Making a difference ‘off the court’

As students, we’re challenged to learn and think and to use the information that we’ve synthesized to make a difference. Whether it’s in our classes, in our communities or in our eventual careers, an end goal of knowledge is its application.

However, we’re not alone in our endeavors. We have professors, leaders in the university and even national role models who have made a difference themselves.

The study of these role models is essential to seeing just what we can do when we apply ourselves to a task or commit ourselves to a cause. It also improves leadership skills, according to Art Markman of Psychology Today.

Markman writes that when people know that leadership is a learned skill and then experience leadership from a role model, it improves their own confidence and leadership.

Billie Jean King, American tennis player and leader in women’s equality, is one of those role models.

On Monday, Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Lively Arts program brought King to Fisher Auditorium to speak about her role in gender equality, famously encapsulated in a 1973 match against Bobby Riggs.

Her victory over the male tennis champion was a shot heard around the world, signifying that women had a role in professional sports, a traditionally male arena. Today, this extends past sports into everyday life, with the advancement of acts such as Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities that receive federal money.

King spoke about bringing the application of her knowledge and skill beyond sports.

“I love tennis; I love to hit the ball,” King said at the lecture Monday. “But I wanted to make a difference in the world off the court.”

These kinds of role models, who have done great things and championed great causes, are who should be brought to the IUP campus. Through these individuals, students can learn, and hopefully emulate, the best that this country and this world have to offer, and apply their knowledge in their own classes, communities and careers.