In her new role as the Huskies’ first Associate Athletic Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Sheridan Blanford, ’16, has the opportunity to make a big impact as she incorporates two of her passions—sports and inclusion.
A native of Colorado who attended St. Olaf College in Minnesota, Blanford was a four-year college basketball player who later came to the west coast to earn her master’s of education in Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership from the UW in 2016. She also served as a graduate assistant in the Tyee office. “I really started to think about diversity and equity within higher education and sports differently. Combining it with the new world of college sports is really unique and important. When I graduated, there were only two or three institutions in the entire nation that had a person or a department focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). It’s something that I’m very passionate about from not only a professional perspective but also from a personal perspective.
“I am a bi-racial woman. My mother is white and my father is Black. Diversity, equity and inclusion are not the only things I’m passionate about but I live it every day. I am the walking, breathing definition of inclusion and I strive to create it wherever I go.”
From UW, Blanford went on to work as the assistant director for Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the conference that her undegraduate institution, St. Olaf, was in. Prior to returning to UW in her new role, Blanford worked at the University of Wisconsin as the Director of Inclusion & Engagement in the athletic department. At Wisconsin, Blanford was able to take her unique position of being one of the first in the business to have a DEI role, and combine it with her passion to provide spaces of belonging, and access and opportunity for everyone to thrive and succeed.
UW Athletic Director Jennifer Cohen says that Blanford’s passion and expertise will have a tremendous impact on the student-athletes, coaches and the sports staff. “There’s lots of work to be done,” Blanford says. “I am going to evaluate the culture: determine the pockets of excellence, identify areas of opportunity, and establish a strategy to ensure equity and inclusion are a part of all UW Intercollegiate Athletics policies and programs.”