Keenan Jeppesen: An alumnus advocating for Black student athletes
C/O Keenan Jeppesen
Keenan Jeppesen, the Associate Director of High Performance, seeks to advocate for and represent Black student athlete voices
McMaster’s Department of Athletics and Recreation has recently been restructured to have separate staff groups that cover both athletics and recreation. These are headed by associate directors who report to the Primary Director, Shawn Burt. Trish Chant-Sehl is the associate director, recreation and healthy living, whereas Keenan Jeppesen is the associate director, high performance.
Jeppesen joined McMaster Athletics and Recreation ain January. His roots in the McMaster community run deep — as a child growing up in Hamilton, he attended McMaster basketball camps. He returned to McMaster as a student working towards his MBA and played on the Marauders men’s basketball team as a forward in the 2009-10 season, donning number 13.
Upon earning his MBA, Jeppesen worked for Viacom and Ubiquiti Networks before returning to McMaster to work as the director of basketball operations from 2018 to 2021. Afterward, Jeppesen began to work with the Onyx Initiative, aiming to help Black and Afro-Canadian students connect with corporate Canada to earn internships and work experience. Now, Jeppesen has found himself back with McMaster once again in the role of associate director, high performance.
“McMaster’s always been important to me and I think it's such an important part of Hamilton; [it is] the fabric of the community. And I'm just so happy to kind of be back in this capacity and help kind of continue the great tradition that McMaster has and really build upon that and try to take it to a new level,” said Jeppesen.
In this role, Jeppesen covers everything competitive, from teams that compete at the U Sports or national level, teams that compete in Ontario University Athletics competitions, clubs and recreational teams that compete in other leagues and the staff that support them, including field therapists, strength and conditioning coaches and even student services coordinators.
As the role is a newer one, Jeppesen is working to define the role for himself and for the department. High performance is a general term and he hopes to take a holistic approach to it, covering everything both on and off the court.
“It just doesn't mean wins or losses, but it's really about the development of our student athletes academically, as leaders and community members both within Hamilton and the greater McMaster community. [They are a] source of pride and true ambassadors of the McMaster values and missions,” explained Jeppesen.
With Jeppesen’s experience in uplifting Black voices, a large part of his role is implementing a response after the Black Student-Athlete systemic review that came out in October 2022. Part of this response is the 21 financial awards for Black student athletes, called the 'Black Excellence Athletic Financial Awards'. The application involves short submissions from Black student athletes that highlight their leadership and excellence to the community.
“The way I continue to support in the review response [is] really just bringing my own lived experience to the role and understanding Black and BIPOC student athletes and just trying to bring that lens to the decisions we make within the department and creating programs that in some cases are specific to them,” explained Jeppesen.
In addition to lending his own perspective to the situation, Jeppesen seeks to build the athletics and recreation department up by incorporating student feedback.
“[I’m] trying to be someone that student athletes of all ethnicities are comfortable coming to share their perspective and really just trying to build a department that really incorporates the feedback of our student athletes and making sure that we reflect their values and deliver the services that are important to them,” said Jeppesen.
In this role, Jeppesen is able to combine his passion for strategy with working and uplifting student-athletes. Continuous improvement within the Department of Athletics and Recreation can be expected under Jeppesen’s leadership.