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GNAC SAAC Ties Into D3Week Celebrations with Annual Leadership Forum


Written by Annie Jenkins, GNAC Staff

GNAC student-athletes discover how to
#LearnLead at annual leadership forum

WINTHROP, Mass.  As the Great Northeast Athletic Conference celebrates NCAA Division III Week (April 1-7), the GNAC is also proud to recognize our member institutions for their investment in enhancing the all-around student-athlete experience through academic achievement, athletic experience, and leadership/community service/campus involvement and honor the commitment to upholding our core values: Community, Integrity, and Sportsmanship.

These core values were on full display as more than two dozen select student-athletes and administrators from GNAC member institutions gathered on Sunday, March 24 to engage in leadership development programming as part of the conference's annual Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Spring Leadership Forum at the Hilton Garden Inn Boston Logan Airport Hotel in East Boston.

Back for the second straight year was NCAA special guest DeeDee Merritt, joining the GNAC from the NCAA national office in Indianapolis, where she serves as NCAA Leadership Development Staff Acting Director. Merritt also administers the NCAA Postgraduate Internship Program, Student-Athlete Leadership Forum, National Student-Athlete Day, Athlete Development Professional Certification Program, Emerging Leaders Seminar, Effective Facilitation Workshop, and Leadership Academy Workshop.

In addition, GNAC Commissioner Joe Walsh, Assistant Commissioner Michael Ghika, Assistant to the Commissioner Annie Jenkins, and GNAC Marketing & Multimedia Content Specialist Anna Stanley were on hand to help foster meaningful conversations and connections amongst the GNAC's student-athletes in attendance.

Sunday's programming included a DiSC Assessment Workshop facilitated by Merritt with a hands-on learning approach. The assessment aided participants in identifying individual behavioral styles within the workplace or an athletic setting to then use specific leadership strategies to build more effective relationships by finding common ground and language to improve communication.

DiSC Assessment Overview

Merritt began the day with a non-verbal icebreaker, having the group figure out how to line up in chronological birthdate order without speaking or using hand gestures before delving into the workshop itself, where GNAC SAAC members, who prior to the retreat, had answered specific online personality questions in order to generate their individual reports. The student-athletes then assembled into teams according to their DiSC Style: D (Dominance), i (Influence), S (Steadiness) or C (Conscientiousness) to articulate three ways to describe themselves, three ways they are often misunderstood, and then draw their spirit animal as part of a larger discussion on the overall assessment and the meaning behind its results. The student-athletes were urged to bring what they learned from the DiSC Assessment back to their respective campuses to lead the charge in helping everyone from teammates, coaches, administrators and other fellow students to work better together.

SAAC Community Engagement

Following the DiSC training, GNAC delegates enjoyed a catered lunch to fuel up before putting their creative minds and teambuilding skills to work to make no-sew blankets through Project Linus. Project Linus, a SAAC tradition inspired by past GNAC member Mount Ida College, provides a rewarding and fun service opportunity to make a positive difference in the community with a helping hand and labor of love. The six blankets crafted by the GNAC SAAC will be donated to Boston Children's Hospital, which is a corporate partner with the GNAC. Furthermore, Jenkins wrapped up the forum by calling upon each institution to share community updates involving recent SAAC initiatives (Special Olympics, community service, fundraising efforts, special events, etc.) happening on its respective campus.

For more information on the DiSC Assessment and how to submit a request to participate in a future NCAA DiSC Workshop, please visit  

The Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) is an NCAA Division III association made up of 13 member institutions and over 3,000 student-athletes across the New England region. Founded in 1995, the GNAC annually sponsors and administers 20 championships, while balancing academic integrity, athletic opportunity and community involvement in an effort to enhance the student-athlete experience. 

– #TheGNAC –

2019 GNAC Spring SAAC Leadership Forum