Bell, Arizona Wildcats take leading role through RISE

June 14, 2018

Student-Athlete Advisory Committee members visit RISE’s It Takes All Colors digital photo experience Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, at the University of Arizona as part of a kickoff event.

By Denise Spann

TUCSON, Ariz. – Beginning her career at the University of Arizona as the women’s head tennis coach in 1985, Becky Bell has brought success to the university.

Not just athletically or within the Pac-12 Conference, but across the country for her leadership and her need to make a difference in the lives of student-athletes.

In her 12 years as head coach, she received two Regional Coach of the Year awards and coached the Wildcats to the program’s first national title in doubles, as well as their first Final Four appearance, during the 1992-93 season.

In 1997, Bell became associate athletic director, a role that includes leading the Commitment to an Athlete’s Total Success (C.A.T.S.) Life Skills program.

Part of the success and leadership Bell has brought to the university has been partnering with RISE to bring it programs and events to campus. In fact, Bell has helped Arizona to be the first university to host some RISE initiatives.

Becky Bell

The partnership with RISE has its beginnings in April 2017, when some of her student-athletes participated in a RISE workshop at the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee spring conference meeting.

“They came back saying, ‘This is some pretty neat stuff; we really enjoyed the presentation.’ And I just made a call and told RISE we wanted to do something similar, and that’s how it all started.”

At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, RISE came to Arizona as part of presentation to 450 student-athletes from various sports and brought RISE’s It Takes All Colors digital photo experience.

Following the kickoff event, RISE returned to campus and presented to 40 student-athlete leaders. The 90-minute workshop included activities on identity, diversity and generating ideas about how student-athletes can promote diversity and inclusion on campus with conversations around race relations.

In January 2018, Arizona women’s basketball became the first collegiate team in the nation to ever host a RISE Unity Game when the Wildcats hosted the University of Colorado. As part of a “Blue Out” in the arena, the first 600 fans were given special Unity Game T-shirts, handed out by SAAC members. Fans also could participate in the It Take All Colors photo experience with signs that said, “Wildcats for Equality” and “Arizona Wildcats United We Stand.” The Unity Game tapped into both fan engagement and student-athlete camaraderie.

University of Arizona student-athletes show off the T-shirts that were given out to fans as part of the RISE Unity Game on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018.

“I think it’s awesome that RISE teamed up with women’s basketball to hold this event,” Lauryn Mattson, an Arizona gymnast, said during the event. “The whole point of RISE is to bring people together, and we were able to come together as a team, along with other teams, to support women’s basketball. It was a great way to support our school.”

Sammy Morrison, an Arizona football player and SAAC co-president, added, “The opportunity to interact with RISE again was an opportunity of a lifetime. I was able to sit next to athletes who I’ve never spoken to and cheer on our Wildcats as a united front. By passing out shirts before the game, my fellow student-athletes and I were able to interact with people of the community in a way I’ve never done before.”

Setting the precedent once again, Bell and the Wildcats became the first university to have athletes from every team participate and register during RISE to Vote, RISE’s national nonpartisan voter-registration campaign.

As part of the RISE to Vote session, Bob Kendrick of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum spoke.

“Especially when Bob came and spoke, it put some things into historical perspective, and we had a couple of student-athletes we interviewed, and I think the result was very telling,” Bell said. “Every team was represented, and I thought that was important. So, at least one person from every team could go back to their team and say something if they felt compelled … I think overall it was a great event and the response was more than I could have hoped for.”

Student-athletes representing all sports at the University of Arizona take part in a RISE to Vote session on campus Monday, March 26, 2018.

The C.A.T.S. Life Skills program that Bell leads provides student-athletes with counseling, health and wellness education, career development and leadership opportunities. Bell sees the RISE programs as an additional career development awareness tool for the student-athletes.

“The more aware, educated and informed you are in terms of how race may intersect with different areas of your life, that’s beneficial in all regards, including career development,” Bell said.

C.A.T.S. Life Skills won the Peter Likins Inclusive Excellence Award in 2017. The award looks for recipients that enhance Arizona through their inclusive programming and leadership, and Bell said the partnership with RISE was a big piece of the recognition.

RISE also was part of a national training program that Bell helped to launch.

In May 2018, RISE staff member Andrew Mac Intosh presented a workshop at the fourth Step UP! Intervention Program Facilitator Training in Orlando, Florida. The training conference brings together athletics and student affairs professionals for training about student-athlete support through the bystander prevention training. The RISE workshop focused on perspective taking and implicit bias.

Bell developed the Step UP! program in partnership with the NCAA.

“I had gone to a presentation on bystander prevention for sexual assault, and I just walked out of that meeting thinking why isn’t there a program for any of these other topics?” Bell said. “So, since I worked in athletics I made some calls and there wasn’t a program anywhere, in any sort of demographic that’s addressed multiple topics.”

After two years of working with experts across the country, Bell created the Step UP! Be a Leader Make a Difference bystander prevention program. It covers depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, eating disorders and hazing. The program trains students about how they can safely intervene with other students possibly suffering from those issues. More than 200 colleges and universities are using the program.

“There was a perfect alignment with what RISE does and with one of the topics in the Step UP! Program – which is discrimination,” Bell said. “We’ve certainly seen an uptick in the number of calls, questions and downloads. Discrimination is the number two most downloaded topic on our Step UP! website. That’s really aligned with what RISE addresses. RISE also talks about perspective taking, and that’s also a major component of Step UP! We have discussions and activities surrounding that. It was just a perfect fit.”

Denise Spann is a summer 2018 intern for communications and marketing in RISE’s Midwest office in Detroit.