Alumni association hub helps Miamians stay connected to alma mater in midst of pandemic

By Josh Chapin, manager of editorial services

Love. Honor. Learn. Even around the dinner table.

Erik Jensen may not have been able to see the audience during his recent virtual presentation, “Miami Presents: The Stonewall Riots,” but that didn’t mean he couldn’t still connect with Miamians afterward. An associate professor of history at Miami, Jensen received several comments following his talk, which focused on the history of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and its impact on the LGBTQ+ movement.

One of those comments came from a friend, a former classmate of Jensen’s from Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in Plymouth, Minnesota. His daughter is a sophomore at Miami, and he texted a photo to Jensen of his family gathered around the dinner table, all watching the Stonewall webinar.

Erik Jensen

“His son has just come out as bisexual, and he texted me before the presentation that the entire family was going to watch,” Jensen said. “These are people who otherwise would be too busy to watch or unable to attend, and here they are, able to watch, and it has resonance for them. I thought that was a great example of webinars being able to reach people.”

The Miami University Alumni Association is using a digital hub to engage with Miamians worldwide under the motto of Love. Honor. Learn. Featuring webinars, events and award-winning members of Miami’s faculty, the hub is a gateway to keeping the more than 230,000 members of Miami’s alumni engaging with the university in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 70 recordings are archived, including “Women’s collegiate baseball in Ohio in the early 20th century” from Callie Batts Maddox, assistant professor of sports leadership and management.

Maddox’s work earned the 2018 Doug Pappas Award from the Society for American Baseball Research for the best oral research presentation.

Callie Batts Maddox

“The overarching goal of it is to change the narrative, or at least challenge the narrative we have in American culture that baseball is for boys and men, and women don’t have a place in the game,” Maddox said. “We tend to assume women don’t play baseball and never have. I’d like to use this research and use this history to open up our understanding of who played baseball. For women, especially college students, baseball was a really popular activity.”

Originally from New Mexico, Maddox played baseball until she was 13 and then switched to softball. As a middle infielder, Maddox played college softball for Whittier College, an NCAA Division III school in California.

While at Whittier, classmate Ila Borders pitched for Whittier’s baseball team. Borders was the first female to start in a men’s NCAA or NAIA baseball game when she pitched for Southern California College prior to coming to Whittier. She signed with the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League in 1997.

“Ila was out there playing on the baseball field while I was trudging up to the softball field,” Maddox said. “I remember thinking, ‘Rock on, Ila.’”

After her softball career ended, Maddox continued exploring the history of women in baseball, expanding her research as she dug into Miami’s archives.

“I thought, ‘If it’s here at Miami, it has to be at other places,’” Maddox said.

One common theme permeated the feedback from her recent webinar. Maddox heard several personal stories about viewers’ connections with sport.

“I love hearing, ‘My daughter played baseball,’ or, ‘My daughter played softball,’” Maddox said. “Hearing more of a personal reflection or experiences connects that we have contemporary experiences. Women have been playing baseball for a very, very long time and need the opportunity to continue playing baseball.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to do the webinar. I enjoyed it immensely. I was nervous, but I really enjoyed doing it.”

Jensen, too, had a positive experience with his webinar, which was his first time giving a presentation in a digital space.

His father, Norman, enjoyed it too, and he was very intrigued by the array of topics. After having tuned in for his son’s talk, he is now hoping to make Miami alumni webinars a regular part of his streaming options.

“My friend Jeff Wanko did one on puzzles right after, and I told my dad about it,” Jensen said. “He loves puzzles. I do too.

“This is great, and it’s free. It’s a great idea. Several members of my family have watched. They like the whole series.”

Love. Honor. Learn. sessions continue this month, with several webinars and events scheduled for October, November and into December.

“I think it’s tremendously important and really creative to do this kind of outreach,” Maddox said. “We don’t necessarily have a chance to travel to academic conferences. To keep the conversations going is really important, and it’s a great way to showcase what is going on.”

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