Sprinting to the Future

PROVO, Utah – Mar 23, 2020 – When Katie Morgan took a social innovation class at BYU last semester, she didn’t anticipate joining a research group based on empowering women. However, while completing a class assignment, Morgan became aware of the inequalities many women face around the world and felt a desire to see how she could help at home in the United States. Her desire led her to join a newly formed BYU Marriott research group. 

The student research group, called the Women’s Empowerment Research team, is led by assistant professor Sarah Agate and professor Patti Freeman in the BYU Marriott experience design and management program. The aim of the group is to help women sprint towards empowerment by analyzing two female running-focused organizations: Girls on the Run and 261 Fearless. 

Morgan, a native of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is joined on the team by seven other ExDM students: seniors Julia Hubbert of Bakersfield, California; Amanda Boekweg of Dublin, California; Lillian Sanders from East Aurora, New York; Maddy Auman of Danville, California; Carly Ames from Eatonville Washington; and juniors Samantha Johnston of Queen Creek, Arizona; and Sara Davis from San Jose, California. 

“I'm excited to be working on a team with amazing women who want to be instrumental in creating transformational experiences for other women around the world” says Sanders. 

The team is researching Girls on the Run and 261 Fearless to better understand the methods these organizations use to find success in helpings girls and women develop in multiple areas of their lives. Both groups are nonprofits organizations that use running and other activities to help girls and women feel more capable and supported. As organizations that are focused on female empowerment, these two groups were specifically chosen because of their unique perspective and expertise on the issue. 

Johnston is particularly excited for the team’s project. “One thing that I love about this research group is that it is research being done by women for women,” she says. “I'm hopeful that the things we learn from this research will be able to be applied in the future to create better and more empowering experiences for women.” 

Girls on the Run helps elementary and middle-school girls to develop healthy mental, emotional, and physical habits. Their mission statement is to “inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum, which creatively integrates running.” Available activities include group runs and lessons to improve in areas such as teamwork, critical-thinking skills, confidence, and internal motivation. The group’s running season ends with a noncompetitive 5k race that allows the girls to exercise their new skills. 

The group 261 Fearless gathers women eighteen years and older to create a global community and support system of women. With running groups across the world from New York City to Zambia, 261 Fearless operates on the mission statement of “bring[ing] active women together through a global, supportive, social running network—allowing fearless women to pass strength gained from running onto women who are facing challenges and hence spark a revolution of empowerment.”  

The Women’s Empowerment Research team will gather data from these two organizations through qualitative methods, including interviews, sit-ins on activities, analysis of website social media, participant journals, and focus groups.  

With the data collected, the research team aims to enable current and future organizations in providing more enriching opportunities for girls and women. Ames summed up why helping girls and women through the team’s research is important to her. “The world needs more people who know their self-worth,” she says.

Members of the Women's Empowerment Research team. From left to right: Amanda Boekweg, Katie Morgan, Lilli Sanders, Sarah Agate, Carly Ames, and Julia Hubbert.
Members of the Women's Empowerment Research team. From left to right: Amanda Boekweg, Katie Morgan, Lilli Sanders, professor Sarah Agate, Carly Ames, and Julia Hubbert.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Erin Kratzer