INDIANAPOLIS, September 28, 2020 – USA Gymnastics today announced the line-up for the first of three fall 2020 panels focused on diversity, equity, inclusion and bias in gymnastics. Panelists will discuss their experiences and insights, share their suggestions for the sport, and provide advice for community members who are hoping to create a more inclusive and equitable culture within gymnastics.
The first panel, which will take place online October 7 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. ET, will feature Steve Butcher, a current International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) administrator and former men’s artistic gymnast, coach and judge; Wendy Hilliard, Hall of Fame inductee, the first Black rhythmic gymnast to represent the U.S. in international competition, coach and club owner; Isis Lowery, a recent women’s artistic collegiate gymnast and current collegiate student coach; and Jasmine Swyningan Bedford, a former women’s artistic collegiate gymnast and current judge.
Dr. C. Keith Harrison, who serves as the chief academic officer and professor for the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida and the Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellow at Harvard University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute in the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, will moderate the conversation along with Carol Fabrizio, chief communications and marketing officer for USA Gymnastics. More information about each of the panelists is included below.
Live tapings of each of the panels – scheduled for October 7, November 10, and December 9 – will be open to the public, and attendees will be able to submit questions as the conversation evolves. The recordings will be made available to view on the USA Gymnastics website following the conclusion of each event.
Click here to register for the October 7 live webinar event. Please note that space is limited to the first 500 registrants.
Dr. C. Keith Harrison – moderator
A former NCAA scholar-athlete (football/center) for West Texas A&M University, Dr. Harrison holds a doctorate in higher and post-secondary education from the University of Southern California. He currently serves as associate unit head, chief academic officer and professor for the DeVos Sport Business Management Program in the College of Business at the University of Central Florida and the Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellow at Harvard University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute in the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. For more than two decades, Dr. Harrison has consulted for colleges, universities, sports teams and brands that include the NFL, EA Sports and the NCAA, and he was also the lead education consultant for initial curriculum development for the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). His areas of study have included athlete identity; diversity and inclusion issues related to gender and race in education, business, sport and entertainment; and how multicultural demographics influence marketing and fan engagement.
Butcher was introduced to gymnastics in his youth and competed through junior high and high school. In order to remain involved with the sport, he transitioned to coaching, and eventually judging. In his early years, Butcher served as owner of South Cal Gymnastics and program director for the San Diego Mission Valley YMCA. Throughout his career, he has served as senior director of operations for Varsity Spirit Corporation; Men’s Program Committee member, Junior National Team coach, and Executive Committee member for USA Gymnastics; and Men’s Technical Committee president, Executive Committee member, and vice president – North America for the Pan American Gymnastics Union (PAGU). In 2012, he was elected president of FIG’s Men’s Technical Committee for Artistic Gymnastics – the first American to hold this title, and in 2017, he transitioned to the full-time role of technical coordinator. He currently serves as the federation’s sports director.
Wendy Hilliard was the first Black athlete to represent the U.S. in rhythmic gymnastics and the Women’s Sports Foundation’s first Black president. As an athlete, Hilliard competed in three World Championships and the 1984 Olympic Trials. A four-time National Team coach, she coached a 1996 Olympian. Hilliard served on the Executive Committee of USA Gymnastics, as chair of the Athletes’ Council and as vice president for rhythmic gymnastics. Hilliard has been a gymnastics sportscaster and performed in Olympic gymnastics tours and on Broadway. She was also the director of sports for New York City’s 2012 Olympic and Paralympic bid. In 1996, she founded the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation, which has provided free and low-cost gymnastics for over 20,000 youth in Harlem and her hometown of Detroit. In 2008, Hilliard was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame. She studied Russian and physical education at Wayne State University and graduated with honors from New York University.
Following a career as a senior elite gymnast in Australia in which she earned the title of national champion on vault, Lowery was recruited to the U.S. in 2016 to join the Oregon State University Women’s Gymnastics team. As a sophomore, she was elected team co-captain and held that title throughout her junior and senior years. Lowery was named a Second-Team All-American on floor exercise and earned Pac-12 All-Conference honors during her career. She was also twice named a Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention and was a 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year Award nominee. She is majoring in human development and family science at OSU, and currently serves as an undergraduate student coach.
Jasmine Swyningan Bedford
After graduating from Iowa State University, where she competed as a member of the school’s Women’s Gymnastics team, Swyningan Bedford moved to Chicago to pursue graduate studies and reignited her passion for the sport by transitioning to judging. She has been judging Women’s Compulsory, Optional, Xcel, and NCAA Division I-III gymnastics throughout the country for nearly a decade and also choreographs routines in her spare time. As a Black/biracial woman in a majority white sport, she is regularly asked, ‘What are you?’ to which she answers, ‘A human being.’ Her experiences have shaped how she approaches judging, and she has been facilitating conversations about race and implicit bias with the broader gymnastics’ community in her home state of Minnesota. Outside of gymnastics, Swyningan Bedford works full-time as a project manager for a healthcare company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from ISU, a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago and a Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology from Loyola University Chicago.