Whitney Johnson was hired on Feb. 12 to be BYU's first-ever Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development, Diversity and Inclusion. Johnson played women's basketball at New Mexico and Southern Utah as a student-athlete herself. (BYU Athletics)

BYU Athletics hires associate athletic director for diversity and inclusion

BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe announced on Feb. 12 the hiring of Whitney Johnson as the program’s first Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development, Diversity and Inclusion.

“Student-athletes are the center of everything we do. Providing them with the support they need is essential,” Holmoe said in a press release. “Specifically over the past year, many diversity and inclusion issues have come to light that are prevalent in our nation, community and BYU Athletics family. These are not new issues. They are things we’ve been working on. We must be unified and work diligently to better educate and empower each other, to love one another and respect one another. We are so glad to have Whitney help us do so.”

Johnson is a former student-athlete herself, having played basketball at both New Mexico and Southern Utah from 2011-2018. She comes to BYU from the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where she worked with the missionary department.

“I am extremely honored and grateful to be a part of the BYU family,” Johnson said in the press release. “The creation of this position is a testament to the vision of Tom Holmoe and his staff and their desire to create the ultimate environment in which student-athletes can succeed. Though the nation has suffered difficult times, the potential for growth and improvement is tangible, and I’m excited to help BYU Athletics lead the charge.”

Johnson took a break during her time in college to serve as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico.

After her collegiate playing career and earning an MBA from SUU, Johnson worked at Indiana University, where she specialized in student-athlete development, including diversity and inclusion efforts. She then worked at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis in the leadership development department. Among her efforts at the NCAA, she created a mentorship program to aid recently-graduated student-athletes in navigating the athletics industry.

Johnson is a board member of Return on Inclusion and Untold Athletes, a media platform started by BYU tennis alumnus David Ball, and an active member of Women Leaders in College Sports.

Her duties within the athletic department will include overseeing the strategic vision and program implementation for diversity and inclusion within BYU Athletics, including for minority student-athletes in the core areas of race/ethnicity, international, LGBT, and student-athletes of other faiths.

Johnson becomes the second female and first Black member of the BYU Athletics senior leadership team. The hire is another step toward a more diverse program for BYU, after hiring Kalani Sitake as the first Tongan head coach in collegiate history in 2016.

BYU Athletics is currently running a campaign entitled “Root Out Racism,” among its student-athletes during Black History Month, inviting speakers to help them learn more about the history of race and leading a discussion on eliminating racism at BYU.

At the end of the press release announcing Johnson’s hiring, the department said, “BYU Athletics is striving to follow the charge of President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU’s sponsoring institution, as he has instructed members of the church to ‘lead out’ in abandoning attitudes of prejudice and to root out racism.”

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