By Chris Gionta
Springfield assistant professor of sport management and recreation and newly-appointed faculty athletics representative Heather Gilmour intends to use her own past positive experiences in athletics to help the culture of athletics at Springfield College. Gilmour was a field hockey player at University of Southern Maine, and at times, was able to appreciate the support from the academic side of the campus.
“I always felt uneasy talking to professors saying I had to leave class early to go compete, but there were a few times where I can remember faculty who were really supportive,” Gilmour said. “I can distinctly remember an English professor saying ‘Good luck! Who are you playing today?’…and I can remember just feeling great about that level of support.”
Every institution is required to have a faculty athletics representative for the NCAA. Gilmour was appointed by Springfield President Mary-Beth Cooper, and the position is there to provide a connector between academics and athletics.
“[Faculty athletics representatives] serve as a representative to the college, the NCAA, as well as athletics for the academic side of the house for the student-athletes,” Gilmour said.
She is taking over for Bob Accorsi, who had the role for seven years. Accorsi had a very productive tenure as the faculty athletics representative at Springfield that Gilmour admires.
“Following Bob Accorsi’s footsteps is something I honestly try to avoid — he leaves a pretty big mark wherever he goes,” Gilmour said. “He was probably more involved than any faculty athletics representative I’ve ever known. He was heavily involved with the creation of the Pride Cares program. He was heavily involved and supportive of Humanics in Action Day events. He was integral in the food drives that [Springfield] athletics completes. He runs leadership programming for the women’s basketball team…”
Gilmour has a lot of perspective on college athletics. She was an assistant director of athletics for student-athlete welfare, a head field hockey coach, and softball coach at Regis College before she started working at Springfield in 2018.
“I worked for 12 years in college athletics,” Gilmour said. “So, I used to work on the other side. I’d work with the athletic directors directly and talk about the faculty athletics representative that we would select and would be ideal.”
Each institution asks for different requirements of their representatives.
“Different campuses use their faculty athletics representatives in different ways — whatever meets their needs,” Gilmour said. “Previously, when I worked in athletics, we used to go about looking for faculty athletics representatives who could help bridge some gaps with certain academic departments where there might have been a little more pushback in terms of athletic support.”
There is always potential for athletic and academic departments to have conflicting thoughts on how the school should approach their respective areas. However, this is not as grand an issue at Springfield because of the enthusiasm for student-athletes to pursue athletic success.
“Springfield is such a supportive community for athletics in general,” Gilmour said. “I feel as if everyone on campus does amazing work within their groups, and I would love to try connecting a lot of those dots between athletics and student groups and faculty and co-curricular work to bring everybody together.”
Photo Courtesy Springfield College