Associate Athletic Director Maureen "Mo" Rohleder recently planned and attended the first-ever Women’s Athletic Summit of the Heartland Conference SWA (Senior Woman Administrator), which took place in Dallas on June 6.
Rohleder volunteered to be the chair of the Heartland Conference SWA Committee in its first year. She is currently finishing up her second year of a two-year term.
“We decided to do a summit basically because no one knows what a SWA is,” Rohleder said. “We want to show what the SWAs on each campus do and what their job description is. We’re trying to make it more visible so that the students and staff know that there is somebody on their side.”
The SWA committee came about through working toward gender equity and Title IX, an educational amendment that protects people from discrimination based on sex. However, Rohleder said, “It doesn’t have to be about gender equity issues. It can be any kind of issues that we can speak up for.”
Rohleder added, “The committee is in charge of listening in on the (conference) athletic director calls when they meet so that we can have a voice there. Right now our main directive is we’ve made a strategic plan and then we work on different initiatives, trying to get things set in motion. And again, a lot of it has to do with gender equity. We look at a lot of the sports, like men's and women’s basketball, and make sure they have equal playing days, that they have the same kind of travel, that there’s nothing that is inequitable about their sport.”
The designated SWA from each of the nine schools in the Heartland Conference attended, along with the Heartland Conference associate commissioner. While this summit was exclusively for SWAs, next year the group hopes to include female coaches, graduate assistants or even female athletes in the conference who are interested in athletic administration.
Katreshia Louis-Verrett, the first speaker of the summit, works with Forward Progress Athletics Consulting. She presented a speech titled “Lean in and Lead with Your Own Light,” in which she discussed the history of SWA, NCAA and other conference structures. She also addressed the athletics focus and university perspective of Title IX, then shared different educational videos with the group. Louis-Verrett’s session wrapped up with a question-and-answer discussion period.
A dinner for all conference attendees was followed by an event known as “Painting with a Twist.” This ice-breaker activity allowed the women to paint together while basing their art on a similar image.
“We know each other over the phone," Rohleder said, "but we hadn’t actually met everyone in person, so it was a nice social event."
Newman University Athletic Director Vic Trilli and Associate Athletic Director Joanna Pryor also traveled to Dallas and attended the Heartland Conference Leadership Committee sessions, which were held July 7 and 8. The sessions welcomed several athletic directors, compliance officers and SWAs.
“It was a very good and educational summit,” Rohleder said. “Out of the 20 or so people who went, everybody was glad they attended.”
The committee plans for the summit to take place at a different campus every year.