led to the creation of the Cardinals S.O.A.R. (Strategically Organizing Against Racism) Committee.

The committee will work to provide educational opportunities and resources to enhance knowledge and empower action; create brave and safe spaces to build and sustain a supportive anti-racist community; and implement initiatives to assist and serve underrepresented and historically marginalized groups.

The 14-member committee is chaired by Kristia Worthy, UofL Athletics’ Director of Talent Development and consists of members of various departments within the UofL athletic department.

“I’m looking forward to the continued progress of the Athletic Department,” Worthy said. “By focusing on strategic initiatives, student-athlete and staff engagement, community partnerships, and hiring and retention practices, we will create lasting change that shows our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. This will require us to continue having courageous conversations, to embrace vulnerability, hold each other accountable, and develop our leadership skills that will equip us to make a difference.”

The athletic department will continue to listen and consider the ideas, thoughts, and opinions of its student-athletes, coaches, and staff to assist the Cardinals’ athletic department in creating and implementing a culture and action plan that further strengthens and expands the department’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives already in place.

While SOAR is a recent initiative, the Cardinals have remained committed to diversity, equity and inclusion.  Two years ago in establishing its departmental five-year goals and core beliefs that drive the Cardinals’ daily actions, UofL Athletics included “we have made an intentional effort to foster the improvement of diversity, equity and inclusion within the department” among its top five goals.

Within the athletic department’s core beliefs is “We Win Together – We celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion as essential cornerstones of a successful team.  Through trust and respect, we value each other’s ideas, background and contributions that drive organizational success for our athletics department and university.”

In addition, senior athletics leadership are working closely on the President’s university-wide Cardinal Anti-Racist Agenda workgroups, involving students, faculty, staff and administrators.

Marvin Mitchell, UofL’s Senior Associate Athletic Director of Student Services and Diversity, is an active member of the ACC’s Committee for Racial and Social Justice.  Operating under the moniker of “CORE” – Champions of Racial Equity – the committee’s vision is to lead in college athletics by promoting and instilling racial and social justice, and equity for all.

A list of initiatives accomplished in recent months are included below.


  • June 11th- S.C.O.R.E. meeting for Black student-athletes (SCORE is Student-Athletes of Color Combining Opportunity & Responsibility for Excellence)
  • June 15th- Listen & Learn with Black Coaches and Staff
  • June 16th- Listen & Learn with Coaching Staff
  • June 17th- Listen & Learn with Non-coaching Staff
  • June 24th- Listen & Learn with Marian Vasser, UofL Executive Director of Diversity and Equity
  • June 29th- Student-Athlete Town Hall (coaches and staff invited)


  • July 8th- Listen & Learn with Dr. Vanessa Shannon on Allyship
  • July 16th- Listen & Learn with the Institute for Sport & Social Justice on Building Community and Trust
  • Week of July 20th- Listen & Learn with Dr. Cherie Dawson-Edwards (Chair of Criminal Justice Department) on an analysis of the criminal justice system
  • Week of July 27th- Listen & Learn with Kristia Worthy with conversations about race
  • Cardinals S.O.A.R. (Strategically Organizing Against Racism) Committee created


  • Week of August 3rd- Listen & Learn with Kristia Worthy on the danger of a single story
  • Week of August 10th- Listen & Learn with Ashleigh Hazley (Assistant Director of the Muhammad Ali Institute) and Taylor U’Sellis (Assistant Director of Adult & Transfer Services) on the authentic vs. performative allyship
  • New Student-Athlete Orientation – a workshop on the athletic department’s core beliefs, diversity and inclusion, and being an ally was presented to all incoming student-athletes.
  • Book Club Launch – books selected include  “How to be an Anti-Racist” by Ibram X. Kendi and “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo – biweekly meetings for the 24 coach and staff participants commence Sept. 7.
  • Employee Resource Groups — a Black Coaches and Staff Employee Resource was created, with the first meeting occurring in September.
  • Week of August 24th — Listen & Learn with Dr. Pat Ivey, Dr. Vanessa Shannon, and Matt Summers on COVID-19 updates.


  • Student-Athlete Town Hall – a second session with student-athletes, coaches, and administrators
  • DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Training on Implicit Bias
  • Racial climate survey will be distributed to student-athletes, coaches, and administrators
  • Voter registration education and drive

Listen & Learn Days occur biweekly on Tuesday afternoons.

Movie/Book Discussions occur biweekly with discussions on movies, documentaries, and books.

Cardinals S.O.A.R. Committee
Jimmy Dorneman, Associate Athletic Trainer
Marc Ellis, Assistant Director of Development and Major Gifts
Zach Farrel, Assistant Director of Sports Performance
Dr. Matthew Frakes, Sports Dietitian
Weston Ijames, Athletics Business Manager
Caroline Jeffers, Associate Director of Compliance
Adrienne Johnson, Executive Director of Player Relations for Women’s Basketball
Chris May, Director of Academic Services
Alyssa Murphy, Director of Student-Athlete Leadership & Development
Justin Ruffin, Assistant AD of Academic Services
Lauren Rust, Assistant AD of Compliance
Dr. Vanessa Shannon, Director of Mental Health Performance
Dr. Thomas Strause, Associate Director of Academic Services
Kristia Worthy, Director of Talent Development (chair)
Senior Administration
Josh Heird, Deputy Athletic Director
Christine Herring, Senior Woman Administrator/Associate AD
Pat Ivey, Associate AD for Student-Athlete Health & Performance
Marvin Mitchell, Senior Associate AD of Student Services & Diversity
Vince Tyra, Director of Athletics

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