Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

uWHA - The Story of Us

Undergraduate Women of Harvard Athletics (uWHA) was founded in 2019 by three Harvard female athletes, Olivia Ostrover, Maddie Earle and Kenzie Barta. The group was created to give women who consider themselves atheles a voice and a support group of other like-minded individuals. uWHA is a space for people who identify as female athletes to build a community of support within and beyond Harvard and discuss the most pressing topics faced by female athletes. Membership is open to all undergraduate students, and the process to become a member is simple: sign up for the uWHA mailing list and attend at least one uWHA event each semester to maintain membership. We directly recruit members at the Student Inolvement Fair at the beginning of the fall semester, but potential members can join throughout the year.  

The structure of uWHA has an executive board and general board. The executive board consists of two co-presidents, two vice presidents, a treasurer, and the heads of each of our committees: Social Media, Community Outreach, Alumni and Development, and Events. The general board is made up of the executive board members and the four to five members of each committee. This leadership structure allows for streamlined decision making and inclusivity. 

As uWHA was only founded in 2019 and programming of the 2019-2020 year was cut short due to COVID-19 and all of the programming was done online last year, the 2021-2022 academic year was the first year that we were able to put on a full year of programming. Many members that were part of the founding year had graduated along with the founders and previous co-presidents. Other than a basic overview of the events they had put on in the past, there was not much historical information to outline how to develop an active membership and recruit more members. 

In the past, we hosted a variety of events. In the 2019-2020 academic year, uWHA held a career workshop with Sandly Golinkin of Raising the Bar, a career guidance service in New York City, a yoga event in Weld Boathouse, and a speaker event with Victoria Garrick, who is a TED Talk speaker, mental health advocate, former DI Volleyball player at USC, podcast host, and content creator. In the 2020-2021 academic year, all of our programming was online but consisted of events, such as an alumni panel, community conversations, and a yoga class. This year we held a back-to-school s'mores social, a Core Power class, a yoga event, a social formal, and an alumni spotlight event. There are not many smaller, casual events that people can get to know each other better. 

As we are such a young club, we are struggling to develop a sense of community. The attendance at many of our events is made up of mostly board members who are required to go and the same few other members of our organization. Only in this past month did we kickstart our representative program, in which each varsity team has one member designated as the uWHA representative to encourage their teammates to go to events. The idea behind this program is to facilitate active membership through relationships already formed through teams. If one teammate is going, it makes it more likely that another will go as well. This program will continue next year, and as it becomes more developed, it will hopefully add to uWHA's sense of community.

The mission of this club is so important to Harvard's campus, but the only way for uWHA to make an impact on Harvard and beyond is to recruit members and enhance membership engagement. 

These issues faced by uWHA led me to my action research question: how can uWHA increase the number of active memberships and enhance membership engagement? Providing strategies to solve these problems will help give structure to the organization and create a better community for our members, in addition to helping to establish new traditions. 

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