Diversity Equity Inclusion Stories

Student Athlete Coordinates Inclusive Practices with Her Team


Meet Klaire Steffens, a sophomore student athlete at the University of Chicago.

She is majoring in Public Policy and minoring in Education and Society. Apart from being a member of the basketball team, she is on the executive board of the Women’s Athletic Association (WAA), co-president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and a member of the Trott Business Program.

Part of her role as WAA Promotions Coordinator is to organize inclusive practices with Chicago’s Special Olympics Illinois (SOILL) teams. Her teammate and co-president of the WAA brought inclusive practices to UChicago because of the belief that is shared with them all that, “regardless of a so-called ‘disability,’ these athletes deserve to play and practice on a stage as large as all of the hard work which they have put into their sport,” per Miranda Burt (Class of 2020).

The inclusive practices bring in local Special Olympics Illinois teams to practice alongside varsity athletes on campus. This past year they had soccer, flag football, and basketball practices.

In addition to the inclusive practices, WAA hosts an annual fundraising event, Slam Dunk, during the Women’s and Men’s basketball games to raise money for these teams. They raise funds through raffle ticket sales leading up to and during the games. Klaire is so moved when she is playing on the court and looks up to the stands to see some of the Special Olympics athletes that have practiced with the team. They come to Slam Dunk to support their teams as well as play in a basketball game with their athletes during halftime.

Beyond the inclusive practices, WAA usually hosts a Special Olympics Field Day in the spring. This is an incredibly fun day where all of these Special Olympics Illinois teams come together with the University of Chicago male and female athletes to play soccer, basketball, flag football, track, and tennis.

As a student-athlete, Klaire does undergo the typical stress of tests, assignments, and managing a 20+ hour weekly commitment to basketball. However, her involvement with Special Olympics always brings her and other athletes joy.

The SOILL athletes always arrive on campus with contagious smiles beaming across their faces. Whenever the team sets foot on the field or court, the Special Olympics Illinois athletes manage to keep those smiles while also turning their competitive juices on. During the practices Klaire forgets about whatever assignments she may have because she is all consumed in the fun and competitive atmosphere. Perhaps the most meaningful take away that she has had is the relationships that she has built by practicing with the same teams consistently throughout the year in a variety of sports. Some of her other fellow student athletes and Klaire are on a first-name basis with many of the SOILL athletes. Whenever they call out Klaire and her teammates names or come give them high fives, their hearts warm.

Many UChicago athletes have told Klaire that SOILL athletes make their day. They are given the privilege to deliver checks from the Slam Dunk money to some of the teams that practice with them. Seeing how hard the SOILL athletes work, their own practice facilities, and how meaningful the funds are is eye opening. They are grateful that they are able to help provide the SOILL athletes the gear that they deserve and experience practices with them.

The Special Olympic athletes’ passion for their sport radiates throughout the inclusive practices. Their passion reminds the UChicago team of the pure love and joy that comes from one’s sport.

Diversity and Inclusion Intern


This learning opportunity is intended to increase participation of minority groups who are underrepresented in the management of non-profit organizations.


  • Assist the Special Olympics Illinois program with driving diversity and inclusion initiatives through the achievement of specified goals
  • Follow Special Olympics Illinois established policies and procedures
  • Recruit eligible individuals for participation in Special Olympics as athletes and volunteers
  • Promote awareness of individuals with intellectual disabilities and their achievements through public forums


(one – two selected by intern and intern supervisor)

  • Research, secure meetings, and cultivate at least three minority volunteer groups for long-term participation
  • Research and recommend curriculum around best advertising practices targeting diverse populations
  • Research at least three potential speakers, three potential coaches, and at least three diverse athletes to lead a training on the subject of diversity and inclusion
  • Manage a training with above-mentioned speaker(s) at the July 25 – 27, 2017 Organizational Meeting in Normal, IL


  • Must have completed at least four semesters of college or community college courses
  • Experience with Special Olympics and/or therapeutic recreation, parks and recreation, sports management, marketing, event management, publication relations or other closely related field(s)
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Physical mobility required: must be able to climb stairs, assist in set-up and breakdown at events, stand and/or sit for long periods of time, lift items weighing up to 25 pounds, climb stairs to move equipment and load and unload vehicles
  • Extensive computer knowledge with Microsoft operating system and Microsoft applications
  • Ability to commute within Chicago city limits


  • Based in Chicago, IL
  • Approximately 9 hours per week with evenings and weekends as the position demands; overnight and travel required for July meeting in Normal, IL
  • Position may require intern to use school-issued materials, such as computers, library resources and copiers
  • Reports to Assistant Director – Area 3


  • Internship must be taken for a course credit
  • $11/hour
  • Non-exempt, part-time, temporary position with a culminating project and presentation


  • Send cover letter, resume, and references to careers@soill.org by February 15, 2017; subject line should include your last name followed by “Diversity and Inclusion Internship Application”
  • Minority applicants are encouraged to apply