Lani Hansen/Senior Reporter
NORMAN, Oklahoma– After serving as the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Special Projects for Bacone College, Dr. Nicole Been now represents the University of Oklahoma as the Associate Athletics Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Dr. Been is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and a member of Thlopthlocco Tribal Town and Deer Clan. She graduated from Schulter Public Schools and after high school, she attended Bacone College for some time as a student-athlete. She then transferred to Oklahoma State University to finish her undergraduate degree in athletic training.
“While I was studying there, I served as the facility and event coordinator for OSU’s men and women’s basketball and also for football,” Dr. Been said.
Dr. Been continued her education earning her Master’s degree in Sports Management at Baylor University. She served as the women’s basketball assistant coach under the legendary, hall of famer and five-time national champion Coach Kim Mulkey (LSU Lady Tigers Head Coach).
Her passion for athletics has led Dr. Been to her ongoing career from coaching at Seminole State College in Oklahoma, Baylor University in Texas and working with the Orlando Magic in the NBA in the community and government relations.
She then veered to work in Park and Recreation for a year. Still heavily involved in athletics, Dr. Been covered the Big 12 Conference women’s basketball tournament championships. After a year in Parks and Rec, she served as a professor at Langston University for eight years.
At Langston, she was the faculty athletic representative and served as an Assistant Professor in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, Director of Interns and a member of the University’s Institutional Review Board for Diversity.
“Then I decided I should probably go back to get my PhD, it was something I wanted to do,” she said. “Langston and Oklahoma State are about 30-minutes apart. So I returned to OSU and received my PhD in health, leisure and human performance in 2019.”
With her PhD, Dr. Been looked at what recreation means to Native Americans. She examined the utilization of leisure, including traditional forms as a coping mechanism for depression in Native American women survivors of domestic violence.
She then worked for Bacone College for a year and a half as VP of Strategic Initiatives and Special Projects. She initiated and oversaw Bacone’s transition towards tribal college status. While working there, she oversaw the athletics program and worked as the tribal liaison.
Dr. Been was also named to the National Center for American Enterprise Development’s most recent Native American 40 Under 40 Class.
In June 2021, Dr. Been joined the team at OU as the Associate A.D. of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. With OU having between 17 to 21 sports programs Dr. Been informs, advises and leads both departmental staff and student-athletes.
“I also work closely with HR and make sure we go through the hiring process of making sure we have a diverse applicant pool,” Dr. Been added.
In this new role, her main focus will be creating a voice and having a place of belonging for all of her staff and student-athletes. Dr. Been wants to make sure her staff and student-athletes are able to be themselves, operate at their highest potential academically, athletically and personally.
“My overall goal is to break down the systems in athletics that hinder inclusion not just diversity,” she said.
Coming into this position, Dr. Been said her and other OU athletics staff saw many positions popping up in athletics due to the climate of the world. She was hoping her new title was not going to be short-term, but since she’s been there she claims the culture is one of the best she has worked in.
“They care about you both professionally and personally,” Dr. Been added.
With her new position, Dr. Been wants to increase Native American and Indigenous representation in athletics both in administration and student-athlete populations. She claimed there are many Native American athletes who are being overlooked. Currently there are less than 1% of student-athletes in the NCAA who are Native American.
“I do work with a group called the Indigenous Athletics Advancement Council, we work to educate those in leadership or coaching positions,” Dr. Been said about recruitment. “We try to ensure that people are aware on how to recruit and retain what Native athletes bring.”
She stated her long-term goal is to create representation and a voice for Native Americans.