D3Week: USM SAAC and the Student-Athlete Experience

D3Week: USM SAAC and the Student-Athlete Experience

Story by Christina Cracolici, Assistant Director of USM Athletic Communications

On a day-to-day basis the USM student-athlete faces the same challenges as the rest of the University's student-body, but to earn the privilege of wearing a Husky uniform, a Division III student-athlete must rise to the challenges of additional academic and athletic expectations, as well as more demands on their free time. To be a Division III student-athletes requires discipline, dedication, desire, and a love and passion for their chosen sport. 

Division III Week gives the University of Southern Maine Department of Athletics a chance to celebrate and admire the hard-work, integrity and achievement of its nearly 500 student-athletes, 22 intercollegiate teams and the coaches and staff that dedicate themselves to representing the Husky uniform admirably in competition, the classroom and in the community.  

A typical week of a Southern Maine student-athlete could include early morning practices, film review and scouting report sessions, game-day travel, late bus trips to the farthest reaches of Vermont while studying by overhead light, 15-credit hours of classes, homework, study groups, tutoring sessions and part-time employment.  To put it simply, USM student-athletes are achieving athletic and academic success with a full schedule. From conference championships and NCAA National Championships to William B. Wise Scholar Athlete honors and Academic All-American awards,  our student-athletes, like other NCAA Division III members, are not only rising to the challenges of their academic and athletic commitments, but surpassing them. 

However, despite all of the time required for a Husky to maintain their athletic privileges and academic success, one of the hallmarks of a USM student-athlete is their numerous contributions to the community.  Huskies' athletics places its priority on the successful overall development of its student-athletes, through the fostering of five key areas: Academic Achievement, Athletic Performance, Personal Development, Career Development, and finally Service to Community.  Within this vibrant and supportive learning community, USM Athletics and its student-athletes have sustained one of the strongest student groups on the University's campus with its award-winning and nationally-recognized Huskies' Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

USM's SAAC, a student-led organization that is comprised of Southern Maine's 22 intercollegiate teams,  gives its members and participants numerous opportunities to engage in advocacy, community service and leadership roles, creating a learning community that fosters and strengthens the lessons learned through the participation in intercollegiate athletics.  Each year Husky student-athletes perform hours of community service through their affiliation with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, with members of SAAC organizing and planning events throughout the academic year.  Activities range from fun, family-friendly events like the Huskies Community Halloween Party, to advocacy and awareness events like its Peer Advocacy and Active Bystander Training, to education and inclusivity campaigns with its Unified Sports Program, and partnership with Maine Special Olympics.  

Since its creation in 1996, Huskies' SAAC has been recognized nationally by the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators (NADIIIAA) for its community service efforts and projects on 13 separate occasions.  Most recently, USM SAAC was recognized in January by the National Association of Division III Athletic Directors (NADIIIAA), earning honorable mention NADIIIAA/Josten's Community Service Award in the One-Time Project category for its outstanding efforts in its sponsorship, direction, planning and implementation of its Active Bystander/Peer Advocacy Training initiative. 

Along with their one-day events such as Holiday Caroling and its award-winning Community Halloween Party, USM SAAC members have stayed busy playing active roles in the second edition of its Unified Sports Program with Maine Special Olympics.  Featured on the NCAA News as part of the organizations partnership with the Special Olympics during the 2016-2017 academic year, Husky student-athletes created the Unified Sports Program with the goal of extending their outreach to Maine Special Olympics.  During the program, USM student-athletes from varying teams meet weekly with local Special Olympians at the Costello Sports Complex. Each session consists of 30 minutes of skill followed by 30 minutes of play.  These hour-long sessions have developed much more than individual sport skills, but have created real, lasting relationships between USM student-athletes and Maine Special Olympians, with the Huskies earning fans in the stands from their new friends and USM student-athletes returning the favor as volunteers and fans at the recent Special Olympics Basketball Tournament and Skill Competition hosted at Hill Gymnasium – an event hosted by USM Athletics since the 1970s, inside of Hill Gymnasium, long before the creation of the Costello Sports Complex.  

Led by SAAC Advisor and head women's basketball coach Samantha Allen, USM SAAC has seen its reach grow and the breadth of the organization extend beyond a community-service program, and venture into self-advocacy through addressing the student-athlete experience at the University and national level.  

"Our student-athletes are dynamic individuals who are very active within the USM and surrounding communities," noted Allen.  "SAAC's success is dependent upon the hard-work of our student-athletes, their commitment to foster positive relationships with various community members, and the initiative and dedication of our leadership group. From on-going, long-term projects like our Unified Sports Program and our Community Halloween Party, to our campaign to Spread the Word to End the Word, to one-time initiatives such as our Active Bystander Training, USM SAAC and its student-athlete members are understanding that they have a powerful voice on campus and can make a significant impact." 

Over the course of the last two years, Allen and SAAC have become more active in contributing to the discourse on national-level topics, and taking an active role in helping shape the student-athlete experience at Southern Maine.  Mindful of the National SAAC initiatives, USM's SAAC has prioritized mental health, inclusivity, civility, and governing legislation that directly affects Division III student-athletes. 

"The development of our Unified Sports Program, while creating an opportunity to participate in sport and create lifelong bonds with members of our Special Olympic communities, was also a great opportunity to learn and enact leadership, planning, and volunteering principles.  Much of the creation of the program is directly attributed to recent alumnae Lauren Lessard '17, a former women's lacrosse player, who is now pursuing her graduate degree.  And this year, our leadership, including president Mo Raymond (women's volleyball) and Vice President Kim Howrigan (women's basketball) have made a concerted effort to educate their fellow student-athletes on potential legislation and issues arising in the NCAA national level. It's rewarding to see how active they are becoming in steering the course of not only their careers as student-athletes, but also the future of USM athletes." 

The work of USM SAAC and its members from 1996 through the present-day iteration have not only established a open-line of communication between student-athletes and their administration, but has also generated a sense of fellowship between student-athletes, the University at-large and its surrounding communities. USM SAAC represents the very best of Husky student-athletes and is a fine representation of what it means to be an NCAA Student-Athlete.  


2017-2018 USM Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Officers


Mo Raymond, Senior, Volleyball

Vice President:

Kim Howrigan, Junior, Women's Basketball


Nicole Schmitz, Sophomore, Women's Volleyball

Public Relations:

Katie Howe, Sophomore, Women's Basketball

Civic Engagement

Mariah Garcia, Senior, Volleyball


Samantha Allen, Head Coach, Women's Basketball

Event Management Team:

Miriam Wood, Junior, Women's Ice Hockey


Sarah Michaud, Junior, Women's Soccer




Awards and Honors


 USM Outstanding Student Organization Award, Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 


 Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 


 USM Outstanding Student Organization Award 


 Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 


 Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 


 Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 


 USM Outstanding Student Organization Award, Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Award of Merit 


 USM Outstanding Student Organization Award, USM Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award 


 USM Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award 


 Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Honorable Mention (Array of Projects Category) 


 Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Honorable Mention (On-going Project Category) 


 Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Honorable Mention (On-going Project Category) 


 USM Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award


 USM's Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award


USM's Outstanding Contribution to Community Service Award


Josten's NADIIIAA Community Service Honorable Mention (One-Time Project Category)