ABINGTON, Pa. — Taylor LaPage, president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and a multi-sport player at Penn State Abington, attended the NCAA national convention in Phoenix last month with Erin Foley, the director of Athletics, Intramurals, and Recreation.
“It was incredible realizing that we can be the voice for student-athletes at such a high level. We gave our opinions openly, and we were heard,” LaPage said of the conference, which included representatives from all three levels of NCAA athletics.
“It was not just for coaches and athletic directors. It was so student-oriented, and I got to attend roundtable talks with other Division III student-athletes. We talked about everything from new rules and policies just for DIII schools to our partnership with the Special Olympics,” she said.
The four-day annual meeting featured a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) forum that LaPage found particularly impactful.
“Afterward, Erin and I discussed the possibility of getting DEI facilitators on campus for national Division III week in April. It would especially be beneficial for our student-athletes since Abington is the most diverse campus within Penn State,” she said.
LaPage said she was pleased to see athletic directors from colleges and universities large and small examine issues and legislation from the perspective of a student-athlete.
“They understand how it affects our student-athletes and our schools, and they took that into consideration. It was very empowering,” she said.
LaPage's experience at the national conference confirmed her plan to attend law school after she graduates in May with a bachelor of science degree in psychological and social sciences.
“It made me realize that this is what I want to be doing when I get older — I want to advocate for student-athletes and women in sports. I love to work with student-athletes, and I would love to be an advocate for women’s sports. I’m someone who wants to be of service to people,” she said.
Her drive to support and advocate for others bleeds into her time as a student-athlete at Abington, LaPage said. Her primary sport is volleyball, where she plays right-side hitter, but she has been a member of the tennis and track teams, too.
“I’ll play anywhere my coach needs me, and I try to be the best asset I can be to the team and not complain. I like to be the person coaches can go to,” she said.
LaPlage’s service mindset pushed her to join SAAC her first year at Abington, and she quickly moved into leadership roles, she said.
“Student athletes are such a close-knit group and being an advocate for them is so important to me. Advocating for student-athletes at all levels opens more opportunities for us, and we can voice our concerns as a student body,” she said.
During her final semester at Abington, LaPage, an honor student and member of the Schreyer Honors College, remains enthusiastic about the benefits of being an NCAA Division III student-athlete.
“We can play competitively in DIII and still focus on our academics. There's been a lot I’ve been able to accomplish academically that I might not have been able to do at another NCAA level. My coaches support academics coming first and finding help if you are struggling,” she said.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,100 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 25 majors, accelerated master's degrees, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.