Passionate Pursuit to Enhance Student-Athlete Experience
By Randy York, The N-Sider
When Biological Sciences major Austin Post learned that he had been voted president of Nebraska's 2017-18 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), the Husker cross country/track & field letter-winner reached an immediate conclusion.
“Now that I have a lot more responsibility for the coming year, I need to follow through with what I mentioned in my speech,” Post said. “This opportunity is extremely important to help improve the student-athlete experience because it offers a new perspective on vital aspects of what exactly defines the student-athlete experience and gives us the opportunity to act on those key aspects with a new SACC leadership team."
SAAC's top priority in the next 12 months is to “change current and create new policies and guidelines that will heighton the student-athlete experience and build a stronger relationship with the athletic department staff,” Post said.
“I believe one of the most important parts of the experience for all student-athletes is often overlooked – the relationship built with athletic department staff members,” Post said. “That will be a key emphasis for the coming year.”
Priorities Include Nutrition Stations, Sports Psychology, More Husker Bucks
Post also envisions specific changes and new policies that can enhance the student-athlete experience highlighted in his speech – extended hours at nutrition stations in the Hawks Championship Center and the Bob Devaney Sports Center, increased sports psychology services and expanded “Husker Bucks” options that fill the Training Table void on weekends.
“The coolest thing about SAAC is that it allows student-athletes to have a voice in what influences their experience here,” Post told me. “SAAC has become a vital piece of my experience at Nebraska and it happened purely out of chance.”
At the end of his freshman year, the SAAC representative for cross country decided to transfer schools. “He asked me to fill his shoes the following year as the representative for our team,” Post said. “I had no intentions of joining SAAC, but figured it couldn't hurt to get involved.”
Fast forward two years later. “I now realize how thankful I am that I chose to represent my team in SAAC," Post said. “That decision has turned into one of the most important and rewarding experiences in my life, and I know I will continue to grow during the next 12 months.”
Iowa Native, Soccer Midfielder Alli Peterson Voted Vice President for SAAC
Nebraska senior Alli Peterson (No. 22 above), is an Iowa City, Iowa, native, who was “very excited and honored” that fellow student-athletes voted her to serve as SAAC's vice president. “It gives me confidence knowing that they believe in my abilities and trust that I can be a good representative for their voices,” Peterson told me.
“This opportunity is one I've been hoping to achieve since I joined SAAC more than two years ago,” Peterson said. “I've been an active member of SAAC and have had such a great experience as a Nebraska student-athlete. I have a lot to offer to this position to help move SAAC forward and grow.”
Even though the organization has made major strides to enhance the student-athlete experience, “I think there's still room for improvement,” said Peterson, a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner, Academic All-Big Ten, plus a Sam Foltz Hero 27 Leadership Award winner and Tom Osborne Citizenship Award winner.
“I will continue to work closely with student-athletes and staff to continue on the path to help guarantee that all student-athletes don't just have a good experience here, but have a great experience,” Peterson said. “The coolest thing about SAAC is seeing our thoughts and ideas turned into actions and results. We truly are a voice for the student-athletes, and we have the ability to implement change within our athletic department as well as across the Big Ten.
“SAAC is near and dear to my heart for many reasons, but the main one is giving back to the place that has already given me so much. The University of Nebraska has the best college experience, and I would make the same choice any and every time, again and again.”
Serbian Sophomore Nebraska's 2017-18 Big Ten Conference Representative
Nina Radulovic (above) was "genuinely surprised" with how many people approached her to share their words of support after she became Nebraska's 2017-18 Big Ten Conference representative. "Everyone was excited," said Radulovic, a Belgrade, Serbia, native and sophomore Air Rifle and Smallbore specialist on Nebraska's nationally prominent Rifle Team.
"Representing SAAC in the best possible light holds a high value for all of us," Radulovic said. "Being a Big Ten rep requires understanding politics on large and small scales when it comes to athletic organizations. The importance is in the integration of the needs of student-athletes and good communication in the larger scheme of conferences and collegiate associations.
"My top priority for the next 12 months will be to make the system even more transparent than it already is," Radulovic said. "We see the influence our conference has on our school every day. In order for the relationship to be successfully reciprocal, I would like to see even more effort from our subcommittees about potential improvements."
The More Student-Athletes Know about Changes, the More They Will Step Up
Radulovic believes all SAAC representatives hold leadership positions "and I'm certain they will help me get as much information from their respective teams," she said. "The more every student-athlete knows about changes and legislation, the more they will step up with ideas and solutions to improve the well-being of every student-athlete. Our goal is to lead by example. When we show the Big Ten the level of engagement and passion our student-athletes have in academics, in athletics and in the community, we hope to see similar things across our conference and throughout the nation."
A psychology/political science major, Radulovic believes "we are never just students and never just athletes. We're the combination of both," she said. "In my opinion, we can have an impact when we empower diverse communities. I'm an international student participating in a minority co-ed sport not sponsored by the Big Ten. But we're in a unique position to incorporate different perspectives on sport and understand how valuable each athlete's opinion is, regardless of the sport they compete in."
The platform is "compatible with everyone so that anyone can succeed," Radulovic said. "The coolest thing about SAAC is getting to experience how unity and diversity work as one. Every student-athlete can enjoy the benefits of this university as well as contribute by giving different opinions. That's what makes the experience so rewarding."
As 2017 SAAC Secretary, Madi Unzicker Makes Sure All Bases Are Covered
All four officers for Nebraska's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee are important, but let the record show that Madi Unzicker (above) is a junior pre-med, biology, psychology major, who has all the bases covered for the 2017-18 SAAC team. In her third year with the organization, Unzicker is "ready to be more involved" and eager not only to "collect the general correspondence of the group" but also "involve myself extrensively in the community."
The secretary is responsible for taking minutes at meetings. Unzicker organizes all notes and integrates everyone's ideas, so they can be easily attainable for all involved. She is well aware that a secretary needs to be established, organized, sociable and a hard-working person who will perform tasks to the fullest and help officers whenever needed.
Right Person to Represent Team, Madi Taking Her Position Very Seriously
Unzicker's teammates in both softball and SAAC know and understand why she fits those qualifications and why she's excited to serve others. "I'm taking this position very seriously and it means a lot to me that I was voted upon by my peers and that they, too, believe I'm the right person to represent them," she told me.
"We want to involve ourselves on campus and blend the other students together to get rid of the stigma of athletes," she said. "To me, the coolest thing about SAAC is that athletes from all walks of life and all different sports can come together and work as one big team."
Nebraska's overarching goal is to "make a difference in this world, make Nebraska a better place and make it easier for others to realize just how great and fortunate we are," Madi said. "It makes my day to see little kids or my elders get so excited by the fact that a Nebraska athlete is just taking the time to talk and listen to them. This truly is one of the reasons why SAAC means so much to me and why I wanted to be on the exec team to make things like this happen."
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