UW Center for Leadership in Athletics

December 5, 2023

IAL Internship Spotlight: Jessica Eligio

Jessica Eligio is an IAL M.Ed. graduate student interning with the University of Washington Athletics Department as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Graduate Assistant. Jessica sat down with Jake Silver, from the University of Washington Center for Leadership in Athletics, to answer a few questions about his experience so far in the IAL program.

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Q: What led you to apply to the IAL program?

A: I initially thought I would start working full-time right after undergrad, but my perspective shifted when a retired Athletic Director from Western Washington University encouraged me to apply to the IAL program. Upon learning about the benefits, hands-on experience, and connections built in the IAL program, I was drawn to the program. The UW IAL program was the only sports master program in the Pacific Northwest I found that I could complete in one year. Also, the opportunity to be the first person in my family to earn a master’s degree, especially in a field as exciting as sports, was a really important factor I took pride in.

Q: What are the main responsibilities of your internship with UW Athletics?

A: As the DEI graduate assistant for the DEI arm of UW Athletics, I oversee the digital side of the DEI team, creating the UW Athletics DEI newsletter for our staff and student-athletes. Additionally, I create content for heritage months, student-athlete affinity groups, and the 3L series. I manage the setup for our events, ensuring they run smoothly, and offer general support to the full-time staff of the DEI team. I am also involved in kicking off the Asian Pacific Islander Collective (APIC) affinity group, collaborating with UW Athletics staff to lay the foundation for this new affinity group.

Q: What is a day in your life like while balancing your internship responsibilities and course load in the IAL graduate program?

A: Balancing my internship responsibilities and the IAL graduate program, especially with an expanded team and increased workload, is sometimes challenging but I have found it to be rewarding. While it can be challenging to make time for schoolwork on some days after my GA position at UW Athletics and part-time job at University Village, doing the IAL coursework centers me. It helps me reflect on my learning and growth in my day-to-day work and experiences in my GA position in the athletic department.

Jessica setting up before the DEI department’s 3L Series: Land Acknowledgment. In observance of Native American Heritage Month, the DEI team walked through the institution’s land acknowledgment curriculum with the UW Athletics Staff. This curriculum provided educational resources about the native land in which we reside.

Q: In what ways has your internship experience complemented or expanded upon what you’ve learned so far in the IAL program?

A: My position has deepened my understanding of inclusivity and diversity, connecting these concepts to the student-athlete experience and their post-collegiate athletics life. Through my position, I have hands-on insights into the administrative side of a Power-5 athletic department, complementing what I learned from the IAL program. Seeing firsthand how a Power-5 athletic department operates and functions has been eye-opening.

Q: How has your internship experience contributed to your professional development and career goals?

A: My internship has enhanced my professional development through a focus on intentionality. I’ve learned the importance of contributing intentionally to building relationships with student-athletes, staff, and our community partners. Having the resources and connections of a D1 institution like UW has shown me the great impact our team can have. Being in the DEI space has made me reflect on my identity and the impact I can have on student-athletes. It has made me more aware of my privilege of growing up in Hawaii, a melting pot, around a diverse mix of cultures and perspectives, which is not as common in the states.

Q: Are there any specific individuals or mentors with whom you’ve connected that have been particularly influential?

A: Yes, Sheridan Blanford, an alum of the IAL program and the Associate Athletic Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, has been influential. Sheridan’s openness goes beyond work, creating connections on a personal level. Phillip Carpio, Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, shares a wavelength with me in terms of how we like to work. He has brought many new ideas to our team, having most recently worked at the University of Nebraska. The Tyee Club, another part of UW Athletics I like to connect with, is where I often catch up with IAL alumni and current IAL students in their office, and they are always great to work with.

Sheridan Blanford, ’16, speaking to the UW Athletics Staff at the DEI department’s 3L Series: Land Acknowledgment.

Q: What has been your biggest highlight so far in the IAL program?

A: The highlight has been creating relationships with so many different people, including faculty members, alumni, UW Athletics staff, and fellow classmates. The program’s diverse cohort, with varying ages and backgrounds, has contributed to a deep learning environment. Whenever I have talked to IAL alumni, they have emphasized the importance of building these connections, emphasizing the lasting impact these relationships can have throughout my professional career.