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Sarah J. Hillyer, PhD

sarah_16201Sarah Hillyer is the founder of Sport 4 Peace, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality and availability of sporting opportunities for girls and women around the world. Over the past twenty years, Hillyer has designed and implemented hundreds of sport for peace and development projects in Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, Turkey, China, Inner Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Mexico, and Brazil. Most recently, she served as the Generations For Peace, HRH King Abdullah II, post-doctoral fellow at Georgetown University.

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Hillyer’s research interests include the intersections of sport and peace-building, community development, diplomacy, and the use of sport as a tool for effective and positive social change. Her dissertation, Women’s Softball in Iran: An Auto-ethnographic Journey, detailed her decade-long experiences as a woman’s softball coach in Iran and examined the role of sport as a tool for meaningful dialogue and peace-building between Iranian and American women.

Hillyer received her PhD from the University of Tennessee in sport and exercise science with a concentration in sport sociology. She also holds a master’s degree in health and exercise science with a specialization in sport psychology from Murray State University. Hillyer completed her undergraduate work at Liberty University in sports administration, where she also played basketball.

Currently, she teaches Service-Learning: Sport and Community Development, a course created to help meet the health and social needs of refugees living in Knoxville.

The classroom is our practice gym—a place where we diligently prepare for victory over the challenges that face our world today.

I believe students learn best when they are provided opportunities to take the theoretical concepts learned in the classroom and apply them to real-world situations. Equally, I am committed to offering immediate and constructive feedback in order to support, encourage and mentor young sports professionals toward excellence, integrity, and social justice.

RSM 380 Service-Learning: Sport and Community Development
KNS 380 Service-Learning: Sport and Community Development
RSM 337 Women in Sport: A Global Perspective
SS 335 Socio-Cultural Foundations of Sport and Leisure
SS 336 Socio-Cultural Issues in Sport


The University of Tennessee, Clinical Assistant Professor (2012–present)
Georgetown University, Post-Doctoral Fellow (2011)
Sport 4 Peace, Founder and Director (1993–present)
National Consortium for Academics and Sport, Leadership Consultant (2009–present)
Mid-Continent University, Softball Head Coach (2000–2002)
Campbellsville University, Softball Head Coach (1996–1999)


The role of sport in:

  • Conflict resolution and peace-building
  • Service-learning and community development
  • Religious and political contexts that impact gender equality
  • Refugee resettlement and social integration


Sport and Peace: Mapping the field.  2nd International Sport and Development Conference. University of the Western Cape, South Africa, 2011.

Sport, Peace & Conflict: Mapping the field. International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education. Wingate Institute/Zinman College, Israel, 2011.

From Conflict to Peace: Innovative Approaches to Peacebuilding – Practitioner Panel – Georgetown University, 2011.

Exploring the Intersection of Sport, Conflict Resolution, and Technology. Baghdad University – Physical Education College, 2011.

United States Institute of Peace. Sports and Peacebuilding Symposium – Evaluation: Scoring Peacebuilding through Sports. Washington, DC, 2010.

Emerging Trends in Peacebuilding and Diplomacy. Bridges of Understanding Annual Conference, Washington, D.C. 2010.

Sport 4 Peace. Guest presenter, University of Tennessee College of Education, Health, & Human Sciences Board of Visitors, Knoxville, TN, 2008 & 2009.

A Woman’s Place is at Home: Women’s Perceptions of Playing Fast-Pitch Softball in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Copenhagen Summer Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2008.

Sport for Life Peace Camp–A Weapon of Mass Instruction: Developing Dialogue and Diplomacy for Arab and Israeli Girls Through Sport. American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, Baltimore, MD, 2007.

Sport for Life Peace Camp. Special Summer Program at the Knoxville Jewish Community Center, Knoxville, TN, 2007.

Women’s Sport Initiatives in Israel and Iran. Knoxville Business Women’s Group, Knoxville, TN, 2007.

What’s Being Done for Muslim Women in Sport? Women, Gender, and Sport in Africa, Athens, OH, 2006.

Sport for Life: Solidarity Between Arab and Israeli Communities. North American Society for Sport Sociology, Vancouver, BC, 2006.

Exploring the Role of Sport to Promote Peace in International Settings. College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences Student Colloquium, Knoxville, TN, 2006.


Global Sports Partners, U.S. Embassy Small Grants Program. Summer 2011.
Global Sports Partners, U.S. Embassy Small Grants Program. Summer 2010.
Hillyer, S. & Huffman, A., (2009). Iraq to America Basketball Project. U.S. Bureau of Educational Affairs, SportsUnited (undisclosed amount). Funded. Summer 2009.
Hillyer, S., College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences Ready for the World ($1,500.00). Funded. Researcher. Summer 2009.
Huffman, A. & Hillyer, S.J., College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences Ready for the World ($6,000). Funded. Co-researcher. July 2008.


  • Writing the book, Sport and Peace-building: More Than a Hook, Less Than a Panacea
  • Writing a book chapter titled, “Women’s Softball in Iran: An Autoethnographic Journey
  • Co-creating the UT Center for Sport, Peace and Society with Ashleigh Huffman


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