The center for
Sport, Peace and Society

By University of Tennessee

premier, multidisciplinary institute for discovering and implementing sport-based solutions to complex social challenges

who we are

Uniquely-situated at a Research I institution, the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society is a social enterprise committed to creating a more peaceful, equitable, and inclusive world through sport-based social innovation.

We offer global leaders the tools needed to make a positive difference in their communities—from grassroots levels to governance—and help spark social progress, locally and abroad, through leadership programs, international outreach, storytelling projects, and scholarly research, all in pursuit of global solidarity.

Through our unique, intersectional pedagogy and multidisciplinary approach, we leverage the lessons inherent in sport, education, and entrepreneurship to produce scholarly outputs, share stories of progress, and empower international changemakers in more than 80 countries.

meet the team

dr sarah hillyer

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Sarah Hillyer is an international sports consultant with more than twenty years of experience. She works to promote peace, empowerment, and diplomacy for girls, women, refugees, and persons with disabilities around the world.

Hillyer has worked in more than fifteen countries on four continents, with the majority of her efforts spent developing sports programs with Muslim women in the Middle East. The 2009 Eva Mag’s Woman of the Year and the 2011 Generations for Peace Post-Doctoral Fellow, Hillyer is recognized as one of the leading practitioners in the field of sport for development and peace.

For the past 10 years she has the lead coordinator on the US Department of State’s Global Sports Mentoring Program initiative, which has hosted more than 400 youth athletes, women’s empowerment and disability rights advocates from more than seventy countries on sports-based exchanges.

Hillyer received her PhD from the University of Tennessee in sport sociology and also a master’s degree in sport psychology from Murray State University. Hillyer completed her undergraduate work in sport management at Liberty University, where she also played basketball.

With a global network that extends to more than 70 countries, Dr Sarah has collaborated with, U.S. Department of State, ESPN and other corporate and non-profit partners to successfully implement our programs and make an impact in local communities through sports.

She has partnered with various university departments on campus programs, service-learning classes, and other projects.

Her impact has been made at both the international and local levels, carrying the same message of empowerment and inclusion to as many communities as possible. She has traveled the world leading women’s empowerment, disability rights, and sport for development and peace projects with U.S. Embassies and other international partners.


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Jenné Blackburn is an author, social good activist, entrepreneur, and lifelong athlete. Founder of Always An Athlete® and Ball2Bike®, she is passionate about helping athletes transition to the next phase of their personal and athletic lives. The book “Always an Athlete” chronicles the beginnings of Ball2Bike®, and aims to engage audiences in the story, mission, and vision of this national campaign to keep our nations athletes moving forward on a bicycle.

Blackburn has been at the forefront of innovative and effective strategies for more than 13 years working with brands like VMware, WeWork, SONY, Location Based Technologies, American Idol/ABC, USA Volleyball and many local, national and global NGO's.

Her most recent role was helping create portfolio partnerships at WeWork, where she created activated partnerships to help increase awareness, loyalty and engagement and brought in speakers like Simon Sinek, Malcolm Gladwell and other notable speakers to inspire  global markets for events like the Women's World Cup,  Her research interests include women’s empowerment, leveling the playing field for underestimated entrepreneurs, and the intersection of sport and community development.

globally award winning Leadership

Dr. Sarah Hillyer, receives ESPN’s Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award on behalf of the Global Sports Mentoring Program, a partnership between the U.S. Department of State, espnW, and the CSPS. Hillyer was joined at the ceremony by alumnae Cynthia Coredo of Kenya, Geraldine Bernardo of the Philippines, and Dima Alardah of Jordan. The award was presented by Laila Ali.