In sports, there is a decades long history of athletes using their platform as sports icons to open discussions into societal issues. While people like Muhammad Ali and LeBron James are the most well-known, college athletes have a similar platform that can be used for change. This project explored the question of how to engage student athletes in sustainability on a more consistent basis from an institutional level within the Pacific-12 (Pac-12) Conference. Student athletes are notoriously time constrained, and therefore an adequate value proposition had to be developed to drive participation. The Pac-12 Changemaker Program was formed around the value proposition of allowing student athletes to speak up about causes that they are passionate about and using sustainability as a lens to promote the cause and advocate for systemic change through the university’s social media. A model was formed that could be replicated across multiple campuses and be flexible enough to take advantage of existing opportunities. The model was piloted on Arizona State University’s (ASU) campus, in conjunction with University Sustainability Practices, the Zero Waste Department, and Sun Devil Athletics. Major outcomes from the pilot include a handbook outlining the model, guidance for engagement, and recommendations for implementation. Feedback from student athletes indicates that the process has to be as efficient as possible, as athletes are too constrained to carry the burden of the effort. Student athletes are also worried about having a polarizing opinion, indicating the need for a robust collaborative process before speaking out.
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