When I was first selected to represent SMU at the 2023 AAC Academic Symposium, I didn’t really know what to expect.
Don’t get me wrong, it was an honor to be chosen, but I just wasn’t really sure what it would all entail.
The more I learned, however, the more intrigued I became.
I was eager to dive deeper into the featured topics on the agenda, including mental health, inclusion, and the empowerment of student-athletes.
It’s not every day that you have the chance to sit down and discuss issues like that. So, as the event approached, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to be a part of it.
The symposium was established in 2016 to promote academic excellence and to establish collaboration among students, faculty, and support personnel.
In theory, this all sounded interesting.
But I just kind of pictured us all sitting around and chatting about certain topics here and there.
Turns out, it was far different than I ever could have imagined.
In the best possible way.
We got to hear from some amazing speakers who presented research findings related to hot topics affecting student-athletes in today’s society.
Not only did we learn a ton from these sessions, we also got to ask questions, share our thoughts, and have insightful discussions about how we could integrate some of those findings and resources back on our own campuses.
It was all about making a difference, you know?
And I loved that.
It was just awesome to have a voice in those important conversations.
As a student-athlete, you don’t get to share the room with administrators, athletes, and executives from other AAC schools a lot.
So, just being able to be a part of that was an incredible experience in and of itself.
Within our discussion forums, research presentations, and social outings, I was able to meet some pretty awesome people.
I love SMU and my peers and coaches here, but getting to share experiences with athletes from other schools, for example, was really beneficial.
Usually, you just compete against one another and maybe exchange a few words before or after a game.
But to really sit down, exchange ideas, and discuss how to empower our fellow student-athletes, well, that left a lasting impression.
I met athletes from Tulane, Temple, Memphis, and various other schools around the AAC. Not just fellow basketball players like myself, either, but from across many different sports.
I’m extremely thankful to SMU and my academic advisor for nominating me to attend and allowing me the chance to meet these incredible people.
After spending the entirety of my freshman season sidelined due to injury, this was such a positive experience to keep pushing me forward here at SMU.
I am hopeful that I can bring back all that I have learned and make a positive impact on the community here in Dallas.
One of the major topics discussed during the symposium was mental health.
In recent years, with everything going on in the world, it has continued to remain a concern for all students, athletes included.
It was comforting to learn about the incredible resources that exist for all of us, not only at SMU, but in and around the conference as a whole.
I hope to spread that word to others and ensure that they are aware of all of the helpful things available to them.
Another topic that we discussed that is very near and dear to my heart is the persona that athletes, especially athletes of color, feel they need to fit into.
It can be hard.
Especially if you feel like you don’t fit in.
At the symposium, they challenged us to get outside of our comfort zones and interact with all students in and around our respective campuses.
We tend to just associate with those who share common interests, come from similar backgrounds, and pursue the same activities.
We often hang out with our teammates or other athletes only.
And obviously, there is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes, we need to branch out more.
Part of what I hope to bring back to the campus of SMU after attending the symposium is to challenge our student-athletes to live outside of their comfort zone when it comes to peer interactions.
There is so much power in learning from others’ experiences, and there is no one category that any of us have to fit into.
This coming school year, I will be a member of our BSAC and SAAC organizations, too, and I hope to take all that I have learned and turn it into positive action to make a difference here at SMU.