Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Athletic Diversifier

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Athletic Diversifier

Article excerpt

Nicole Melton has spent the last four years of her budding career in higher education teaching students the importance of breaking barriers in the intercollegiate sports arena. A former athlete, she could have steered her career toward coaching, but she chose otherwise.

"I felt the best way to change the landscape of sport and make it more inclusive for individuals was to teach to future sport management people and the future coaches," she says.

An assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Meltons roots in athletics date back to her high school years in San Antonio--a place where golfing was both popular and affordable for youth. While it was a very competitive sport, Melton excelled enough in high school golf to earn a scholarship to Texas A&M University.

As an undergraduate student-athlete, she noticed differences in how her peers approached athleticism. While Melton and many of her female teammates used golf as a pathway to earning a degree, she says, a lot of the male athletes focused on playing professionally.

After receiving a bachelor's in marketing in 2005, Melton got the chance to play pro. While playing on an expert level, she noticed gender differences as well. Most of her female counterparts participated in classes where "they'd give you advice on your hair, your makeup, and different things like that," she says, adding that the class was not a priority for males.

"So that keyed me into these issues of how female athletes are expected to be versus how male athletes are."

After a year of playing professional golf, Melton worked in Texas A&M's athletics department while pursuing a master's in sport management. It was at this time that she really dove into how gender and diversity issues affect not only players, but the entire athletic organization.

"While [my college studies] were generally focused on revenue generation, I had excellent professors who also talked about the social consequences of our actions," she says. "I think having that socially minded education was very influential to me and now how I teach my own students."

After earning a master's in 2009, Melton furthered her education at Texas A&M and received a Ph.D. in sport management in 2012.

After short teaching stints at Seattle University and Texas Technical University, Melton landed at Amherst. Here, she spends 70 percent of her time researching. In one of her current projects, she interviews women with multiple marginalized identities--such as LGBT women of color --to understand the obstacles they face as they ascended to the top of their sport organizations. …

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