Community Connectors is a monthly series highlighting Ohio State staff members who have shown leadership in partnering with our communities to make an impact.
Rebecca Wade-Mdivanian, MSW, LISW-S
Director of Operations
Learning in Fitness and Education through Sports (LiFEsports) Initiative
Rebecca Wade-Mdivanian is the director of operations of the Learning in Fitness and Education through Sports (LiFEsports) Initiative, a partnership between the Department of Athletics, College of Social Work, Student Life, and OSU Extension. LiFEsports is a nationally recognized model for sport-based positive youth development (PYD). This campus-wide initiative aims to impact the lives of youth by providing free and accessible sport opportunities in communities to address the broader social conditions young people face, especially those exposed to various social and economic vulnerabilities.
Since 2008, Wade-Mdivanian has been integral to the growth, development, and sustainability of the initiative both locally and nationally. She is an expert in grant writing and fundraising, outreach and engagement, teaching and learning, curriculum development, and service. All of these activities support Ohio State's commitment to community engagement and LiFEsports' mission "to prepare youth for life and leadership through sport." Becky's leadership over the last 14 years has increased internal and external funding to grow, develop, and implement the LiFEsports Initiative and namely fund the annual LiFEsports Summer Camp.
She has led numerous fundraising and grant writing efforts to support annual operating costs, including the development and implementation of an annual giving campaign that has dramatically increased the reach of LiFEsports. As a result of her leadership, LiFEsports has an annual operating budget that has now grown to over $800,000. Through this work, she has helped to provide free and affordable sport-based PYD programming to more than 8,000 youth across Ohio.
Wade-Mdivanian also leads outreach and engagement efforts for the LiFEsports Initiative. She is central to the establishment of community partnerships that have led to expanding the reach of LiFEsports programming, including developing the first partnership and community-based site with Columbus Recreation and Parks. This partnership has resulted in the implementation of the LiFEsports program in three community-based sites in underserved urban communities (Linden, Beatty, and Springfield) all across Ohio. Through these community-university partnerships, LiFEsports has received honors and recognitions such as the 2012 Summer Learning NSLA Excellence Award, the 2020 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award, and national recognition as a 2020 Aspen Institute Project Play Champion. She also co-led the process for LiFEsports to become nationally accredited by the American Camp Association.
Beyond these roles, Wade-Mdivanian serves as a community-engaged scholar and practitioner. She has currently co-authored approximately 10 peer-reviewed research publications, three book chapters, and presented over 45 national conference presentations throughout her career. She has taught classes in the College of Social Work, sharing her expertise in community youth development, sport social work, and program evaluation. She also leads LiFEsports annual program evaluations, co-created the LiFEsports curriculum, an innovative play-based social skills curriculum that uses sport as a context to teach life and social skills, and created the first-ever virtual LiFEsports Sport in a Bag intervention during COVID-19. Based on her scholarship and leadership in the field, Wade-Mdivanian is viewed as a leading expert in understanding how to implement, design, and develop sport-based (PYD) programs.
To learn more about LiFEsports, click here to read the program's 2020-2021 Annual Review.