Being a student-athlete on Willamette’s campus usually means going to academic classes, athletic practices and competitions, but for junior Mika Costella, it also means representing 18 different institutions in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Costello must travel to different conferences all over the United States to fulfill her role as the DIII National Student-Athlete Advisory committee (SAAC) member.
All sports teams on campus with a team SAAC representative meet once a month to discuss matters from legislation to fundraisers, to how to improve their school’s athletic department. Not every team has a national SAAC representative. In fact, not every school even has one. Costello actually represents all schools in the DIII Northwest Conference (NWC) and the Southern California Intercollegiate Conference.
This position was not an easy one to get. Costello had to attain nominations from Leslie Shevlin, who was the head swimming coach at the time, and then a nomination from the NWC SAAC, which had to be sent to the national organization. At the national level, she had to be chosen for different committees to participate in. Costello is the director of the social committee, LGBTQ workgroup, the NCAA Olympic workgroup committee and is on the Special Olympics committee. Costello said that being on all these committees “means that I get the incredible honor of representing the student-athletes’ voices and opinions. [I] get to explain how important it is to be a student-athlete in the NCAA and how our voices matter.”
Costello adds that it is highly important for WU to have a student at these NCAA conferences because it “makes sure WU’s voice is heard and makes sure things are communicated.” said Costello.
Costello is a diver and swimmer who competes in sprint freestyle events. She practices six days a week during the season and stays on top of a full schedule for her politics major.
Costello said about her work with SAAC, “One of the most impactful things I have done is the work with language in policy and legislation. One thing we are working on is making sure all documents have a gender-neutral language, all because I said, if you want to be inclusive why don’t we have gender-neutral language? And I didn’t realize how big it will be. I was able to bring it all the way to the President of the NCAA to bring it up to all three divisions.”
Costello has taken her role seriously and used her voice to push for inclusion in athletics, embodying Willamette’s motto, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.”