VALLEJO, Calif. – Seminars led by Cal Maritime President Thomas A. Cropper, Director of Athletics and Physical Education Karen Lee Yoder, and Assistant Director of Athletics for Sport Performance Jeff Ward were a few of numerous highlights that took place throughout the California Pacific Conference's annual Student-Athlete Council Summit.

Hosted by Cal Maritime Athletics, this year's event was the first to take place in person following last year's virtual setting due to COVID-19.

"Cal Maritime is proud, and grateful, to host this year's Student-Athlete Council Summit," said Yoder. "It truly is an honor to host this group of leaders who are committed to strengthening the student-athlete experience for everyone in the Cal Pac Conference."

Ten of the Cal Pac's 13 institutions participated in this year's Summit; making the trip to Vallejo to participate in this event, organized by California Pacific Conference Commissioner Dr. Don Ott, were (in alphabetical order):

Kolby Amaral (Saint Katherine)
Damaryan Benton (Benedictine-Mesa)
Noah Bryerton (Simpson)
Chase Buchert (Soka)
Enrique Figueroa (Park-Gilbert)
Josh Golka (UC Merced)
Katie Graham (Simpson)
Nathan Hiss (Pacific Union)
Cienna Irwin (Soka)
Madi Kindred (Pacific Union)
Alexandra Lopez (UC Merced)
Alyssa Meza (Saint Katherine)
Vanessa Miller (Park-Gilbert)
Derek Morris (Westcliff)
Susie Reynoso (Embry-Riddle)
Mele Tuimaunei (Cal Maritime)
Meredith Tutrone (Embry-Riddle)

Cal Maritime and the Cal Pac Conference would like to thank women's basketball cadet-athlete Kai Kraus for her hard work and dedication, throughout this year's Student-Athlete Council Summit, as the events on-site student representative. From the moment visitors arrived to campus, until everyone departed, Kraus played an integral role in the daily execution of this annual conference.

"Honestly, sitting in the meeting room with these amazing men and women refreshes me more than I thought I needed," said Dr. Ott. "The way they came together as a unified, focused group in such a short time frame was incredible, and their thoughts, passion, confidence, and connection was a perfect way to start this next year. Our SAC is in great hands, and our conference will really benefit from this group of leaders."

This three-day event opened with sessions that highlighted the Cal Pac's organizational structure and governance before shifting its focus to the NAIA's Champions of Character program and initiatives. The following day saw Yoder share a comprehensive presentation, centered on Title IX, followed by President Cropper's interactive and insightful conversation on leadership that highlighted the impact of finding one's voice, living shared values and teaching others to model them.

The former Navy fighter pilot, and current chair of the league's President's Council, wove data from national studies with personal experiences and lessons learned throughout his career to help representatives from respective Cal Pac institutions reach their potential as leaders, while strengthening their peers' skill sets in the process.

Following an open and honest discussion regarding mental health, and various challenges faced by student-athletes while balancing rigorous academic and athletic schedules throughout the academic year, Ward spearheaded additional conversations among students in attendance, which led to numerous proposals for consideration by the league's administrative council.

Later that day, the group created a condensed version of last year's Cal Pac Student-Athlete Values Statement, a reminder read by student-athletes from each team prior to the start of competition for fans, coaches, administrators and staff in attendance that incorporates the NAIA's five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, servant-leadership and sportsmanship.

Before heading home, this group reconvened on day three to conduct its first formal Student-Athlete Council meeting of the year, select its officers and management team for the 2022-23 academic year.

Moving forward, student-athletes from the league's 13 institutions, and respective leadership groups, will meet monthly to share information and input from their peers to the Cal Pac's committee of school presidents, Director's Council and Coaches Group.


Additional Quotes from California Pacific Conference Commissioner Dr. Don Ott

Re: Meeting in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic
"These young people are the best from each institution, it personally motivates me when I am able to interact with them face-to-face. I am use to seeing them on Zoom, where everyone is an inch tall, but in person, it thrills me to see the best and brightest from our conference come together and interact with one another."

Re: Takeaways from this year's Summit
"From this Summit, everyone will return to campus with action points that best fit their environment. There was a lot of discussion about student-athlete mental health, a topic that is becoming more familiar to our society. Our student-athlete population is filled with high achievers, who have big goals, yet feel empty and do not know why they or their teammates are struggling. This group will continue to work with appropriate coaches and administrators to find ways to help everyone improve or maintain their mental health."

"This is a group that understands how they can make an impact nationally. The NAIA has tapped into the Cal Pac's Student-Athlete Council a couple of times and implemented various proposals nationwide. Allowing this group to share its vision, and shape national policy, is a really big deal."

Re: How this event sets the tone for the 2022-23 academic year
"This year is special because we are able to organize events in person like this one post-COVID, and others like it that involves coaches and administrators, that help create a community and not just a conference. ... I'm thrilled to be a part of this conference, not just because of the schools I work with, but because of the people I get to work with. 


Established in 1929, California State University Maritime Academy is the only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast. Located in Vallejo, California, the campus offers undergraduate degrees that prepare students for careers in engineering, transportation, international relations, business, and global logistics. Cal Maritime also offers a master’s degree in Transportation and Engineering Management, as well as a number of extended learning programs and courses.