Engaged Sport Initiative


The Engaged Sport Initiative connects campus and community partners in an effort to explore the ways sport can enhance the academic experience and engage communities. The initiative will use a series of graduated curricular and co-curricular experiences and the experience of participating in intercollegiate athletics as a means to develop students, serve the community and integrate sport into the broader teaching and learning goals of the university, particularly the university’s initiative on engaged scholarship.

Sport has the power to stir imaginations. Its about human potential, striving and achievement. Sport can rehabilitate traumatized children and offers disaffected children and adolescents companionship, community, dignity and a sense of purpose. It can enhance civic pride, and contribute to cultural and national heritage. The spectacle of sport is one of the best vehicles to gather large groups of people for educational purposes. …[..]All cultures have a history of play and sport that is both regionally unique yet profoundly familiar across national borders. The spectacle of sport has stopped world wars and brokered peace. There exists no parallel in terms of global influence. (Right to Play)

Report: 2018 Community Sport Fellowship​ - A Swearer Center Program


When Javier Zapata '09 left campus and went home to Miami for winter break on year, he was dismayed to find that kids in his community were being ‘costed out’ of sport opportunities – the fees, equipment and travel costs had become such a burden for families that many kids could no longer participate in local sport leagues. Javier applied to the Royce Sport and Society Fellowship and worked with local community leaders to create a business plan to develop, finance and implement a ‘no-pay’ flag football league for children in his community. Now entering its 10th year, the league provides approximately 800 children with an opportunity to play organized sport and employs local teens as referees and administrators. Javier is now a district attorney in Miami and the proud commissioner of the league.

Javier was part of the first cohort of Royce Sport and Society Fellows. Launched in 2007, the Fellowship has supported over 50 innovative research projects that explored the intersection of sport and human rights within the areas of technology, health, education, conflict resolution, public policy, disability rights, gender equity and community development.

The experience of working with Sport and Society Fellows has provided valuable insight into the ways sport can serve as a lens and a platform for research, engagement and change, and the unique skills and dispositions student-athletes can bring to research. The experience of working with those Fellows inspired us to think bigger, to partner with the Athletic Department and create the Engaged Sport Initiative. Sport is an integral part of Brown’s teaching and learning agenda; approximately 25 percent of Brown University undergraduate students participate in varsity or club sports. These students are incredibly diverse yet share a common identity as Brown athletes. The Engaged Sport Initiative recognizes the possibilities for engaging athlete communities in service to academic and community goals.


The Engaged Sport Initiative has outlined and begun working toward the following goals:

  • Identify and engage faculty, athletes, business and civic leaders committed to exploring sport and community development
  • Build and steward a community of faculty and coaches committed to best practices in teaching and coaching and exploring opportunities for integrating those practice
  • Create sustainable community engaged experiences
  • Build a thoughtful, longitudinal approach among athletes to prepare for professional careers and public life
  • Create a deep, lasting campus-wide impact

If you are interested in becoming a part of the Engaged Sport Initiative, whether as a Brown University student-athlete, a university or non-university coach, or community member, please contact Director of Engaged Sport​ Kerri Heffernan.