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McNair Scholar 2012Octavia Cheatom

Octavia Cheatom is a junior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, majoring in Kinesiology and African American Studies. Her research interests are centered on sport sociology and the impact that culture has on those who participate in sport. Ms. Cheatom plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy.

Octavia Cheatom photo
My dream is to be a co-owner of a private practice where professional and collegiate athletes can receive rehabilitative treatment, which will include physical therapy, acupuncture, and psychology.

Research project

Invisible Pioneers: Exploring the Experiences of African American Female Athletes - A Digital Story

Abstract: The literary documentation of the history of African American women in sport has been neglected by sport sociologists and sport psychologists. This is especially true in comparison to other groups that have made significant strides in sport, and particularly with experiences during the late Civil Rights Era (Cain, 2000). The lack of historical knowledge raises many multidisciplinary questions including; What were the experiences of African American women pre-Title IX? How can these women’s stories be documented? How has sports participation influenced the lives of the participants (e.g., career choices, educational goals, self-confidence)? This study focuses on six African American women who participated as high school and collegiate athletes toward the end of the Civil Rights era. Through digital storytelling, researchers were able to capture, accurately recount, and document the personal experiences of these women. This research helps fill the void in the knowledge base of African American women in sport, and will provide information for practitioners to create appropriate and viable interventions for minority girls in sport and physical activity. Download poster. [PDF]

Faculty profile

Jennifer Bhalla has been a lecturer in sport psychology and sport sociology at the University of Minnesota for over three years. Dr. Bhalla’s training is in sport psychology with an emphasis in youth development through sport. She received her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University, where she earned academic All-American honors playing on the soccer team. She received her M.S. degree from Smith College and her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Dr. Bhalla’s research interests include positive youth development through sport participation, cultural and parental influence on sport participation, and issues regarding young athletes. She has worked on several qualitative projects including her dissertation on parent and coach influence on youth life skills learning, and a longitudinal evaluation of The First Tee life skills program. Dr. Bhalla received the 2011 Research Writing Award from the Research Consortium of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, and was recently inducted into her high school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, as the first woman inductee.