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Pulliam named assistant athletic director for diversity and inclusion


“Debunk the myth that great minds think alike.”

That’s the advice from Dr. Danielle Pulliam, the University of Wisconsin’s new assistant athletic director for diversity and inclusion.

Pulliam arrived in Madison last week, coming from Loyola Chicago, where she was assistant athletic director for student services – of which diversity and inclusion was just a part.

“I get to do this all day, every day now at Wisconsin, whereas (at) Loyola I was kind of pulled in different directions. I’ve always had a passion for this work,” she said in an interview with the It’s Only 10 Minutes podcast. “That passion definitely comes from my own identities. My identity as a woman, a Black woman, a lesbian woman, very aware of just how important it is to include different people, and to allow people access to tables and how important it is for different people to be in the room.”

For Pulliam, having those different people in the room goes beyond race – it’s about gender, background, profession, even different ways of thinking.

“Debunk the myth that great minds think alike. Introduce this thought that great minds don’t think alike,” she said. “Having different people at the table allows for things like innovation, creativity, different perspectives, greater impact. When we have people that don’t think alike around the table, it brings new ideas, brings fresh ideas.”

Pulliam’s dissertation dealt with this idea specifically as relates to hiring.

“Part of my research really looked at what are some small things that sometimes unintentionally were missing” in the hiring process, she said. “That’s the diverse candidate pool. I think that’s the hiring committee, whoever is doing the hiring, is that committee diverse?”

Prior to working at Loyola, Pulliam spent two years as an assistant director of academic services at Indiana University. She was responsible for providing academic support for wrestling, women’s soccer and women’s golf, and was also a member of the athletics department’s Anti-hate/Anti-racism Coalition, which worked to create and cultivate a more equitable and inclusive environment for student-athletes and staff.

Pulliam spent four years as an athletic academic counselor at Memphis, providing academic support for women’s basketball, softball, women’s soccer and men’s tennis. She developed the Tigers’ course curriculum for its Freshman Student-Athlete Transitions course, which provided first-year student-athletes with tools and strategies to make a successful transition to college life.

She also played basketball for Northern Illinois University.

“(I’m) super excited to be here in Madison,” she said. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about the city, about the university, and also about the athletics department.”

She said her focus in her new job will be taking care of the university’s diverse pool of student-athletes.

“How are we taking a holistic approach to think about how all the different identities of our student-athletes are impacting their ultimate experience? And how are we preparing them for the world after they leave our university and athletics department?” she said.

She said she hopes to create an environment “where people feel like they can be their authentic selves, where they know that they can thrive personally and professionally, where they can be successful. And also where they expect to grow and develop.”

“We are excited for Dr. Pulliam to join our team,” director of athletics Chris McIntosh said in a press release announcing the hire last week. “She shares our passion for fostering individual authenticity and creating shared experiences that bring us closer. Her experience as a student services professional and diversity and inclusion scholar will help us continue to elevate the lives of our student-athletes, staff and the community.”