Two things are big in third-year doctoral student Yannick Kluch’s life. A love of sports and an appreciation for social justice.
We Are One Team, or WA1T, is a first-of-its-kind in the country organization that combines those loves into a single idea: promote social justice through sports at the University.
Kluch, along with Ph.D. students Chelsea Kaunert and Christian Thompson, founded WA1T in September 2015. Since then, more than 25 different organizations have joined in support. Some of which include the Women’s Center, International Student Services, BGSU Counseling Center, BGSU Athletics, and community nonprofit The Cocoon.
“I am constantly amazed at by the overwhelmingly positive response we continue to receive from members of [the University] and the community,” Kluch said.
The diversity of organization membership is just as impressive. Linking together undergraduates, graduates, international students, student-athletes, faculty, staff, and members of the community at large.
“I think this diversity really benefits our program, as we try to reach the largest number of people possible,” said Kluch.
The organization meets every Monday at 7:30 p.m. in room 410 of the Kuhlin Center, the new School of Media and Communications building.
“The easiest way to join is to stop by one of our meetings,” Kluch said.
Kluch stresses a love of sports is not the defining factor for admission to the group.
“We just use sports as our forum to address social justice issues. Anybody can be involved with [WA1T].”
The group also has varying commitment levels rom liking and sharing WA1T social media accounts to joining a project committee to be involved outside of the Monday night meetings.
Projects include “WA1T: Our Voice” educational lectures, WA1T Sporting Days, and a large 5K Run/Walk.
“Our Voice” lectures bring in University, community and other speakers to speak or hold panels on various topics of social inclusion. The Fall semester speakers came from the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
A recently ended Falcon Funded - a University-branded Kickstarter - for WA1T raised $1,005 dollars for the group to use in 2017. Dollars will be used for various events including a yet to be named “high-profile” speaker in the Spring.
WA1T Sporting Days are events held “to bring together two of the most isolated groups on campus: student athletes and international students,” according to Kluch.
The events are different each time, the first event was football while a more recent event involved the Indian Student Association teaching Cricket.
During each event there is a question and answer session with University athletes, practice drills related to the sport, a game or two of the sport and food after to wind down and socialize.
For people looking to apply their career aspirations to WA1T, the group has unpaid internships. Information relating to internship positions can be found on the WA1T website, bgsu.edu/WeAreOneTeam-BG.html.
WA1T also looks for people who want to take an active leadership role to join their 12-member executive board.
People looking for either internships or executive board positions should contact Kluch at email@example.com.
“There is no program like [WA1T] in the United States,” said Kluch.
That distinction garnered attention from the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Minority Opportunities Athletic Association (MOAA), earning both the University athletics department and WA1T the 2017 Award for Diversity and Inclusion.
“Given that we have only been on campus for a year and a half,” said Kluch, “I think we can be very proud of what our team has accomplished.”
The honor is something Kluch attributes to the passion of the students, faculty, staff, and community members involved with WA1T.
Kluch goes on to say the award is a starting point for the organization rather than the finish line.
For three years prior to the founding of WA1T, Kluch spent his time studying identity construction through sports.
“The one thing I noticed when I first came to the U.S. is how big the country is into sports,” said Kluch.
An international student from Germany, Kluch knew very few, if any, people on campus. His best friends were made through campus sporting activities.
His studies sparked a passion for social justice.
The two ideas combined in his mind during his first football game at the University. Sitting in a crowd, with people he had just met, watching a game he did not know the rules for, Kluch felt a connection to the people around him.
“I thought ‘why not use this emotional appeal for the common good?” he said, “those experiences helped inspire [WA1T].”
That idea led to the creation of what Kluch considers his single most rewarding experience at the University.
“I truly love the University,” said Kluch, “and I am glad that I can help strengthen our community through my work with [WA1T].”
Kluch has seen WA1T from an idea to creation. He has made friends, and a difference.
And though the group is still in its infancy, when asked about the future of WA1T Kluch only had one thing to say.
“We are here to stay.”