Professor Alexes Harris works closely with UW Athletics to help student-athletes succeed

Portrait of Alexes Harris against a dark teal background. She is smiling and looking off to the left.

Alexes Harris, ’97, grew up in Seattle, played high school volleyball and loves to watch Husky sports. That’s fitting, seeing how this professor of sociology is the UW’s Faculty Athletics Representative.

Did you approach this position with any initiatives or changes in mind?

One thing that we started in 2018 that I’m excited about is called “Coaches Fellows.” All new faculty are invited to participate in a three-day workshop to become acclimated to the environment, the values, the beliefs and the resources on campus. We didn’t do the same thing for our new coaches, so, in 2018, we started the “Coaches Fellows” program. All new coaches are invited to attend a half-day gathering. President Cauce will address the group and Jen Cohen will address the coaches. We have a panel of faculty that can engage with coaches and tell them about the UW’s academics and opportunities. We explain how we can help student-athletes find their academic and athletic passions so they can be a whole student here.

As a sociologist, what perspective do you bring to the athletic department?

I study the criminal legal system and how laws are interpreted and applied—as well as their consequences. For me, the NCAA is an institution. It has legislations and rules. I’m really interested in how the Pac-12 schools, including the UW, interpret and apply the rules. We have an amazing compliance staff. I think being a legal scholar in this position is so cool.

Are there any specific race, ethnicity and social-justice outcomes you are looking for?

In January, I was the chair of the search committee to hire the associate athletic director for diversity, equity and inclusion.[Sheridan Blanford was hired for the position.]The athletic director, head football coach and head men’s basketball coach contributed money to create this new position. I’m really excited to see the work that Sheridan is doing for our staff, coaches and our student-athletes about equity and inclusion—to make sure that we continue to create a space within athletics and on campus for all students, regardless of how they identify. That’s my goal: to make our students be Huskies and be themselves 100% of the time.

Read more at University of Washington Magazine