EMU Athletics, with the help of women’s lacrosse coach Katie Russo, has established the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and elected their leadership team. After years of inactivity, the SAAC is once again present on campus, giving a platform for student-athletes to further enhance their impact at EMU and its surrounding communities.
Russo, who has previous experience working within a SAAC while a student at Randolph-Macon College, serves as the coach representative for the SAAC.
“I really wanted to give back and help generate a student-athlete voice on campus,” Russo said on her time as part of the SAAC at her alma mater.
Russo was tasked with the rebuild of the SAAC at EMU upon entering her role in the athletic department. In three years, with the help of the buy-in from many EMU student-athletes, the committee has tripled its representation and continues to grow with successful leaders, on and off their respective athletic platforms.
“I feel very confident in all we have accomplished during the rebuilding stage … I feel confident in our student-athlete leaders,” Russo said. “Our main goal right now is to become an official EMU student organization on campus. Once we achieve our goal we will continue to focus on our fall initiatives.”
After the early stages in gathering some interested student-athletes in this new organization, Russo wanted to put together an executive board in order to run the operation of the SAAC.
The executive board of the SAAC plays an integral part in the decision-making and implementation of ideas by the committee. Senior field hockey player Bri Miller (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester) was named president of the committee with women’s basketball’s Emily McCombs (Culpeper, Va./Eastern View) serving as vice president. Norma Morris (Elkton, Va./East Rockingham) of the women’s soccer team will serve as secretary. Baseball’s Jaylon Lee (Newport News, Va./Denbigh) and Jonathan Nagle (Chesapeake, Va./Portsmouth Christian) round out the executive board by serving as community chair and co-chair.
“Becoming president of this committee is an honor,” Miller said. “I take pride in being part of the rebirth of this committee through the early stages and want to keep moving forward in achieving our goals here on campus.”
The SAAC consists of 19 members in total including the executive board. These members remain present on campus as ambassadors for the athletic department and their own personal teams, but also use their time finding ways to enhance the brand of EMU.
“One of the most rewarding things about being a part of the SAAC is being able to make EMU a positive looking place to be a student-athlete,” Miller said. “We are able to do that through being good models of how an EMU student-athlete should carry themselves and helping the community in any way we can.”
While a main focus for the committee is being a central point of conversation between student-athletes, the athletic department, and the campus as a whole, the SAAC spends a lot of their time engaging with the community through various efforts. Whether that is partnering with the local Special Olympics or the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, a primary goal of the EMU SAAC is to be present in the surrounding community.
“Another rewarding thing about being a part of this committee is being able to give back to the community time and time again,” Miller said. “As student-athletes representing EMU, we have a responsibility to uphold the brand and we are able to do that with our volunteering.”
On top of community outreach efforts, the SAAC upholds a strong social media presence to continually reach out to the EMU student body and its followers.
The committee has been a part of many social media campaigns in its early stages, most notably the ODAC SAAC driven “Break the Stigma” campaign for Mental Health Awareness Month last May and consistently being present during April’s NCAA Division III Week.
“Having a presence on social media is an important part in having our voices heard,” Miller said. “By being a part of these campaigns, we are able to be part of something bigger than just EMU and can communicate the importance of these matters.”
The members of the SAAC have seen the work come to fruition with their growth over the past three years, but want to keep moving forward and continue to accomplish new things.
“I am hoping to continue growing our SAAC family,” McCombs said. “We really made a lot of progress last year, and our expectations are even higher this year. We are also looking forward to starting a few new initiatives, while also continuing a few from last year.”
On top of the tangible goals that the SAAC has established, the committee’s ultimate goal is simple: have an impact on the student-athlete experience. The executive board has made clear that they feel that they are on the right path.
“SAAC has really brought a new voice and different outlook to everything related to sports that hasn’t always been there,” McCombs said. “We are able to take initiatives and be involved in issues with the hope of bettering the student-athlete experience at EMU. The overall initiative of SAAC is to make a difference for one and all through our efforts.”
Full list of the EMU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee 2020-21
Emily Davis – Softball
Jacob Durren - Men’s Volleyball
Callie Habr - Women’s Lacrosse
Tim Jones - Men’s Basketball
Colin Jones – Baseball
Jaylon Lee – Baseball
Emily McCombs - Women’s Basketball
Bri Miller - Field Hockey
Delanie Miller - Women’s Volleyball
Norma Morris - Women’s Soccer
Jonathan Nagle – Baseball
Mizz Nyagwegwe - Men’s Basketball
Kendra Oguamena - Women's Track & Field
Gage Riddick – Baseball
Chyna Roberts - Women’s Basketball
Rayn Robinson – Softball
Morgan Tricarico - Field Hockey/Women’s Lacrosse
Brandy Troutman - Field Hockey/Softball
Andrea Troyer - Women’s Volleyball
-- by Jacob Brown, EMU Athletics Communications Graduate Assistant