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Global Sports Mentoring Program
The group participates in outdoor teambuilding activities at Terrapin Adventures in Savage, Maryland. The class visited the US Department of State to meet with government officials involved in the program, including Alyson Grunder, senior bureau official for educational and cultural affairs.

For the sixth year, UT’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society is joining the US Department of State and espnW to organize one of the world’s leading mentorship programs for women in sports.

The center, a cooperative partner for the US Department of State’s Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) since 2012, has selected 17 women from 15 countries, including first-time countries Palestine, Morocco, Bolivia, and Belgium, to participate in the five-week exchange program hosted in Washington, DC.

“When you work with the best and the brightest women in the world, every year only becomes more spectacular,” said Ashleigh Huffman, the center’s co-founder and assistant director. “As the sisterhood grows and we welcome more game changers into the family, the program transcends the five-week experience and becomes a continuation of a movement. We can’t wait to welcome the class of 2017 and introduce them to their star-studded mentors.”

As part of the GSMP, senior executives from prominent sports sector organizations in the US work with these international leaders on business plans for creating and sustaining initiatives that promote social change through sport in their communities. The center collaborates with mentor organizations to provide a holistic learning experience for the international leaders.

During the first and final weeks of the GSMP, Huffman and the center’s director, Sarah Hillyer—who like Huffman is a UT professor—will lead the class of 17 women through their Better World curriculum. They’ll also partner with local organizations for hands-on sessions in executive leadership, martial arts, adaptive sports, and other topics that may contribute to the participants’ impact back home.

Before the start of this program, 113 leaders from 63 countries have participated in the GSMP initiative, either in women’s empowerment or disability sport exchanges. These leaders have returned home to launch their own nongovernmental organizations, serve in leadership positions in their governments and national sports federations, and win numerous awards for service.

Nour Kayyal of Jordan and Fran McEwen of New Zealand, returning alumnae, will support the 2017 class during the first week. After partnering with the NBA last year, Kayyal, a private banker in Amman, returned home and launched Swish Basketball Academy, which has served 66 boys and girls from underprivileged backgrounds by allowing them  to experience the power of basketball in their lives. McEwen, the founder of Shift, an initiative to get adolescent girls healthy through movement, has expanded the  initiative’s impact to four regions. She was mentored at the San Antonio Spurs.

“We are amazed and inspired by the work of GSMP alumnae all over the world,” said Hillyer. “The global footprint of this program can literally be felt in hundreds of communities. For that, we thank not only the international delegates who have carried the torch and faced the challenges head on, but the US Department of State for making the empowerment of girls and women a central part of their mission.”

The 2017 GSMP: Empower Women through Sports class consists of women from Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, China, France, India, Kosovo, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Peru, South Korea, Taiwan, Uganda, and Venezuela. These women are journalists, ministerial civil society leaders, social entrepreneurs, and sports administrators who are already providing opportunities for thousands of girls to become leaders on the field and in the boardroom.

The 2017 mentor organizations are the Big East, Burton Snowboards, Eli Lilly and Company, ESPN, Fox Sports, Gatorade, Google, NCAA, National Hockey League, PGA of America, Saatchi and Saatchi LA, Under Armour, Spurs Sports and Entertainment, the University of Connecticut, and the Women’s Sports Foundation.

The program began on September 23 and will conclude in Washington, DC, on October 31. To follow along on social media, use the hashtags #GSMP2017 and #EmpowerWomen on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram.


Brian Canever (551-221-1382,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,