Graduate Student Fellow Aims to Reduce Bias-Based Bullying in Athletics


Olivia Wyatt likes baseball so much that she once created her own class in high school around sports analytics. Now, Wyatt combines her interest in sport psychology with her background in data science to develop data-driven interventions aimed at reducing bias-based harassment in athletics. As a Graduate Student Fellow at the Hariri Institute, Wyatt plans to evaluate bias-based bullying prevention programs and use her research to help coaches build an environment where athletes, from youth to college level, feel safe and cared for.

Wyatt’s interest in data-driven research incorporating culturally-informed counseling sprang from her personal experiences growing up in rural Minnesota and both volunteering and working at Big Sister Boston. As a Big Sister, Wyatt not only recognized the privilege she had but also was inspired to capture and improve the experiences of people with diverse social identities. “I was exposed to many different structural inequities. As a person holding many privileges, I want to help identify and support areas that need change, in part by using data and numbers,” Wyatt says.

She realized in college that she could combine her love of sports with her interests in psychology and counseling. “I became fascinated with team dynamics and how people operate,” says Wyatt. With a new desire to learn more about this field and grow in a career that helps others, she decided to pursue a PhD in counseling psychology with an emphasis in sport psychology at Boston University (BU) Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

At BU, Wyatt works with both Melissa K. Holt, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology, and John McCarthy, Clinical Associate Professor of Physical Education, Health and Coaching, to integrate her interests. Currently, Wyatt evaluates the prevalence and impacts of bullying based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity in schools using survey-based data and hopes to study the prevalence of bias-based harassment among college athletes by engaging with current National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) coaches.

Wyatt plans to translate what she learns from her research in schools to develop better anti bullying programs in athletics. “We’re seeing people who experience bias-based harassment due to their identities have greater likelihood of experiencing anxiety, depression and lower grades,” says Wyatt. She intends to create programs that teach coaches about the implications of bias-based bullying and how to prevent and address it so they can develop a more trauma informed and culturally sensitive lens that improves team performance and dynamics.

Wyatt’s long-term goal is to become a licensed psychologist that works directly with the underserved communities that she researches during her doctoral studies. “I want to be able to consult with coaches, especially those of youth athletes who typically don’t get access to sport psychology services because they don’t have the financial resources, on their athletes’ mental health and how that could impact sports performance,” says Wyatt.

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