Elisabeth Hindert, an LSA senior, swept into the room, clutching a coffee cup and armed with an oversized smile. She had just flown back to Ann Arbor from New York City after a round of job interviews instead of traveling to Atlanta to watch the Wolverines play for their first National Championship in 20 years.
As Hindert settled into her chair, she said with a frustrated sigh that she had to come back to Ann Arbor because, well, she just had too many responsibilities. If anyone can claim too many responsibilities, it is certainly her.
Hindert is the head of marketing for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a group that works to connect student-athletes with the community, and the director of I Will, a student campaign to educate students and raise awareness about sexual assault at the University.
She ran track for the University for two years before a career ending injury led her to become a coxswain on the rowing team.
“It was hard but the rowing team kind of picked me up,” she said.
She became involved with SAAC early on in her University career, helping to plan events and community service activities to bring student-athletes “out of their bubble.”
Hindert also planned workshops with Greg Harden, director of athletic counseling, to educate student-athletes on health and wellness, including education on sexual assault.
She soon realized that she wanted to confront the endemic problem of sexual assault on campus — one in four women on college campuses are sexually assaulted.
“The numbers are so staggering,” she said, leaning forward in her chair.
She added that she also had disagreed with the manner in which the University dealt with sexual assaults.
“(Students) weren’t getting much support, especially from the University,” she said. “If (a student) went and reported it to the University, they would handle in the same way as if that person who sexually assaulted you stole your backpack.”
Hindert decided to work the Athletics Department to use student-athletes as a platform on which to launch a campus-wide effort, the I Will organization, to bring about a conversation with the University community about sexual assault.
This has included rebranding some University athletics gear with a teal block ‘M’ — teal is the color representing organizations against sexual assault — and filming student-athletes for a PSA that will be shown at Crisler Center, Yost Ice Arena and the Big House.
The response to the PSA “was unbelievable” Hindert said. “It changed (those sexual assault statistics) from statistics and numbers to people.”
She said the organization has been growing rapidly. They have hosted multiple events on campus, including an awareness week this week, where they’re going to “paint the town teal.” The group is also developing an ambassador-training program for students who want to work with the organization.
“We’re making a positive campaign to just educate and make people more aware and let the conversation happen,” she said. “By just doing that, we are just making a big difference.”
I Will has also been working with SAPAC and the University administration — especially E. Royster Harper, University vice president of student affairs — to develop better sexual assault policy.
“They are taking much more seriously,” she said. “They have been amazing and we have been working together.”
Hindert said she believes that her organization has been effective because it is a student organization that is bringing this conversation forward.
“The only way you are going to infiltrate and connect is if you are student working with students,” she said.
Hindert paused and laughed after 25 minutes of rapidly describing her career at the University and her work with I Will and asked if anything she had just said made any sense. She looked exhausted and ambitious and proud.
“(I’m proud of the) fact that it happened,” she said. “That it actually started and that next year it is going to be bigger and better now that the foundation is there.”
Here are the other Students of the Year.