Sarah Spain is one of America’s foremost sports journalists. For over a decade, she has been among ESPN’s most recognizable and larger-than-life personalities on TV and radio, writing, and hosting a podcast. Her work has received many accolades, including Emmy and Peabody awards, mainly because Sarah is witty, tenacious, fearless, and willing to speak her mind on issues that transcend sports.

Last April, Sarah was part of a “panel of literal superheroes” for a Freedom Center Public Discussion Forum (Women’s Equity in Sports: The Fight, the Scars, and the Thrill of Victory), organized by Mary L. Rigdon, Freedom Center Director and Associate Professor of Political Economy & Moral Science and Kathryn Bertine. Kathryn is the 2022-23 University of Arizona Alumni of the Year for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and founder of Le Tour Entier, which resulted in creating a women’s race at the Tour de France, where she competed. The panel included Spain, Bertine, UArizona Women’s Basketball Coach Adia Barnes, National Hockey League Analyst and two-time Olympic hockey medalist A.J. Mleczko, and Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially register for and run the Boston Marathon.

Sarah returned to campus this fall as an inaugural Freedom Center Journalist in Residence. Mary worked with Saura Masconale, Freedom Center Associate Director and Assistant Professor of Political Economy & Moral Science, to create the program with journalists like Sarah in mind. They wanted nationally respected media professionals to share diverse perspectives, unique experiences, and media expertise with students, scholars, and the greater campus community. For Mary, bringing Sarah back to Arizona was a priority because she personifies the Freedom Center’s commitment to discourse and debate. Sarah is as “Bear Down” as they come in work and life.

“Kathryn introduced me to Sarah as we developed the Public Discussion Forum, and I love how she blends satire, knowledge, and passion when standing up for women in sports and society,” Mary said. “Bringing her back to Tucson as one of the Freedom Center’s inaugural Journalists in Residence was a priority. I wanted to help Sarah continue her important work, and it would also be valuable to have students engage with her directly. It was exactly what I hoped it would be.”

We asked Sarah to share her thoughts on being a Freedom Center Journalist in Residence, highlighting her experience and what she learned.

Q: What was it like to be on campus, and what did you do?

A: “I was invigorated and inspired by my time in Tucson, taking advantage of peace and quiet to work on my book and drawing energy from being back on a college campus surrounded by thought leaders and academics. The book is an expanded telling of a story I wrote for ESPN a few years ago entitled Runs In The Family,’ and the opportunity to work at the college without interruption was truly a gift. Not only did I make great progress, but my commitment to staying on task helped establish a new approach to the work even once I returned home.”

Q: What was engaging with other scholars and UArizona leaders like?

A: “I was lucky enough to spend time with a handful of faculty members at a Freedom Center happy hour, talking about current events, freedom of speech, the challenge of embracing a new workflow when job tasks and roles change, and more. I also got the chance to meet with the Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Lori Poloni-Staudinger, and really enjoyed talking about the challenges of leadership at colleges and universities right now and some of the class subjects I believe to be necessary for navigating today’s world, like Digital Literacy 101!”

Q: You also had the opportunity to give a talk and have a Q&A with students. How was that?

A: “I really enjoyed speaking to Mary’s class about my career and some of the challenges I’ve faced, including sexual harassment. I was incredibly impressed with the students’ questions, their honesty, and their desire to help come up with solutions and be a part of change.”

Q: You were busy and productive during your time on campus. What did you do when you weren’t working?

A: “While I tried not to get lured away from work for too long by the sights of Tucson, I did manage to sneak in a hike or two, take an absolutely magical day trip to Miraval, and learn firsthand why UNESCO has recognized Tucson as a City of Gastronomy. Tito and Pep! Anello! Seis Kitchen! So many amazing spots. Tucson and UArizona now have a special place in my heart. I look forward to coming back!”

Damien Alameda, Saura Masconale, Mary L. Rigdon, Adia Barnes, Kathrine Switzer, A.J. Mleczko, Sarah Spain, and Kathryn Bertine at the April 5, 2023 Freedom Center Public Discussion Forum “Women’s Equity in Sports: The Fight, the Scars, and the Thrill of Victory.”