Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss Athletics
Five-Year Equity-in-Action Plan



The Ole Miss Athletics Equity-in-Action plan is a living document including a set of large-scale action items the department is committed to enacting and monitoring as a part of the University of Mississippi’s Pathways to Equity Diversity Strategic Plan. Ole Miss Athletics is a part of the larger university system and is designed to enhance the university community by developing and preparing the leaders of tomorrow through experiential learning and excellence through athletics. While athletics has several functional responsibilities that include internal and external parties, it is our ultimate goal to provide an environment that is welcoming to all. We are extending our commitments as outlined in our plan to ensure we are advancing the UM overarching goals as outlined in the Pathways to Equity Diversity Strategic Plan:

  • Advance Institutional Capacity for Equity
  • Cultivate a Diverse and Equitable Community
  • Foster an Inclusive Campus Climate

In this document, you will find a desire to remain committed to establishment of baseline data collection that will inform our practices and determine how we allocate resources and collaborate with campus partners to advance the mission of the Pathways to Equity Diversity Strategic Plan. I want to thank our staff, coaches and student-athletes for their dedication to the advancement of this project. Their work is critical in the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion at UM. We are committed to creating an environment where we are viewed as a “destination” for all who aspire to be change makers and innovators in our global society.

Keith Carter
Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics



The foundational work of the University of Mississippi’s Pathways to Equity Diversity Strategic Plan has provided a bright pathway to action-based initiatives that touch all constituents of the university community. We recognize that Ole Miss Athletics is often viewed as an external part of the institution, but it is our desire to align with the university and support its efforts to advance the institution and state in the areas of  diversity, equity and inclusion. As we prepared this document, it was important to consider the multilayered priorities for Division I collegiate athletics programs. In addition to the University of Mississippi, we considered best practices and guidance from several organizations specific to collegiate athletics to include, but not limited to, the Southeastern Conference, Lead1, Woman Leaders in College Sports, Minority Opportunities for Athletic Administrators and the National Collegiate Athletics Association.

We view this as an opportunity to establish best practices, create development opportunities and use our platform for education and advancement of the overall strategic plan. The plan features attainable goals and space to address areas of concern. We are enthusiastic about implementing our Equity-in-Action plan and creating the pathways for Ole Miss Athletics to support the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion at UM.

Jennifer Saxon, Ed.D.
Executive Associate Athletic Director/Senior Women’s Administrator


Vision Statement

The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Mississippi strives to advance a championship culture that develops, educates and empowers our student-athletes as tomorrow’s leaders while providing a premier experience for the Ole Miss family.

Core Values

  • Student-Athlete Well-Being
  • Academic Excellence
  • Championship Experience
  • Revenue Generation and Engagement
  • Brand Advancement
  • Integrity and Compliance

PATHWAYS TO EQUITY: University of Mississippi Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan

The University of Mississippi continues its commitment to excellence and making a positive difference in society through higher education. Pathways to Equity stands as our institutional guidepost for addressing and advancing our institutional mission through centering on diversity, equity and inclusion. Our complex institutional history coupled with our rich culture of students, faculty and staff striving for inclusive change has led us to the solidification of this institutional plan. Pathways to Equity works in concert with the university’s strategic plan to leverage university-wide, college/school-level and departmental transformative initiatives that cultivate a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus.

With Pathways to Equity, the University of Mississippi aspires to achieve the following statements by the conclusion of this plan:

  1. The University of Mississippi consistently and comprehensively articulates diversity, equity and inclusion as essential in fulfilling the mission, vision and values of the institution.
  2. The University of Mississippi is organizationally and culturally equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to continue advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.
  3. A campus climate is fostered that ensures all individuals are valued and supported, and feel a sense of belonging at the University of Mississippi.
  4. The University of Mississippi demonstrates decreases in disparities across underrepresented groups in the enrollment, retention and graduation rate at undergraduate and graduate levels.
  5. The number of underrepresented groups employed at the University of Mississippi is increased to reflect a talented and diverse workforce at all organizational levels, especially tenure-track faculty, managerial positions and executive leadership positions.

Guiding Principles

The development of this plan requires us to address individual, social, organizational and systemic factors that create and sustain inequities that prevent all members of our community from fully participating and thriving at the University of Mississippi. As we embark on this journey together, we must commit to the following shared principles:

  1. Equity-mindedness[1] – We embrace the institutional responsibility and agency to actively address the challenges and disparate outcomes at all levels of our community. This requires us to be data informed and connect best and promising practices to generate high-impact change for underserved groups in our community.
  2. Institutional Accountability – We must ensure efforts outlined throughout Pathways to Equity are acknowledged in the established systems of recognition, performance and accountability. It is vital that we work to account for the advancement of these goals in our ideas of success, merit and reward. Further, we must account for, honor and recognize faculty, staff, administrators and students in their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  3. Transparency – In our execution of Pathways to Equity, our success is predicated on a highly accessible and collaborative process that actively involves university stakeholders to work as meaningful partners. To that end, we will consistently, publicly and broadly share our intended actions, goals and measurable impacts of this plan.
  4. Innovation – Actualizing diversity, equity and inclusion will require us to deeply examine and rethink our policies, practices and procedures at the University of Mississippi. Each unit and individual across campus is invited to offer thoughts, ideas and perspectives as we thoughtfully consider ways to make our institution more equitable and inclusive through an intersectional lens. This disposition of robust inquiry and evidence-based imagination will create a community of learning, growth and development as we collectively engage in this complex work.
  5. Alignment of Critical Resources – During this planning process, we have navigated a global health pandemic that has shown the vulnerabilities in our systems that disparately affect underserved and under-resourced communities. As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, we must not falter in our commitment to creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community. We must recognize that our commitment to equity is more important than ever.


The following goals represent the University of Mississippi’s commitment to the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). These overarching goals represent interconnected priorities that are applicable to UM broadly, from our comprehensive divisions down to individual teams. We aim to have all units see meaningful alignment of these goals with their work. We will ensure UM embraces the transformative nature of diversity, equity and inclusion across all levels of the institution, addressing challenges to DEI at every corner of our institution by combining contextual understanding with internal and external expertise.

    1. Advance Institutional Capacity for Equity
      Infrastructure, Information, Systems, Education and Processes
    2. Cultivate a Diverse and Equitable Community
      Recruiting, Retaining, Advancing and Succeeding
    3. Foster an Inclusive Campus Climate
      Support, Value and Belonging



The action-based items below are broadly based on efforts to guide the department’s DEI efforts while supporting UM’s overarching goals as outlined in Pathways to Equity. Ole Miss Athletics Equity-in-Action goals listed below are focal points for further-defined metrics based on immediate departmental needs and data. It is also important to note that this is a “living” document and will be and can be changed as needs arise, but it is the commitment of Ole Miss Athletics that such changes are communicated in a transparent and timely manner.


  • Executive Board
    • Jennifer Saxon, chair
    • Neal Mead, associate athletics director for event management
    • Wesley Owen, associate athletics director/chief revenue officer
    • Tyler Wooten, assistant director for communications
    • Tiffany Edwards, assistant athletics director for administration
  • General (appointment/two-year rotation with an option to continue)
    • Staff: Derek “Chief” Johnson, director of football academics
    • Staff: Jenny G. Johnson, assistant director of development/stewardship and development
    • Staff: Seth Austin, broadcast communications specialist
    • Staff: Sophie Coy, academic counselor
    • Coaching Staff: Connie Price-Smith, head women’s and men’s track & field coach
    • Coaching Staff: Mark Beyers, head women’s tennis coach
    • Coaching Staff: Kermit Davis, head men’s basketball coach
    • Student-Athlete: Lonnie Mulligan, BSAC Executive Committee, women’s soccer
    • Student-Athlete: Tim Sandkaulen, Rebels International Executive Committee, men’s tennis
    • Student-Athlete: Tiphanie Fiequet, Rebels Q&A executive board
    • Campus: EJ Edney, Office of Diversity and Community Engagement


I. Increase the diversity of staff in Ole Miss Athletics:

Under the leadership of the vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics, the department will expand comprehensive recruitment and retention efforts to increase the diversity of contractual and noncontractual staff. Ole Miss Athletics will prioritize these efforts by completing a review of the current organizational structures to include but not limited to reporting lines, job functions, education and level of responsibility. This review will inform our ability to recruit, advance and retain both contractual and noncontractual staff in an informed manner. Other efforts to recruit diverse staff will include developing internal databases, using national job boards (such as NCAA Leadership Collective, McLendon Minority Initiative, Women Leaders in Collegiate Sports) and creating a public service announcement addressing the history of the department. Our efforts to retain a diverse staff will include increasing professional development opportunities (national and local) and establishing a mentorship program with senior-level leadership. The vice chancellor for intercollegiate thletics and the department’s chief diversity officer (UM diversity liaison) will monitor and track establishment and advancement of these efforts.

Area(s) Responsible: vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics, chief diversity officer (UM diversity liaison, assistant athletics director for administration (Athletics Human Resources)

Resources Statement: Existing funding will be used to increase current efforts.

Institutional Capacity

  • Percentage of search committee members who have completed the UM diversity search committee training (25%)
  • Percentage of open positions posted on diversity-related job boards (90%)
  • Funding available for professional development
  • Funding to support recruiting diverse candidates

Diverse and Equitable Community

  • Percentage of new hires from underrepresented backgrounds
  • Percentage of applicant pool from underrepresented backgrounds
  • Measure the demographics of contractual and noncontractual staff in Ole Miss Athletics.
Baseline data
219 University Employees (Race)
Count Race Gender
1 Hispanic/Latino (Female)
1 Native American (Male)
1 Asian (Male)
1 Native American (Male)
1 Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (Male)
1 Two or More Races (Male)
4 Unknown Race (Male)
44 Native American (34 Male/10 Female)
165 White (56 Female/109 Male)
  • Based on how employees classified themselves when completing the application
  • Employees are ever changing; this is a baseline as of the report date April 6 at 11:03 a.m.
  • There are limitations to the classifications as provided by the university employment application
  • This does not include the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation
219 University Employees (Gender)
Count Gender
67 Women
152 Male

Inclusive Campus Climate

  • Measure the extent in which staff felt valued during tenure in Ole Miss Athletics, through employee exit interviews.

II. Enrich the support of staff and student-athletes:

Recognizing the unique challenges and needs of historically underrepresented groups, the department has determined a need to enrich the support provided to these student-athletes, staff and coaches while working and participating as members of the Ole Miss Athletics Department. The vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics is committed to hiring a mental health clinician who specializes in working with individuals from historically underrepresented groups. The position will be funded by the department and supervised by the director of Ole Miss Athletics Health and Sports Performance. Recognizing that recruiting the most talented and capable diverse staff, coaches and student-athletes has been challenging, the department will coordinate with University of Mississippi Marketing and Communications and the Department of Diversity and Community Engagement to develop a video to aid in recruitment of staff, coaches and student-athletes. The assistant athletics director for administration also will create an onboarding process to be used by hiring managers for all new employees to include staff and coaches. Completion of the onboarding process should ease the transition into the department and lay a foundation for expectations of the department.

Area(s) Responsible: vice chancellor of intercollegiate athletics, chief diversity officer (UM diversity liaison), Athletics Human Resources and Sport Psychology

Resources Statement: New funding will be established to support a new mental health position.  

Inclusive Campus Climate

  • Number of new employees who completed the onboarding process
  • Number of sports or hiring managers using the recruitment PSA
  • Percentage of diverse candidate pool for mental health clinician position

III. Increase Diversity Education for Ole Miss Athletics:

Ole Miss Athletics is committed to expanding diversity, equity and inclusion training and educational opportunities for its staff, coaches and student-athletes. The department will commit financial resources to support educational opportunities for its constituents on an annual basis. The UMity Experience Fund will be available for distribution by application to support athletics team diversity activities and staff training requests. The UMity Experience Fund will be administered by the department’s chief diversity officer (UM diversity liaison). Applications will be reviewed and approved by the department’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) committee. Ole Miss Athletics will collaborate with the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement to create a resource list of opportunities to include but not limited to national and local opportunities for teams when traveling for competition (e.g., museums, interpretive centers, etc.). Additional opportunities will include but not limited to speakers, museum tours, diversity conference attendance (NCORE, NCAA Inclusion Summit, Black Student-Athlete Summit), lunch-and-learn sessions and university diversity training sessions. For increased educational opportunities, the department will also commit to continuing its collaborative financial and promotional support of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement programming to include the MOST Conference and All In All Year. In addition, the department will require new employees to attend the UM Bias Education and Response Team’s implicit bias training.

Area(s) Responsible: chief diversity officer (UM diversity liaison), Athletics Human Resources and Ole Miss Athletics Foundation

Resources Statement: Ole Miss Athletics provides annual financial support to the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement to support programming. The department will continue to examine revenue sources to support campus collaborations. The department will also use the Southeastern Conference Student-Athlete Enhancement Grant to support DEI efforts for student-athletes.

Institutional Capacity

  • Establish the UMity Experience Fund in collaboration with Ole Miss Athletics Foundation
  • Percentage of staff, coaches and student-athletes who completed the UM Bias Education and Response Team’s implicit bias training
  • Funding provided for sponsorship opportunities with CICCE and other university units

Diverse and Equitable Community

Inclusive Campus Climate

  • Percentage of teams that applied for the UMity Experience Fund
  • Percentage of collaborative events with All In All Year programming

IV. Expand Departmental Outreach:

Ole Miss Athletics, as a member of the Southeastern Conference and the flagship intercollegiate athletics program in the state of Mississippi, is aware of its national platform and access to several forms of communication prospects. The department will develop a diversity statement that will be publicly shared via print (media guides, website, job announcement, etc.) and in-venue competition when possible. The inclusion of this statement will be annually monitored by the department’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, which has representation from various units in the department. A public service announcement will be created to promote the department’s social justice initiative(s). In addition, to the established promotional opportunities, the department will develop a marketing and communications plan surrounding diversity to be executed annually. This plan will feature yearlong initiatives to be developed to include but not limited to in-game recognitions, social media campaigns, print and video content. The department has also collaborated with other state higher education institutions to establish the Stronger Together Mississippi program that focuses on intentional community-engaged work in the areas of literacy, food sustainability and literacy rates of pre-K through third-graders in public schools. Communities will be identified with the help of departmental staff, student-athletes and coaches from underrepresented groups. Leadership will also engage potential partners to review scheduled nonconference competition and its financial impact on the state of Mississippi.

Area(s) Responsible: Athletics Communications, Athletics Productions, Athletics Marketing and Fan Engagement, and chief diversity officer (UM diversity liaison)

Resources Statement: Established financial structure will support these efforts. Additional funding from the UMity Fund can also be used if necessary.  

Institutional Capacity

Diverse and Equitable Community

  • Create a PSA promoting Ole Miss Athletics’ social justice initiatives as a department.
  • Measure the number of community engagement events through Stronger Together Mississippi
  • Percentage of in-person events at partner schools in the Mississippi Delta

Inclusive Campus Climate





[1] Bensimon, E.M., Dowd, A.C., Witham, K. (2016). Five principles for enacting equity by design. Diversity and Democracy, The Equity Imperative. Winter 2016, Volume 19, No. 1.