Overtime! Blog reporter Adrienne Terzuoli spent an afternoon with Wagner College women’s tennis player Vedika Anand. An international student-athlete from India, Anand has taken on a leadership role during her time in the United States. Below are Terzuoli’s key takeaways from her interview with the NEC SAAC Co-Chair.
It was gloomy Tuesday at Wagner College, but Vedika Anand’s presence made it noticeably brighter.
I sat down with the Wagner senior tennis player to discuss her many responsibilities as a driving force behind the Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC).
I was sitting in one of Wagner’s administrative offices, looking over my questions, completely unaware of the time, when Vedika burst through the door with her giant smile.
Dressed in the new tennis uniform; a black tank top with the Nike and Seahawk logos parallel to each other and a green skirt, she unnecessarily offered her apologies for her tardiness. She was only two minutes behind schedule!
So, we settled ourselves and began the interview.
I had heard so much about Vedika and the crucial contributions she has made to Wagner SAAC as well as Northeast Conference SAAC. The NEC SAAC co-chair has been serving as one of the 32 conference reps for the national NCAA SAAC.
Her reputation and resume precedes her, and I was excited to dive in and learn more about her, her student-athlete experience at Wagner, and maybe pick up a tip or two on how she manages to fit it all into her already busy schedule.
She started by explaining her journey to Wagner as unconventional at best.
“College athletics is not really a big thing back home [in India]. I had no idea what the recruitment process was like, but my dad was a big help. I reached out to a tennis player at Wagner, who was also from India and asked her some questions. Fast forward to a few months later- they offered me a good scholarship and my mom and I made the trip to campus for move-in day. Of course, we went to Target first.”
I immediately admired her for her leap of faith into the unknown, but she assured me that she was not concerned at all.
“My parents are big on travel, so I’ve been lucky to travel around quite a bit. This wasn’t scary at all. In fact it felt homey. I came from a small high school and Wagner is a small college. It all felt like family, and being part of athletics was a big part of that feeling. Those are my people. I wanted to get to know everyone.”
So what is SAAC and how did Vedika get involved?
“At the time, both the president and VP of SAAC were on the tennis team. There wasn’t an option, we all attended the meeting. But once I got there and listened to what it was about, it was a no-brainer for me. They were talking about ways to make Wagner athletics better as a whole, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that. We were able to voice our concerns and suggestions to each other and the e-board would take it all to our AD and other administrators for discussion.”
She went on to say that, as a whole, the SAAC is ultimately a voice for student-athletes.
“The NCAA wouldn’t exist without student-athletes. They are the foundation by which college athletics is built. The people in SAAC are working to make the college athletic experience better. They work with you and for you- for all athletes.”
It became clear to me, in just a short time, that Vedika is passionate about the work she does with SAAC. In fact, she is so passionate that she has moved from being a member of the Wagner SAAC to a co-chair of the Northeast Conference SAAC to a national SAAC rep. She is an active member of two committees at the national level: the Student-Athlete Experience Committee and the Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct Committee.
She noted the importance of serving these committees not only because she genuinely enjoys it, but because she hopes to work in college athletics after graduation.
“Having a voice for the entire student body of athletes, both at the grass roots level and on a national platform is an incredible feeling. I’m very blessed that I get to represent my school and my conference.”
It is apparent that Vedika takes great pride in her conference as she praised Commissioner Noreen Morris for the work she has done for the schools, for the athletes and for women.
During her research for a project she is working on, Vedika interviewed Morris and relished in the fact that more women are taking on leadership roles in college athletics.
“There is a large group of women with diverse backgrounds becoming commissioners. I don’t know, maybe we have the ability to bring people together. Women tend to be more empathetic and have a great sense of knowing what ADs and programs need. Commissioner Morris is definitely someone I look up to. The NEC may be small, but she is very well respected and people listen when she talks. That is inspiring, not just for athletes, but for women as a whole.”
Our conversation together strengthened my idea that Vedika Anand may very well be a Conference Commissioner one day.
On the national level, Anand’s role is much more intense than at the institutional/conference level.
“I spend most of my time dedicated to my duties with the NCAA. I have my D1 ticker on my phone at all times so I can always be up to date with what’s going on in our division. I’m an early bird. I get up early, do my work and read some articles. We are going into the legislative cycle soon, so I need to be prepared.”
Conference SAAC reps are involved with the NCAA legislative cycle. Last year, over 50 proposals were submitted by the national SAAC group. Anand takes this responsibility seriously and relies on Wagner’s Senior Women’s Administrator (SWA), Tatum Colitz for guidance. Anand described Colitz as a mentor and a friend who is imperative in helping Vedika decipher some of the rules and verbiage she still may be unfamiliar with.
“Tatum [Colitz] is my resource. Whenever I have a question, we pull out the NCAA manual, aka ‘The Bible’ and Tatum knows it all by heart. Overall, we’re lucky at Wagner and at the NEC to have a close knit relationship with women who we can turn to.”
What was your biggest lesson as a member of SAAC?
“The most important thing is that we be respectful of everyone’s opinions. It is important that no one matter what level, we maintain the equality and fairness to all student-athletes. At the national level, we are 32 people who are so invested in wanting to help each other that we sometimes forget what conference everyone is from. We know that we all have a voice; even if something doesn’t affect us or our school specifically, we all get the chance to give our opinion. It’s about the experience of being in different conferences that makes it all so special. At the Wagner level, people here want to help you. Our administrators here want to make the student-athlete experience the best they can. Wagner has been a great source of support. I am blessed to have had this experience.”
Why are you proud to be a student athlete?
“Being a student athlete means you are part of something bigger than you. Sometimes the NCAA feels so far out of reach. Being a part of SAAC has allowed me to meet so many people, learn from a diverse group of individuals, and have an incredible student-athlete experience. College athletics has given me a structure and a discipline that I will take into my work and my life.”
Currently, the NEC SAAC is in the midst of a year-long mental health awareness campaign. Initially started at Sacred Heart University, it has been adopted as a conference-wide initiative spearheaded by SAAC .
This year, Wagner, which will hold Mental Health awareness week from October 27 through November 2, will be hosting a Dancing with the Stars-like competition that pairs a member of the theater program with an athlete. The College will also host the ‘green games’ as well as wear green ribbons for support.
“We wanted to bridge the divide between performing arts and sports, and this seemed like a fun way to do it. It was important for us to take on this initiative to show that there shouldn’t be a taboo about mental health. We want to get people talking about it.”