Dr. Yannick Kluch, Assistant Professor of Sports Communication & Media and Lead Faculty Consultant for Sport & Social Impact, Center for Sports Communication & Social Impact


Tell us about yourself:

I am a scholar-practitioner with primary research interests in equity, diversity, and inclusion issues in U.S. and global sport. I look at socio-cultural aspects of sport and physical activity with a focus on how sport can be utilized as a platform to communicate and develop holistic identities, advance diversity and inclusion, as well as promote equity and social justice. More specifically, my research is focused on four intersecting lines of inquiry: 1) activism, sport, and social change, 2) inclusive excellence in (intercollegiate) athletics, 3) identity construction in/through sport, and 4) critical pedagogies in academic sports curricula. This semester, I am working on four major projects. I am currently wrapping up the data analysis stage for a qualitative interview study on the experiences of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) professionals in college athletics with Dr. Raquel Wright-Mair in the Department of Educational Services and Leadership as well as colleagues at Ball State University and the University of Louisville. With more DEI positions being created in athletics departments across the country, we are identifying barriers to effective DEI work across all three NCAA divisions and share high-impact practices for such work. Second, I am working with colleagues at Boise State University and the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) on a series of studies focused on college athlete activism. We just published a piece from that research and are working on two follow up studies to get a better understanding of how athletes in college can be empowered to use their voice and platform for social justice. I am also working on a manuscript focused on barriers to college athlete activism at the NCAA Division I level specifically. Third, I joined forces with a colleague at Temple University to conduct a mixed-methods study to better understand the experiences and needs of underrepresented and minoritized students in sport management and sports communication programs. Fourth and finally, I am wrapping up a project focused on the representation of high school athletes on TV generally and teen drama series specifically. The project looks at how such series produce identity scripts for young athletes that are rooted in masculinity by analyzing TV shows such as Friday Night Lights and All American.

What made you want to undertake this work?

Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of my work as a teacher, scholar, and consultant. Growing up outside of the U.S. (in Germany), I have always been amazed with how powerful the platform of sport is in American society. Sport has a huge potential to drive social change! My work is driven by a desire to make sport more inclusive and increase diversity in the sport classroom and leadership ranks of the sport industry. Looking at college sport specifically, the most powerful positions remain to be dominated by white men. The industry does not reflect the diversity of athletes competing in college sport, and it is the goal of my work to change that. The lack of diversity in the sport leadership ranks is often reflected in sport classrooms. I am fortunate that I still get to serve as a consultant for sports organizations on issues related to DEI through my work in the Center for Sports Communication & Social Impact. Over the past year, I have worked with the Office of Inclusion at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), USA Diving, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), and countless athletic departments across the country on driving strategic DEI action. I don’t view my work as a consultant as separate from my work as a researcher and teacher; rather, those three areas inform each other in meaningful ways so that I can do my part in making sport more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

Why would our students at Rowan University be interested in this work?

Our students at Rowan generally understand that sport can be a powerful tool for promoting positive social change and I want to empower them as much as I can to be change agents for social justice as they launch their careers in sport or other fields they are passionate about! I am fortunate that Rowan students have developed great interest in my work, and I have been able to take Rowan students to conferences focused on DEI in sport. In addition, I often purposefully incorporate my research and consulting projects into the classroom. For example, this past spring students in my Introduction to Sports Communication course (soon to be renamed to Sports Communication, Culture & Identity) developed themes for the 2020 NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Social Media Campaign – a national campaign run by one of the biggest sport organizations in the country. We shared our theme suggestions with staff at the NCAA Office of Inclusion and they selected three of the themes we suggested for the campaign! This summer, I directed a group of student interns in the Center for Sports Communication & Social Impact to create a website for the 2020 campaign. Check out a write-up about the internship here. For the first time this fall, I am offering internships specifically focused on research and social impact initiatives in the Center for Sports Communication & Social Impact. I am working with five talented student interns from the Sports Communication & Media program on projects ranging from research on mental health in college athletics and female sports broadcasters to creating resources for the over 1,100 NCAA member institutions and conferences focused on student-athlete activism.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your work?

Speaking of our students, I want to give a shoutout to the student leaders behind the We Are One Team (WA1T) initiative at Rowan for which I am the faculty advisor! WA1T is an initiative we are launching this fall focused on using sport to promote diversity and inclusion at Rowan and beyond. I have worked with Rowan student leaders over the past year to get ready to launch, and we are having meetings on a biweekly basis this semester to get more students involved. We meet (virtually) every other Wednesday from 7-8 PM starting September 30. Any student passionate about diversity and inclusion and/or sport is welcome to join our group! Please email WA1T President Thomas Cardona (cardon25@students.rowan.edu) to join. I have made some great memories with WA1T at my previous institution, and I cannot wait to share equally impactful ones with our students here at Rowan!

Read more about Dr. Yannick Kluch’s appointment to Team USA Inaugural Council on Racial and Social Justice here: https://today.rowan.edu/news/2020/09/rowan-prof-appointed-to-team-usas-inaugural-council-on-racial-and-social-justice.html

Sports CaM students Kayla Satiago, Thomas Cardona, Nasir Nichols, Rebecca Sulzbach, and alum Morgan Rutt with Sports CaM professors Kate Harman (far left) and Yannick Kluch (far right) at the 2020 Women in Sport conference hosted by Drexel University.

Dr. Kluch (right) with (from left to right) Rowan alums Alexandria Brooks and Austin Jones and Sports CaM students Kayla Santiago and Thomas Cardona at the 2019 NCAA Inclusion Forum in Atlanta. Brooks, Jones, Santiago, and Cardona have served in leadership positions for the launch of WA1T at Rowan.

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