EP-ADS Graduate Student Lands NCAA Research Grant to Study Black Women Student-Athletes


By Leslie M. Booren

Miray Seward, a doctoral student studying educational psychology-applied developmental science, will study the lived experiences of Black women student-athletes with a newly awarded NCAA research grant.

412x412_MIray_Seward_450.jpgMiray Seward, a doctoral student in the Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science program, has been awarded a NCAA Graduate Student Research Grant, providing Seward with $7,494 to examine the lived experiences of Division I Black women student-athletes.

Working with her faculty mentors Joanna Lee Williams, an associate professor at Youth-Nex, and Paul Harris, an assistant professor in Counselor Education, Seward will examine how personal experiences and socialization messages impact the development of student-athletes’ identities.

“My work takes a developmental and intersectional approach to examining identity,” Seward said. “In addition to the importance of athletics and academics, I want to understand how Black women student-athletes come to understand and define who they are across multiple contexts.”

Through a series of interviews, Seward hopes to gain a rich understanding of the athletic and academic experiences of current and former Division I Black women student-athletes leading up to and during college.

“By centering the experiences of Black Women student-athletes, I hope to shed light on the conditions that impact their academic and athletic trajectories, and the supports and obstacles they may experience along the way,” said Seward.

It is likely that universities and athletics departments that serve Black women student-athletes will use the findings from this work. Seward hopes that through this work, parents, coaches, administrators, and policymakers will also better understand how to support Black female student-athletes in intercollegiate athletics, but youth sports as well.

“College is an active time for identity exploration, and a student’s developing self-understanding is tied to their future aspirations and choices,” explains Williams. “Miray’s work will offer insights into how Black women make meaning of their experiences at the intersections of race, gender, academics, and athletics, and how this meaning connects to their pathway through college.”

In total, five graduate students were awarded grants from universities across the country this year. Other funded topics include a self-compassion intervention for student-athletes and examination of recruitment barriers.

 “This grant program is an incredibly competitive process and I am pleased that the NCAA believes in the value of Miray’s approach,” said Harris. “She joins a small group of researchers across the country who are exploring the lived experience of Black women student athletes, and an even smaller group who are approaching the topic through the lens of educational psychology.”

The NCAA Graduate Student Research Grant Program provides funding for graduate student research examining the role of intercollegiate athletics in higher education and the college student-athlete psychosocial experience. It aims to stimulate research on college sports by providing financial support to graduate students in social and behavioral science fields.

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Seward is a pre-doctoral fellow in the Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) program supported by the Institute of Educational Sciences. Her work has also been supported by the Curry Innovative Developmental, Exploratory Awards (IDEAs) Grant in 2018.

Youth-Nex is a trans-disciplinary center focusing on three core domains: a) Out-of-School Time; b) Educational Systems: Middle School; and c) Community Engagement: Civic and Political. Central to its work is a translational approach to scholarship and innovation which aims to expand and apply the science of Positive Youth Development to enhance the strengths of youth and to prevent developmental risk such as violence; physical and mental health issues; substance abuse and school failure.