Young female athletes from around the globe and Michelle Kwan—five-time world figure skating champion, two-time Olympic medalist and senior adviser at the U.S. Department of State—will visit the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, during the next few weeks.


The Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports initiative is part of the U.S. Department of State’s sports diplomacy efforts to open opportunities for women and girls around the world and promote positive social change.


From now until April 9, 24 young women from six countries—Argentina, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Nigeria, South Korea and Turkey—will be in the United States to take part in activities surrounding the NCAA Women’s Final Four Multi-Nation Basketball Program.


During their time in Knoxville and Nashville, they will participate in basketball clinics with their American peers, engage in community service and disability sports activities and develop action plans that use sports to address social issues in their communities. The visiting athletes and coaches also will attend the NCAA Women’s Final Four games.


On Thursday, April 3, the athletes and coaches will participate in an afternoon of programming at the Carolyn P. Brown Memorial University Center auditorium, 1502 West Cumberland Avenue. At 1:30 p.m., Michelle Kwan will make remarks followed by a panel discussion with her and the visiting coaches.


Kwan’s talk and the panel discussion are free and open to the public.


Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero will attend the event. Sarah Hillyer, director of UT’s Center for Sport, Peace and Society, will be the moderator.


“We are so honored to have Michelle Kwan join us for the ‘Empowering Women through sports’ public policy panel discussion at UT,” said Ashleigh Huffman, assistant director of the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. “Her passion for using sport to promote cultural understanding, educational opportunities and the empowerment of women and girls embodies the UT spirit of ‘Big Orange. Big Ideas.’ We are excited to share this opportunity with our campus and community and look forward to the insightful lessons we can learn as they relate to sports diplomacy, public policy and women’s empowerment.”


The Empowering Women and Girls through Sports initiative has three components: the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program, which pairs up to 20 international emerging leaders with leading American women in the sports world; Sports Visitors, which brings women and girls from overseas to the United States for exchanges with their American counterparts; and Sports Envoys, which sends professional U.S. athletes, coaches and sports administrators overseas to engage underserved youth in clinics and leadership discussions.


Earlier this year, the espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program, the flagship component of the initiative—was named in the Top 10 list of best diplomatic accomplishments by 2013 by the Public Diplomacy Council. Research shows sports have a positive impact on individuals, with improved health, enhanced self-esteem and increased academic success.


During the last two weeks of April, 14 young female soccer players and two coaches from Brazil will be at UT for a program focused on the 2014 World Cup and women’s empowerment.


The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs awarded a grant to the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society to implement many of the initiative’s athlete exchanges and mentoring programs.


For more information about the Center for Sport, Peace and Society, visit


To learn more about Assistant Secretary of State Evan Ryan, visit