PODCAST: S4:EP35– Sarah Hillyer, University of Tennessee, Knoxville – Center for Sport, Peace & Society

Join us for S4:EP35 of the Sports Philanthropy Podcast as Sarah Hillyer, Director at University of Tennessee, Knoxville – Center for Sport, Peace, and Society sits down with our host Roy Kessel to discuss her career path and the great work being performed at the University of Tennessee.

Sarah Hillyer wants to live in a world filled with freedom of movement, innovative ideas, thoughtful people, and inspiring books, films, and creative media projects that tell the real-life the stories of everyday sporty heroes creating a more just, equitable, and free world.

As an educator and consultant with more than 30 years of experience, she’s worked with the U.S. Department of State, United States Olympic & Paralympic Committees, Islamic Federation of Women’s Sports, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, PGA of America, Women’s Tennis Association, Google, Procter & Gamble, Saatchi & Saatchi, LA, dozens of National Paralympic & Olympic Committees, (and more) creating programs that use the unique attributes of sport and physical activity to create innovative social movements and promote peace around the world.

In 2011, Hillyer was named the Georgetown University Sport and Peace-building Post-Doctoral Fellow – a fellowship sponsored by HRH King Abdullah II of Jordan. In 2012, she launched the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sport, Peace, & Society housed in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. The Center was recognized by then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton as the sole cooperative partner of the State Department to create a global initiative designed to empower women, girls, and persons with disabilities through sport. Since 2012, Hillyer and her team have worked alongside more than 1,000 women, men, and youth from 80+ countries, impacting tens of thousands. In 2018, ESPN named the center’s partnership initiative with the U.S. Department of State and espnW as the winner of the Stuart Scott Humanitarian Award.

Hillyer received her doctoral degree in the Sociocultural Study of Sports from the University of Tennessee in 2010. She holds a master’s degree in Sport Psychology from Murray State University and a BA in Sports Administration from Liberty University. She was a division I NCAA basketball player at Virginia Tech.

When she’s not using sports to change the world, you can find her spending quality time with family, playing one-on-one basketball with her nephew, or day-dreaming about what the world will look like when everyone realizes their full potential and unleashes their best selves for the sake of all humanity.

CSPS helps global leaders develop innovative solutions to socio-political challenges using sport. We work to create a more peaceful, equitable, and inclusive world. Through its work as implementing partner of the U.S. Department of State Global Sports Mentoring Program, the center has worked with international sports leaders and U.S. mentors on five-week exchanges, where the leaders develop Action Plans for sport-based social change in their communities. These plans have contributed to the creation of national sports leagues and federations for women and people with disabilities and impacted legislation to make countries more inclusive and accessible.

Sarah Hillyer joins our host Roy Kessel on S4:EP35 of the Sports Philanthropy Podcast


  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 01:04 Developed Passion for Sports
  • 03:40 Favorite Sports Growing Up
  • 08:38 Studying at Virginia Tech
  • 14:46 Early Part of Career
  • 19:00 Transferred to Liberty University
  • 22:00 Direction on Future
  • 30:55 10 year Anniversary
  • 33:55 Types of People that come into the Program
  • 36:50 Applying for a Grant
  • 39:30 Contact Information
  • 42:12 Commissioner of a Sports League
  • 44:15 Closing Remarks


Robert Wilson

Robert Wilson

Sports Philanthropy Network

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