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Volunteer coach Ashleigh Clare-Kearney Thigpen speaks with LSU gymnast Kennedi Edney before her performance on beam against Auburn, Friday, January 17, 2020, at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Edney scored a 9.900 in the event.

LSU’s winningest all-time gymnast is returning to the athletic department in a full-time role.

Two-time NCAA champion Ashleigh Clare-Kearney Thigpen has been named LSU’s associate athletic director for diversity, equity and inclusion, the school announced Friday.

Thigpen will be in charge of monitoring progress regarding the department’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and implementing human resources initiatives related to staff training, education and professional development.

“I am thrilled about Ashleigh’s new role within our athletic department,” LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said in a university news release. “As a highly decorated student-athlete, a volunteer assistant coach, and as an attorney and law professor at Southern University, she has represented the very best of LSU athletics, and there is no one more prepared or better qualified to help lead our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

“Ashleigh’s experience and perspective will be vital in shaping the future of our department, and we are all excited to work with her in the effort to make LSU athletics a transformational place.”

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After receiving her law degree from Southern in 2013, Thigpen went to work in private practice. She has spent the past five years serving as legal counsel for the Louisiana House of Representatives and has also served as an adjunct professor at Southern.

Thigpen is also a volunteer gymnastics coach at LSU, primarily responsible for choreographing the Tigers’ floor routines. LSU coach Jay Clark said Friday that the program has gotten a special waiver from the NCAA to allow Thigpen to continue in her coaching role for the remainder of this season.

“I am grateful that LSU athletics has trusted me to lead the department in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives,” Thigpen said in the release. “LSU is an incredible place to be and we are capable of making it better by placing equitable values at the core of everything we do. Our goal is to eliminate bias, promote diversity, and become a leader in education and best practices.”

Among her tasks, Thigpen will assist in the tracking of compliance with Title IX and sexual assault education and training. She will be involved in LSU’s stated effort to increase awareness of sexual and domestic violence at a time when the athletic department and university at large are facing allegations of mishandling sexual misconduct complaints.

Thigpen holds the school record with 114 individual event titles, including 22 as an all-around competitor. The 2009 NCAA vault and floor champion, the Manchester, Connecticut, native was SEC all-around champion and SEC gymnast of the year in 2008. She was also an academic All-American in 2008 and 2009.

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