June 21, 2012
After reviewing numerous outstanding applications for the 2011-2012 Division I National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Award of Excellence, the committee has chosen Rice University to receive this year's award. Their accomplishments on paper are a shining representation of SAAC's commitment to enhancing the student-athlete experience. Furthermore, after interviewing the committee's officers, it is evident that their spirit and desire to make a difference as leaders within their athletic department is what propelled their SAAC to have so much success this year.
SAAC President Andie Obermeyer, soccer student-athlete entering her senior year, said the committee aimed to "bridge the gap" that commonly exists between student-athletes and traditional students on campus. They planned every event with this mission in mind while aiming to consistently serve as "the voice of all student-athletes."
Vice President Andrew Murphy, baseball student-athlete, said, "we went a little bit further than we have in the past of reaching out." Rice's SAAC accomplished this by pushing student-athletes to get more involved across campus. In addition, they tailored more of their SAAC-sponsored events toward the general student population to chip away at the unspoken barrier between the students.
SAAC was able to initiate several changes on campus to benefit both student and student-athlete alike. Dining hall service hours were extended to allow greater access by all of the Rice student body. They fostered a working relationship with the Rice Student Senate to put on a talent show that showcased athletes and other Rice students together, which was unlike any event they had done before. As Halsey Fowler, an upcoming fifth-year senior track and cross country team member and a co-vice president of SAAC said, this year they "realized how much support we have across campus," which was an integral key to their success.
Rice's SAAC also planned several events focused on student-athletes, such as a redesigned `Welcome Back Barbecue' that they changed to a pool party. This was a well-received change that earned overwhelming praise and attendance.
They also increased their involvement in the community. The Owls took several student-athletes to volunteer at a Houston school for disadvantaged children, where they played basketball, talked with the kids and watched a school holiday play of two fifth grade classes.
After interviewing a portion of Rice's SAAC leadership -- Andie Obermeyer, Andrew Murphy, Halsey Fowler and Bryan Blair, their advisor, it was made evident that their teamwork and dedication to making a change is the reason for their remarkable results. Each individual touched on the trust they had in one another and their success in working together to make change a reality. Halsey emphasized the great work of their President and advisor; "Andie and Bryan saw a road block and kept working through it, and working for all of these great things that we wanted." It was apparent that a high level of respect is held between the leadership team, and this tone was key to their success.
Although they saw great success, Andie said their work this year was "a great stepping stone, but we have a lot of work to do, you can't change culture in a year." With their entire leadership team returning for the 2012-2013 year, it looks like they will be able to extend their success on the road they have paved.
By creating a permanent student-athlete position within the Student Senate and increasing their role in helping athletic administrators understand the student voice, SAAC has no plans of slowing down on the opportunities that will come their way. The three eager SAAC officers and their advisor will undoubtedly use their success from this year to propel them into more accomplishments in the future.
Congratulations to the Rice University SAAC for being this years NCAA Division I National SAAC Award of Excellence recipient.