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Championing Inclusion: My Quest as an Athlete to Destigmatize Disabilities

Photo of Marne Sullivan, a female athlete running on the track

I’m Marne Sullivan and I was born deaf and had cochlear implant surgery when I was 3 1/2 years old. I just recently graduated from Boston College where I studied Marketing and Communications as well as being a part of the women’s track and field team!

During my time at Boston College, I was not only a student and an athlete, but also a passionate advocate for disability rights and inclusion. My own experiences as a deaf individual with cochlear implants have shaped my perspective and fueled my desire to create a more inclusive and understanding environment for all students, regardless of their abilities. I realized that while there were resources and support for students with disabilities, we could do more for representation and advocacy within the athletic community. This realization led me to seek out opportunities to make a difference.

I found such an opportunity in Eagles for Equality (E4E), a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee at Boston College, created by and for student-athletes. I was inspired by the work E4E was doing to promote diversity and inclusion within the athletic community, and I saw a chance to contribute in a meaningful way. After discussing with Sydney Moore, a member of the BC women's soccer team and the president of E4E, I decided to establish the first-ever disability subcommittee within E4E. This subcommittee would focus on raising awareness and destigmatizing both visible and non-visible disabilities, not just within athletics, but across the entire campus.

To further this goal, I formed a partnership between my subcommittee and Boston College’s Council for Students with Disabilities (CSD). Together, we worked on various initiatives including community outreach, content creation, and event organization. One of our most memorable events was hosting Noelle Lambert, a former D1 lacrosse player who lost her leg in a life-threatening moped accident. Despite her accident, Noelle returned to the lacrosse field and made the U.S. Paralympic Track & Field team just five months after graduating from college. In March of 2021, she learned to snowboard and subsequently made Team USA just 7 months later with her eye set on the 2026 Winter Olympics. In 2022, Noelle became a castaway on season 43 of Survivor, the first above the knee amputee to compete in this grueling competition. Her story of resilience and determination was a powerful reminder of the capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

On March 27th, 2023, we kicked off the Noelle Lambert event with a student-athlete Q&A panel, orchestrated by a BC volleyball player and myself. Following the inspiring Q&A session, we opened the doors to the entire Boston College Community. Among the many impactful statements Noelle shared, one phrase that really resonated with me was: "People view individuals with disabilities as incapable, but I view my disability as a capability."

The journey to establishing the disability subcommittee and partnering with CSD has been both challenging and rewarding. I am proud of the progress we have made and the impact we have had on the Boston College community. I hope to see this initiative continue to flourish at Boston College and inspire similar efforts in other institutions. To learn more or if you’re thinking of leading a similar initiative at your institution let’s connect! You can leave a comment below or join my Hear & Out group!

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1 Comment

Gil Kaminski
Gil Kaminski
Jun 30, 2023

Truly inspiring work!

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