Pathways

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No career journey is ever the same, and each presents individual challenges and milestones. Gain insight and inspiration from this look into professional paths of NACWAA members and women leaders in athletics.

2015 Pathways Contributors

Markeisha Everett, Director of Marketing & Sales, Georgia Tech

What is your greatest inspiration and how does it influence your work?
My greatest inspiration is knowing that possibilities are endless. What keeps me motivated is knowing that every day will present me with a new challenge. Every day is an opportunity to discover something great, something authentic, and something that makes our soul feel goodView more.

Markeisha Everett, Director of Marketing & Sales, Georgia Institute of Technology

NACWAA: In one word, how would you describe your career path? 

M.E.: Intentional. I got started in the industry very early during my undergraduate career at Bowling Green State University. My goal then was to gain valuable hands-on experience. I was able to do that through several internships. I learned to hone in on different skill sets and to network. I decided to pursue a master’s degree at West Virginia University where the learning in both the classroom and professional industry continued.

People thought I was crazy because on the day of graduation I announced that I was moving to Fargo, North Dakota for a post-graduate internship at North Dakota State University. This is where I really started my journey in the sports industry. The staff at NDSU was small, so I was treated just like a full-time employee. They trusted me to handle big projects; I learned from everyone and it challenged me to give back and to strive for more.

At the conclusion of my internship I was eager to align myself with a department that would allow me to be creative, so I took a job at the University of Missouri. I was under great leadership and continued to learn valuable lessons. During my time at NDSU and Mizzou I was doing a lot of marketing and promotions. I have a love for business and strategic planning, so when presented the opportunity to move to the west coast and work at Gonzaga I jumped on it. I was exposed to more overall revenue and truly learning the financial operations of an athletic department.

With the support of family and friends I moved back to Morgantown to take a full-time job at WVU. It was great getting the opportunity to serve my alma mater. Going into my job at WVU I had a 3-5 year plan. That plan was to serve WVU in the highest capacity, but to also put myself in a position to be able to pick the location of my next job. I wanted the next job to be a good fit for me personally and professionally. I wanted to continue in college athletics, in an innovative & highly dynamic marketing department, in a city that was preferably in the south.

After a few years of hard work at WVU I was presented with the opportunity to join the staff at Georgia Tech. GT had everything that I was looking for, but the timing was off. After careful consideration and council from my personal board of directors I decided to take a leap of faith and move to Atlanta. I've been in my current role at Georgia Tech for about two months and I'm enjoying every moment of it. In my career I've met some incredible people along the way; I've experienced things that I could have never dreamed of. I'm excited about my future and I look forward to learning, growing and leaving a positive impact on this industry.

NACWAA: What is the most valuable leadership lesson you have learned?
M.E.: It took me a while to fully grasp this concept, but I have learned to take full authority of every role I’m in - whether that is at my job, on a committee, or in a discussion forum. Being young and being a leader are not mutually exclusive.  

NACWAA: What is the most valuable leadership lesson you have learned? 
M.E.: I've learned a lot of valuable leadership lessons, but the one I find myself sharing lately is about ownership and accountability. In order to be an effective leader you must learn to take ownership in the things and people that you're responsible for. Accountability is just as important. One must learn to be accountable to self, coworkers, family, friends, as well as other constituents that we encounter.  Those who fail to hold themselves accountable and take ownership in the things that they control tend to lack character.

NACWAA: In your opinion, what three things are most critical for effective leadership? 
M.E.: 1) Communication would be first. We have to learn to not just hear, but to actively listen and communicate in a manner that our audience can comprehend. 

2) Leading by example is also key. Practice what you preach and show your team that you are all in.

3) Building genuine relationships and partnerships takes understanding and empathy towards others and their circumstances. 

NACWAA: What important lessons have you learned from mentors over the years? 
M.E.: A few of the most important lessons I’ve learned from mentors are:

  • create your own path 
  • success doesn't exist without first learning how to fail 
  • always remain a student of your craft

NACWAA: What is your greatest inspiration and how does it influence your work?
M.E.: My greatest inspiration is knowing that possibilities are endless. What keeps me motivated is knowing that every day will present me with a new challenge. Every day is an opportunity to discover something great, something authentic, and something that makes our soul feel good. 

NACWAA: Is there an effective time-management technique you've developed? 
M.E.: I create a comprehensive to-do list on Sundays. I use that list to create my daily to-do list. Helps me stay focused and prevents me from scrambling. 

NACWAA: What is the most significant way that you impact your team’s culture?
M.E.: I'm new to my team, so it's important that I listen and ask plenty of questions to figure out how I can lend my talents to making us better. I figure out what my role is in each situation and try to fulfill it to the best of my ability.

NACWAA: What book(s) are you currently reading?
M.E.: I'm currently reading "Creative Bootcamp" by Stefan Mumaw. 

NACWAA: Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
M.E.: I'm always looking to entertain the impossible while enjoying this journey called life.

NACWAA: What’s one fact about you many people may not know?
M.E.: I enjoy driving. Especially, long distance driving. There is something very therapeutic about it. 

NACWAA: What makes you feel good at the end of the day? 
M.E.: I've been extremely fortunate to have amazing supporters in both my personal and professional lives, so I'm passionate about helping others. If I can give back and help someone else feel good, I'd consider that a good day.

NACWAA: What is the most significant goal you still want to achieve?
M.E.: I want to start a life skills program for inner city youth. A lot of programs teach college prep. Which is great, but I want to craft a program that takes it a step further. There are many life skills necessary for survival that aren't being taught. We can help our youth prevent a lot of mistakes if we take the time to teach them what we've learned. I want a program that encourages them to strive for greatness, but also teaches them about life and how to learn and grow from your experiences. That's key to being a well-rounded person.  

Annie Butts, Assistant Director of Enrichment Services, Columbia University

In one word, how would you describe your career path?
Supported. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the help and constant support of a phenomenal network of colleagues, mentors, coaches, friends, and family membersView more.

Annie Butts, Assistant Director of Enrichment Services, Columbia University

NACWAA: In one word, how would you describe your career path? 

AB: Supported. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the help and constant support of a phenomenal network of colleagues, mentors, coaches, friends, and family members.

My career journey began long before my first job. I grew up surrounded by strong, confident women who demonstrated that success does not have to be gendered. My mother is one of the most hardworking and successful people I know, and through her example, I never considered any goal unreachable because I am a woman.

After four wonderful years as a field hockey student-athlete at Mount Holyoke College, I found myself in the midst of my senior year without much professional direction or experience, but I was incredibly fortunate to have had the support of then-Associate AD (now AD) Lori Hendricks, who provided critical guidance that led me to an internship with NACWAA in Kansas City. When I first arrived at NACWAA, I was unpolished but eager to learn, and being coached by women who performed every day at the very highest levels of excellence instilled in me the desire to always work with professionalism, dependability, and service at the forefront of all that I do. The support I received at NACWAA was second to none – the entire NACWAA team was committed to my personal and professional growth, and having that experience so early in my career journey set me up for success in many ways. While at NACWAA, I was given the opportunity to help organize and participate in the Institute for Administrative Advancement. I met a lot of smart, strong, passionate women at IAA East ’13, and among those, someone who would become my supervisor at Columbia just five months later (Jessica De Palo).

In November 2013, with Jessica’s support and the help of Patti Phillips, the NACWAA team, and a mass of friends and family members, I applied for a position with Columbia Athletics, flew out to interview, accepted the job, moved halfway across the country, and started my new job in New York City…all within the span of three weeks.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the support of many generous people throughout my life, and I look forward to paying it forward in the future.

NACWAA: What is the most valuable leadership lesson you have learned?
AB: It took me a while to fully grasp this concept, but I have learned to take full authority of every role I’m in - whether that is at my job, on a committee, or in a discussion forum. Being young and being a leader are not mutually exclusive.  

NACWAA: In your opinion, what three things are most critical for effective leadership? 
AB: From my experiences working under some incredible leaders, the most critical things for effective leadership are empathy, boldness, and an exceptional ability to communicate….and if I can add two more: self-awareness and creativity.

NACWAA: What important lessons have you learned from mentors over the years? 
AB: A few of the most important lessons I’ve learned from mentors are:

1. Find your “zone of genius” – your biggest strength/the thing that makes you indispensable to a team – and leverage it in all that you do.

2. Be an influencer. Give your time, treasures, and talents to the institutions and organizations that you care about.

3. Focus on doing your current job very well before thinking about advancing.

4. Gratitude goes a long way.

5. Everything is negotiable.

6. Surround yourself with the people that make you happy.

NACWAA: What is your greatest inspiration and how does it influence your work?
AB: I am constantly inspired by the function of athletics as an important educational tool and an enormously powerful learning and growing experience. Being part of an intercollegiate athletics team is about far more than winning games and filling the stands - it’s about instilling leadership skills in young women and men. It’s about teaching teamwork, commitment, and hard work. As a student-athlete at Mount Holyoke, I learned things on the field that complemented my classroom education in a significant way. Competing at the intercollegiate level has made me a better teammate and a much stronger leader. Being part of that experience for other student-athletes is what inspires and motivates me every day. 

NACWAA: Is there an effective time-management technique you've developed? 
AB: My best time management technique comes from keeping my life in balance. That includes getting enough sleep, finding time for my relationships and myself, taking care of my body and mind, and engaging in activities outside of work. When I take care of the things that sustain me, I am more efficient, more productive, and can manage my time much more easily in the professional realm. 

NACWAA: What is the most significant way that you impact your team’s culture?
AB: I impact my team’s culture by offering my time and talents whenever I can. I have helped coaches with technology problems, other administrators with formatting issues, and anyone who asks with grammar advice. I like to give, and I’ve found that generosity is often contagious. .

NACWAA: What book(s) are you currently reading?
AB: I’m currently reading “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay. Highly recommended. 

NACWAA: Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
AB: “Every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, ‘This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!’ And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, ‘No. This is what’s important.’”

NACWAA: What’s one fact about you many people may not know?
AB: I paint in my spare time. It keeps me relaxed, grounded, and creative. 

NACWAA: What makes you feel good at the end of the day? 
AB: At the end of the day, it’s the relationships that matter (both at work and outside of work); if my relationships are strong, I feel good.

NACWAA: What is the most significant goal you still want to achieve?
AB: Within the next few years, I’d like to go back to school to get my master’s degree.  

Laura Mooney, Director of Athletics, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

In one word, how would you describe your career path?
Intentional. Many individuals have influenced my career path over the years, but my college soccer coach probably deserves the most credit. Lisa Petruccelli showed me the true impact and influence a coach could have on a student-athlete. As a direct result, I focused my energy on earning coaching certifications and preparing myself to reach my new career goal of becoming a collegiate soccer coach. View more.

Laura Mooney, Director of Athletics, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

NACWAA: In one word, how would you describe your career path? 

LM: Intentional. Many individuals have influenced my career path over the years; my college soccer coach probably deserves the most credit. Lisa Petruccelli (University of Southern Maine) showed me the true impact and influence that a coach could have on a student-athlete. As a direct result, I focused my energy on earning coaching certifications and preparing myself to reach my new career goal of becoming a collegiate soccer coach.

Immediately following graduation I began applying to assistant coach openings. I accepted an assistant position at SUNY Maritime College and was then named the head coach six months later at twenty-one years old. Shortly after, I was promoted to the Department Business Manager and Senior Woman Administrator. During this time I recognized that my true passion rested in the challenges of the daily operations and oversight of the department. In order to better prepare myself for my new chosen direction in administration, I obtained my graduate degree in Sport Administration & Management.

I was later promoted to Associate Athletic Director for Administration, adding human resources to my current duties of department financial oversight, SWA and head women's soccer coach. Balancing the demands of being a full time administrator and a full time head coach was a struggle at times, but only strengthened my multi-tasking and organizational skills. This past year I made the choice to step down as head coach and concentrate on administration. Taking advantage of professional development opportunities and growing my network was the next logical step. I was fortunate to experience programming such as the NCAA/NACWAA Institute for Administrative Advancement and NCAA Pathway Program. The mentoring and connections that I have made have proven invaluable as my career advances.

In early April I step into the Director of Athletics role at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. I am eager to start the next chapter of my career leading the MCLA Trailblazers to further success and enhancing theoverall student-athlete experience.

NACWAA: What is the most valuable leadership lesson you have learned?
LM: The most valuable leadership lesson I have learned is to lead by example.  Setting the example as it relates to work ethic and standards builds trust within a department.  I am a firm believer in empowering people and inspiring them to do their best.  Valuing and supporting people enhances a positive and productive work environment. 

NACWAA: In your opinion, what three things are most critical for effective leadership? 
LM: Having strong values sets the culture and vision for the department. Good communication is crucial when trying to increase productivity and achieve goals. Being consistent provides clarity of expectations.

NACWAA: What important lessons have you learned from mentors over the years? 
LM: Be confident. Find the positive in every situation. Make meaningful connections. Take advantage of every opportunity. Do what makes you happy.

NACWAA: What is your greatest inspiration and how does it influence your work?
LM: The amazing women from my NCAA/NACWAA Institute for Administrative Advancement class inspire and motivate me daily.  My drive to reach the next level is heightened when women such as Sandy Barbour (Penn State) and Cathie Schweitzer (Springfield College) are successfully leading powerful departments at high-level institutions within their divisions.  I am also inspired by trailblazers such as Billie Jean King, Donna Lopiano, and many others who have dedicated their lives to ensuring opportunities for females as it relates to participation in sport and athletics as an industry. 

NACWAA: Is there an effective time-management technique you've developed? 
LM: The most effective time management technique that I use is prioritizing.  I am constantly creating lists to manage what needs to be done and in what order.  I find that if I identify the items based on the time they require to accomplish, I am able to schedule them into my day more efficiently.

NACWAA: What is the most significant way that you impact your team’s culture?
LM: By cultivating a shared vision.  Providing an inclusive environment where members engage in the process is critical to gaining trust and buy-in while defining success.  A collaborative approach encourages motivation and overall productivity.

NACWAA: What book(s) are you currently reading?
LM: "The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old School Views on Success in Sports and Life" by Mike Matheny with Jerry B. Jenkins. “Nothing worth doing right is easy” by Mike Matheny.

NACWAA: Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
LM: “Carpe diem” or “Seize the day” is the mantra that I have always lived by. One of my favorite quotes is by Mia Hamm, "If you don't love what you do, you won't do it with much conviction or passion."

NACWAA: What’s one fact about you many people may not know?
LM: One fact that many people may not know is that I enjoy riding my motorcycle on scenic roads.  I love the opportunity to find clarity and to be present with my surroundings.  

NACWAA: What makes you feel good at the end of the day? 
LM: At the end of the day I like to feel accomplished and know that I have made a difference.  Each day is a new opportunity to create positive change.  Working in college athletics and shaping the lives of young men and women is a privilege that I am grateful to take responsibility for.

NACWAA: What is the most significant goal you still want to achieve?
LM: While serving in the Director of Athletics role I want to provide student-athletes with a rewarding and memorable experience in addition to earning conference and national recognition for my institutions.  Upon leaving the collegiate arena I would like to serve as the Chief Executive Officer of a meaningful and empowering organization.  It is important for me to accomplish these goals while finding a work-life balance and having meaningful personal relationships.  I intend to devote my life to serving and making a global impact within athletics, as I wouldn’t be the determined and successful woman that I am today without the athletic experiences I’ve had.  

Adrianne Swinney, Senior Associate Athletic Director/SWA, UNC Wilmington

In one word, how would you describe your career path? Please explain.
AMAZING! When I graduated from Mississippi State University in December of 2000, I walked away with a dream of becoming a certified athletic trainer at the collegiate level. I never imagined that dream only represented the first steps in an amazing journey called my career. View more.

Adrianne Swinney, Senior Associate Athletic Director/SWA, UNC Wilmington

NACWAA: In one word, how would you describe your career path? 

AS: AMAZING! When I graduated from Mississippi State University in December of 2000, I walked away with a dream of becoming a certified athletic trainer at the collegiate level. I never imagined that dream only represented the first steps in an amazing journey called my career. 

I began my career living “my dream” serving in various capacities as a certified athletic trainer (graduate assistant, assistant director, and director of sports medicine) for nearly 7 years at the collegiate level (Jackson State University and Paul Quinn College). While at Paul Quinn, President Michael Sorrell noticed my gifts beyond the training room and provided me an opportunity to expand my role from sports medicine to administration and “other duties as assigned” (I say that jokingly!). I was privileged to cultivate my toolkit serving in several different roles including, director of sports medicine, associate athletics director, head women’s basketball coach (i.e. other duties as assigned), and eventually as the interim athletics director. The experience was AMAZING and one I’ll never forget! 

Motivated by familial priorities, I elected to conclude my 5-year tenure at Paul Quinn and returned home to Jackson, MS on a leap of faith. I secured work as a contract athletic trainer and capitalized on opportunities to serve by volunteering in athletics at Jackson State University (JSU). I did stints in the weight room, helped out occasionally in the training room, but namely spent my time volunteering in compliance. My volunteer work opened the door to unprecedented opportunities for me. I was blessed to transition from a volunteer to an interim assistant compliance officer to the assistant athletics director/SWA in less than 7 months. My next promotion came roughly 9 months later at the recommendation of President Carolyn W. Meyers (6 months after her arrival) when I was promoted to the role of associate athletics director/SWA and 2nd in command in athletics…during the midst of interim and transitional leadership. Only one word can describe the experience: AMAZING!

After nearly 4 years of service at JSU, I transitioned to my current position where I serve as senior associate athletics director/SWA at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. It’s almost been a year and as you can probably guess, it’s been AMAZING!

My journey has been and continues to be unique, rewarding, and filled with opportunity. I have been tremendously blessed with a great work ethic and a set of gifts/skills which have made room for me in this field and caused me to be favored along my journey. Don’t be deceived: every step has not been easy, but every step has certainly been worth it. There is always the good, the bad, and the ugly! I choose to focus on the good and I’m motivated by and learn from the bad and the ugly. Every challenge faced has proven to be an opportunity for growth and resilience. Facing every challenge has made me who I am today. I’m still amazed by my career path and by how great my journey has been. I am still living “my dream.” I’m so thankful that it has evolved. I recognize that the best is yet to come. I have so much more to do, to give, and so much more to accomplish.  

NACWAA: In your opinion, what three things are most critical for effective leadership? 
AS: I would compare the elements of effective leadership to the traditional batting order strategy for baseball/softball. The top of the order is as follows:

Lead-off batter: “Shared” vision. It is critically important to establish a compelling vision for your organization via participatory engagement. When people are afforded the opportunity to share in the building process, the process of buy-in can be enhanced. (Man on base)

2-hole: Service. This is a continuation of your focus on your people and advancing your “shared” vision to the next base. I call it working the trenches. It is all about strategy-oriented decision making, effective branding and marketing (of your vision and organization), alignment and garnering buy-in, being an advocate, supporter, and on-going motivator of your people.  (Two men on base)

3-hole: Accountability. This is your big hitter and where you win the game. According to Henry J. Evans, “A culture of accountability makes a good organization great and a great organization unstoppable.” (Winning with Accountability). Accountability empowers success and drives results.

In my opinion, if leadership is to be effective, the right batting order is necessary and these are my first three to bat virtually every time out to the ball park.

NACWAA: What important lessons have you learned from mentors over the years? 
AS: 

  • Have no fear; if you do, do it afraid!
  • Don’t wear things on your sleeve and don’t take things personal; get over it, get the job done, and do it well!
  • Don’t ever get comfortable. Always look for ways to grow and stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone.
  • Every experience is a learning experience. You can either learn what to do or what not to do, but you can learn something every single time.  
     

NACWAA: What is your greatest inspiration and how does it influence your work?
AS: I have a collective “chain” of inspiration which includes my faith, excellence, and a give vs. get mentality. I am inspired by faith in someone far greater than myself and work diligently every day to be an ambassador for Christ and it keeps me grounded in my work. This inspires me to be a person and employee of character and integrity, to seek to treat ALL people with dignity and respect, and ultimately the way I want to be treated. I’m not perfect but I work towards this inspiration daily and when I’m wrong, I’m big enough to say I’m wrong. My faith propels me to inspiration by excellence. I have one gear: excellence. I desire to be excellent and to inspire others to be the same. My inborn self-accountability doesn’t allow me to cheat myself or others. The culmination of my inspiration is my give vs. get mentality. Of utmost importance to me is what I can give to my family, my friends, colleagues, to a community, a university, a coach, a student-athlete, student, fan, faculty/staff member, or other valuable constituents in my life. I’m not in this to get; I’m in it to give and I’m inspired to give 110% to all of the people that I serve every single day! They deserve it. As such, there are no off-days…no exceptions!  

NACWAA: Is there an effective time-management technique you've developed? 
AS: Outlook is my best friend. Many years ago I learned that if I didn’t manage/control my time others would. Anything I can possibly plan and schedule, goes into my outlook calendar. I use my resources. Our executive assistant helps me tremendously with managing my calendar and schedule. I block off meetings, appointments, vacation time, special family events, as well as time to work on projects or key work assignments. I utilize gaps (unscheduled time) to accomplish smaller or quick tasks. I am also the queen of sticky and post-it notes which normally comprise my quick tasks. When the tide gets very high, I have wisdom enough to do what I can, walk away, and come back and get after it again the next day. This has worked relatively well for me.

NACWAA: What is the most significant way that you impact your team’s culture?
AS: Through sharing clear expectations from day 1 and remaining consistent in my approach. My team knows that I am their biggest advocate and supporter because I’ve told them and I strive to show them every day. They also know that I am their accountability partner. We strategize and work together to hold each other accountable to accomplish the goals of the team. They know that I serve them, they know what is valued…most importantly, they know that I value them.

NACWAA: What book(s) are you currently reading?
AS: As a 2nd year doctoral student, my reading list is dominated by mandatory readings of my curriculum. Current readings include: Daniel Pink’s Drive, Dorris Kearns Goodwins’ Team of Rivals, and Northouse’s Leadership.

NACWAA: Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
AS:I have one favorite quote: “We must become the change we wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

I have one favorite mantra by which I live: The Four L’s of Leadership

  1. Lead from wherever you are
  2. Love something greater than yourself
  3. Leave places better than you found them
  4. Live a life that matters
     

NACWAA: What’s one fact about you many people may not know?
AS: One fact that people may not know about me is that I am a competitive USTA league tennis player and that I played on a state championship league team while in Mississippi. I’ve been playing the game for a few years now. 

NACWAA: What makes you feel good at the end of the day? 
AS: I feel good at the end of the day knowing that I’ve given 110% to try and make a profound difference in the lives of others and that I haven’t cheated the day, myself, or others. I also feel good knowing that I am living my purpose and working my passion. Athletics is a part of my purpose and it is unquestionably my passion. It feels good knowing that I am striving to be just who I was created to be!

NACWAA: What is the most significant goal you still want to achieve?
AS: I can’t say what the most significant goal is that I still want to achieve. I’ve taken a lesson from the history of my life and I realize that dreams and goals evolve. I do know that along this journey, I would still love to become an athletics director. I won’t even rule out the potential of one day becoming the chancellor or president of a college or university. More importantly, my goal is to keep living “my dream” each and every step along this journey and to live my life on purpose!

2014 Pathways Contributors

Jane Miller, Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Programs, University of Virginia

I went to Boston-Bouve College at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts as a physical education major.  I played field hockey, basketball and lacrosse as team sports and also competed in badminton, which was very popular and competitive in the Boston area. As you can see, this was before the era of specialization.View more.

Jane Miller, Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Programs, University of Virginia

I went to Boston-Bouve College at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts as a physical education major.  I played field hockey, basketball and lacrosse as team sports and also competed in badminton, which was very popular and competitive in the Boston area. As you can see, this was before the era of specialization.
 

I actually said I would never be an administrator because I didn’t think I had the necessary skills nor temperament but when I was given a chance to test the administrative waters at the University of Virginia while still coaching, I could not pass up the opportunity.  Once I got into administration, I found I loved working with teams and coaches on a broader level and I was challenged with the larger issues that faced athletics.  Once it became impossible to manage both at a high level, I chose to move into administration fulltime.

I have been fortunate to have important mentors at every turn in my career but from an administrative standpoint I would have to say our current Athletics Director Craig Littlepage has been the most influential person in advancing my career.  He has mentored me through my growth as an administrator from day one.  He never gave me more than I could handle but over the years continued to broaden my role and lead me down the path to my current position.  The things that I admire about him are his character, his devotion to family, his sincere interest in the welfare of people and his commitment to our program and university.  He is one of those people who does the right thing for the right reason even when it is difficult and unpopular.  All of that resonates with me.

The most challenging experience I have been through is the loss of a student-athlete at the hands of another.  Nothing prepares you for the emotions you go through and the steps you need to take as an administrator to assist those who are touched by the loss as well as manage the media and the fallout from an event of such magnitude.  But what we found was the relationships we had developed within the university community prior to the event was critical during this tumultuous time. Members of the university supported, guided and sustained us through a horrific and tragic situation. Nothing could right the wrong but working together allowed us to mobilize all of the resources available.

Things that have inspired and motivated me throughout my career are the student-athletes, coaches, colleagues and brilliant people within and outside of the University.  Also, the games and being a part of a team inspire and motivate me. 

I have the perfect position at the University of Virginia.  I have daily contact with coaches and student-athletes and work on issues that are important to their everyday experiences.  As a bonus, the opportunity to work at the higher levels of the university, conference and national scene continue to stretch me each day.

In the smaller context, there are individual choices or decisions I made that I would like to have back.  A few coaching decisions I made still haunt me but I realize they were all a part of my development and failing is a part of what we do. I do wish I had taken advantage of more professional development opportunities early on in my career and broadened my experiences while I was coaching but in the larger context, I wouldn’t change anything.  Even as I am on the downside of my career, I am passionate about my work and try to look at each day as an opportunity to learn and be better.

Jenny Bramer, Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator, San Diego State University 

Often times our co-workers in athletics are referenced as our family because we spend so much time with them. Friends in the business provide a different bit of what you need. If there aren’t any in your department, make friends in NACWAA and actually pick up the phone and call them when you need it. Then also love and care for those friends when neither of you “need” it. This is sports. It should be fun! View more.

Jenny Bramer, Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator, San Diego State University

Larry Naifeh was my boss while I was at the University of Oklahoma. He has been the most influential person on my career. I was his assistant compliance director at a time right before the profession quickly grew. I became the director and not long after became an assistant AD at San Diego State. He helped me move up rapidly but more importantly he gave me a fantastic foundation– he taught me how to think.
 
At the end of nearly every day I would patiently wait for Larry to return from whatever 100th meeting he had attended for the day and then I would talk through any interpretations that could use his input. He would pull out his NCAA manual and truly talk through the intent of the bylaw and how it applied to our situation. On other occasions we discussed waivers or violations and I would observe him navigating interviews and paperwork to find the truth and the best path to take to get the desired answer.
 
Larry allowed me access to him and he also allowed me to stumble. Shortly after I started in that position, someone from the conference office was flying in to provide rules education to coaches. Her flight was delayed. Larry was nowhere to be found, which meant I was the only one left to provide the education. Everyone passed their recruiting test just fine, but I was horrible. Now I always have a backup plan! I don’t actively do compliance anymore but I do still use the skills I learned.
 
Often times our co-workers in athletics are referenced as our family because we spend so much time with them. Good or bad that’s the reality. My advice to peers is to find a friend or two or three. We need friends, like the kind that give you a card or who will get excited with you because they watched Nine for IX too. Friends in the business provide a different bit of what you need. If there aren’t any in your department, make friends in NACWAA and actually pick up the phone and call them when you need it. Then also love and care for those friends when neither of you “need” it. This is sports. It should be fun!
 
My advice for those that are trying to get into the business or move to their next job is the same as everyone else’s “get in the door.” But how? When new professionals visit with me about how to start a career, my advice is always the same. Do informational interviews! There is no pressure because you are not asking for a job. People want to help and they love talking about themselves. So you get half an hour of wisdom and an employer leaves having met an impressive person who they can tell a hiring colleague about next week at a conference meeting. 
 
What keeps me invested in this job is time with college student-athletes. These are the brightest and most capable, plus they believe they can accomplish anything. Campuses already have a buzz of the future. The athletics department is exponentially higher with a whole group of people chasing success. My position does not simply allow encounters with them so I have to make those opportunities. I am that person who forces student-athletes to have conversations. No one is safe in the hallway, on an elevator, at the back of the bus on a road trip, or even at breakfast in the hotel. It’s totally selfish on my part because I want to know them, still, hopefully they walk away from that time having a richer college experience because they know people have invested in their success.

 

Carla Wilson, Director of Athletics, University of Missouri-Kansas City

I am inspired and motivated by being successful. My definition of success is helping others achieve their goals. The opportunity to help mold and shape the lives of young people is very rewarding to me. I stay motivated knowing that at the end of the day, there are student-athletes and coaches trusting and depending on me to make the best decision possible for whatever the situation involves.
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Carla Wilson, Director of Athletics, University of Missouri-Kansas City

I attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) where I received my undergraduate degree in accounting. I was not a student-athlete, but had spent my entire life around and involved in sports. This love of sport did not stop in college, as I played every sport intramurals had to offer, attended all home Kangaroo sporting events, and managed to land a work-study job in the athletics department. From those early days, I knew I wanted to have a job where I could combine my degree with sports.

I think one of the on-going struggles I faced in the field was to stay the course and to do what was right for me, although I was constantly told that my career path did not match what others were saying must be done in order to advance in athletics. My road to the director’s chair is not filled with all the traditional things that are often preached as needed in order to make it to the AD level. Things such as an advanced degree (none), a background in fundraising (none, unless you count bake sales to raise money for my high school band to go to the World’s Fair), and stops at several institutions (my career path has all been at UMKC) will not be found on my resume.

Yet, my career is filled with the things that are important to me– working to enhance the student-athlete experience, building numerous and meaningful relationships with students, coaches, staff, faculty, alumni, university, community and civic leaders, a commitment and loyalty to my alma mater/one institution, and serving and helping others.

I am inspired and motivated by being successful. My definition of success is helping others achieve their goals. The opportunity to help mold and shape the lives of young people is very rewarding to me. To receive a phone call from a former student-athlete inviting me to their wedding, or telling me what an influence I was on their life, or that they appreciated me cheering them on while they were competing, or they remember seeing my face as they walked across the stage at graduation, is what it is all about.

I care about the lives of the student-athletes beyond the playing field, and to work with coaches and administrators who feel the same way, is what keeps me going. I stay motivated knowing that at the end of the day, there are student-athletes and coaches trusting and depending on me to make the best decision possible for whatever the situation involves.

I have had lots of great mentors and professional colleagues that have been helpful throughout my career, and I would hate to start naming people, because I would inevitably leave someone out! However, if I were to pick one person, it would have to be Lee Hunt, the first director of athletics and men’s basketball coach at UMKC during the Division I era.

Coach Hunt gave me my first full-time job in Athletics as the business manager, and has been instrumental in my growth and development ever since. His leadership style created a family atmosphere of collaboration and caring about the student-athletes, coaches and staff that have stayed with me throughout my years. We talk on a near weekly basis, and he has been my greatest champion, offering me both professional and personal advice.

What would I change? Nothing. Although I have had ups and downs, my experiences along the way, have made me the person I am today. Every person I have met has made some type of impact on my life and has taught me something that has been useful in my journey.

If I were to give advice, it would be three fold:

1) Do what you are passionate about. If you do that, it won’t seem like work, but instead you will feel extremely blessed that you have the opportunity to do something that you love.
2) Never stop learning. Take time every day to listen– it’s hard to listen and not learn something.
3) Be yourself. Follow your instincts and stay true to your values.  

Sometimes I am amazed that I have been able to advance and make a difference by just being me. To be in this place, at this moment, because I am committed to contributing to the success of others, through listening, learning, collaborating and following my instincts, is the greatest reward of all.

 

Summer Hutcheson, Associate Athletics Director, Mount Holyoke College

Even though I’m a very task oriented person, I’m inspired and motivated by relationships. Student-athletes and coaches are the reason I am excited to come to work each day. When I can help a coach think through a team or compliance issue, or when I can help a student-athlete with a project or a problem, it invigorates me.
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Summer Hutcheson, Associate Athletics Director, Mount Holyoke College

I was an English major at an NAIA school and ran cross country and track and field. I loved my experiences as a collegiate runner because I was able to run against student-athletes from all divisions, and because I learned the depth of my strength and determination. 

After college, I taught English and coached at a high school before my love for coaching and mentoring students lead me to move to North Dakota to coach at Minot State University. After a couple more moves, I ended up at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and it was there that I stayed long enough to learn and grow as a professional.

After straddling the fence between coaching and administration during my first few years at MIT, my boss, Julie Soriero, asked me what I wanted to do with my future during my annual evaluation. Never willing to close a door before I feel peace about it, I replied with an honest “I don’t know!” 

She encouraged me to attend the NCAA/NACWAA Institute for Administrative Advancement, which I did (2009 East class!). Being surrounded by so many intelligent, driven, kind, and supportive women was stunning. I left the week more invigorated than I had been in a long time and with a network that is still strong to this day.  After that week, I started to see that administration might be the right path for me.

There are a host of people who’ve influenced and help shape me. My mom taught me that no job is too small and no person is insignificant. My college coach and the one who encouraged me to try college coaching, Scott Simmons, taught me to always be curious and to always look for new ways to do things. Julie Soriero has been a huge influence on my career path, and she has always challenged me to be better. Barb Bolich also exposed me to the idea of finding a way to get to the “yes.” I am grateful to so many people who’ve been willing to teach me along the way!

Even though I’m a very task oriented person, I’m inspired and motivated by relationships.  Student-athletes and coaches are the reason I am excited to come to work each day. When I can help a coach think through a team or compliance issue, or when I can help a student-athlete with a project or a problem, it invigorates me.

Intercollegiate athletics is fast-paced and demanding. It’s consuming, so I have to remind myself to slow down, focus on my faith, spend time with my family and friends, and take care of myself some, too! The best advice I can give is do what keeps you refreshed and motivated to approach each day as an opportunity.

 

Maggie McKinley, Senior Associate Athletics Director/Compliance & Administration, University of Cincinnati

I advise people to build relationships that are genuine in nature. Surround yourself with people who will be honest with you and provide you sound advice, not what they think you want to hear. Sometimes it’s not the title on the business card or amount of money you earn that is most important, but who you work with and for and the experience you are gaining.  View more.

Maggie McKinley, Senior Associate Athletics Director/Compliance & Administration, University of Cincinnati

I frequently joke that my parents dropped me off on the campus of the University of Cincinnati 17 years ago, but forgot to pick me up and bring me home.

I have had the unique perspective of being a student-athlete and staff member at the same institution for my entire career. I was in the first recruiting class for the UC women’s track & field team after the program was dormant since 1984. I wanted to be a part of building the foundation for a program. I loved my experience as a student and an athlete at UC. It was both challenging and rewarding and laid the groundwork for how I approach the welfare of our student-athletes each day.

I originally pursued a degree in graphic design, but quickly fell in love with psychology and changed my major during my sophomore year. I had a strong desire to pursue a career in a field in which I could help student-athletes through the ups and downs that so many experience and thought sport psychology would be the best avenue. The more I spoke to staff members in the department of athletics at UC during my senior year, the more they suggested I research a career more on the administrative side of athletics. That led to changing plans again and pursing a Master of Education in sports administration at nearby Xavier University.

My program required an internship which led to me walking into the office of my former life skills coordinator and asking if I could volunteer for 400 hours. Her saying yes and offering me the opportunity to fulfill my internship under her guidance began what is now a 12-year tenure in the department of athletics.

I knew after the first thank you I received from a student-athlete during my internship that this was the field for me. I wanted to enhance the student-athlete experience, and to know I had done something, even a little thing, reinforced my desire to be in this field. The student-athletes are what keep me motivated and inspired. Seeing their development from the day they first arrive on campus until the day the graduate and the following years after make some of the bumps in the road worth it.

Through these 12 years, I have been presented with many opportunities for growth, both personally and professionally. I have had the unique opportunity to expand my responsibilities and experiences without ever leaving the institution at which I started my career.

I have had mentors who have entrusted me with additional responsibilities that have led to promotions, as well as colleagues and friends who have supported me through times of not only high stress, but also great joys.

The most impactful experience in my career was the week I spent at what is now the Institute for Administrative Advancement (formerly NACWAA HERS). Although I was exhausted by the final day, I felt refreshed and renewed. I left empowered, educated and entertained. I made connections within this industry, but more importantly I made 40 life-long friends and established a vital support system.

Through my experiences and connections, I have also been able to give back by mentoring and educating others. One of our most vital roles is passing along our knowledge to those who show interest and promise in the field to allow them a first-class experience as they develop. I am fortunate to have had former director of athletics Whit Babcock as a mentor. He is a person who supports professional growth and development. He is fond of saying that we may not be able to outspend people, but we can certainly out-people them.

I advise people to build relationships that are genuine in nature. Surround yourself with people who will be honest with you and provide you sound advice, not what they think you want to hear. Not only do people need to be built up, but sometimes a swift kick is just as useful. Sometimes it’s not the title on the business card or amount of money you earn that is most important, but who you work with and for and the experience you are gaining.

 

Themy Adachi, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation, Mills College

When I started working at Mills College, a small Division III institution, I found out that I loved wearing many hats. I had the opportunity to engage with students as a volleyball coach, physical education instructor and recreation coordinator.   It wasn't until I actually started practicing athletics administration as the interim athletics director that I realized how gratifying and meaningful athletics administration was professionally. View more.

Themy Adachi, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation, Mills College 

During the late 1970’s I competed on the University of California at Berkeley softball team four years and the volleyball team one year. As an undergraduate, I double-majored in physical education and psychology, and then completed a master’s degree at Cal with an emphasis in sport psychology.

It was a turbulent time in women’s athletics as Title IX brought dramatic changes to women’s sports, including a shift in the governance of women’s intercollegiate athletics from the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women to the NCAA.  There were intense debates about how the merging of men’s and women’s athletics would impact the mission and vision of women’s athletics, the role athletic scholarships would play in the development of women’s athletics, and the role athletics should have in institutions of higher learning. Those debates helped me understand what I valued about the intercollegiate athletic experience, the dangers of win-at-all costs models, and what role I wanted to play in athletics administration.

In my sixth grade yearbook, I listed my career choice as “physical education teacher”. All I knew at that point in my life was that I loved physical activities and wanted it to be central in my life.

When I started working at Mills College, a small Division III institution, I found out that I loved wearing many hats. I had the opportunity to engage with students as a volleyball coach, physical education instructor and recreation coordinator.   It wasn’t until I actually started practicing athletics administration as the interim athletics director that I realized how gratifying and meaningful athletics administration was professionally. It became evident to me that the unique challenge and support afforded through a good athletics program could be truly transformative for student-athletes and that’s when I knew it was the right profession for me.

There have been several. I deeply appreciate the mentorship of Myrt Whitcomb, the Mills College Dean of Students who promoted me to the director of athletics, physical education and recreation position. She had more confidence in me than I did in myself at that point in my career. She modeled how best to support one’s staff and helped me to navigate institutional politics. As my supervisor, she made me feel comfortable to bring any issue to her so that we could problem-solve it together.

Debby DeAngelis, former Director of Athletics at California State University East Bay (CSUEB), took me under her wing when I was new to athletics administration. Debby nominated me for leadership positions within the conference and was always there to answer my questions.  Debby helped pave the way for more women to enter athletics administration through her successes. Even though she recently retired from CSUEB, I just saw her at the last NACWAA Convention still paying forward by enthusiastically guiding young women entering the field.

Helen Carroll, my former supervisor who now works at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, continues to inspire me to be authentic and to just go for it!

The most challenging experience or obstacle I have encountered in the field is when my work style and goals did not fit with one of my supervisor’s, it was time to decide whether I could adapt and outlast her or start searching for another job. I ended up staying because I loved the institution and my staff so much, and I was confident that the direction I wanted to take the department was in line with the strategic goals of the college. During that time, I really had to find safe and constructive ways to release my frustrations outside of work, be strategic to gain college support for the athletics department without her advocacy, and still lead my staff with positivity. 

What keeps me inspired and motivated is having so much impact on the lives of students, my staff and the college keeps my engine fired up. In a small college, I get to take on lots of different responsibilities, such as becoming an Assistant Dean of Students, and that keeps the job fresh and interesting.  There’s always more to learn and within institutions of higher learning there are many avenues to support professional growth.

I’m living my dream. As the APER director in a small college, I get to coach my staff, still interact with students, and not be overly preoccupied with fundraising and promotions. It still feels truly student-centered.

If I could do anything differently I would try to bring less work home earlier in my career. It wasn’t until I was 40 years old and I adopted my first child that I realized that I am not just my work; that there truly is a lot more to life than one’s job. Athletics can easily become all consuming.

My advice is to find a place to work where your personal philosophy is synchronous with the mission and goals of the institution. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that advancing your career is synonymous with working at a Division I school or working in a prestigious position. Happiness is dependent upon finding a good fit for you.

I am introverted and shy. Given these traits, there are a lot of things an athletics director has to do that I find challenging, like often making conversation with people you don’t know, public speaking, and promoting your department and yourself.  I discovered that if you want to make conversation, just ask the other person questions to get them to talk about their interests and programs. Be sure to be genuine in your responses to them. When I focus on trying to help others have positive experiences, I spend less time getting nervous and judging myself.  When it comes to public speaking, be well-prepared so that you can feel confident when you’re on stage. You’ll be amazed at how fun it can be to engage an audience with your authentic self and energy. 

Don’t be harder on yourself than others would be. Learn from your mistakes, shake them off and stay focused on the goal. 

Live and work with purpose and intentionality. As Kendrick Lamar said, “Stand for something or fall for anything.” 

I learned that sometimes you just need to make a decision quickly and go with it even if you don’t have time to make a thorough analysis or make it perfect.  Avoid paralysis through analysis. When you’re in the supervisor’s seat, others depend on timely responses. Seek progress, not perfection. Be okay with doing the best job that you possibly can within your time allotment.

Make sure to schedule moments in your daily calendar for whatever it is that makes your heart sing. It will not only help you avoid burn out, you will model for your student-athletes and staff that it is possible and preferable to do exceptional work and still live joyously.

 

2013 Pathways Contributors

Helen WilliamsAthletic Administration Fellow, Harvard University

The biggest challenge was getting my first opportunity in administration. As a head coach, I had administrative responsibilities running a program but did not request expanded duties beyond my sport. I should have taken time earlier in my career to develop a network of mentors and sponsors in administration to help me grow. View more.

Helen WilliamsAthletic Administration Fellow, Harvard University

I walked on to the basketball team at Wake Forest University. I rarely played but had a phenomenal experience learning life lessons and growing as a person. Most of my memorable moments during college were spent participating in athletics and that is why I continue to be involved as an administrator. My major was Health and Sports Science and I originally wanted to be in corporate fitness, but realized that I enjoyed coaching and developing young people more.

When I decided I didn't want to coach anymore, I still had a passion for impacting the lives of student-athletes. I wanted to find another way to help them get an education and achieve their dreams. As an administrator, I can continue to advocate for their needs, albeit in a different context.

Julie Soriero [athletic director] at MIT was instrumental in helping me start my administrative career. As a former coach herself, she understood what I was seeking and gave me an opportunity to make the transition to administration. She continues to mentor me today. I work with Pat Henry at Harvard now and she has also been a huge influence, helping me see athletics in a broader context as an administrator.

The biggest challenge was getting my first opportunity in administration. As a head coach, I had administrative responsibilities running a program but did not request expanded duties beyond my sport. I should have taken time earlier in my career to develop a network of mentors and sponsors in administration to help me grow.

What keeps me motivated are all the things I am learning from my experiences at MIT, Harvard, and through NACWAA that will make me a better person and leader. With that knowledge I will be able to impact the lives or many more young people. I am also inspired by the many administrators (men and women) I have met who are in various stages of their careers. Seeing their dedication and listening to their advice has been valuable for my development.

For my future, I would like to be an Assistant Athletic Director with program manager duties and have responsibilities in other areas that will challenge me to grow professionally.

I knew that when I was finished coaching, athletic administration was something I would want to pursue. One thing I would have done differently is be more intentional about the direction of my career; making sure I made decisions that were based on the end result I was ultimately seeking.

Advice I would give is to follow your bliss. Be sure to do a lot of self reflection and find out what you are truly passionate about. Know why you are involved in athletics and figure out how you can be happy and effective simultaneously.

 

Kimberly Ford, Director of Minority Inclusion, NCAA

If I had to share some words of wisdom with others I would say the following: don’t be afraid to ask the question – we often times make mistakes because we don’t have all the necessary information we need to make the correct decision; help others – never forget to reach back because someone held out their hand for you; be committed – remember the work we do is necessary and adds value; and when the road gets tough remember your worst day is someone else’s best day. View more.

Kimberly Ford, Director of Minority Inclusion, NCAA

Whenever I am asked to share MY STORY, I never truly know what to say.  I always wonder if the person wants to know about my family, my friends, my professional career, or about important people who have impacted my life.  I ask this question because I understand that I did not arrive where I am nor achieve what I have done on my own.  It is because of the many individuals who took time to play a role in my life that I am able to do what I do and for that, I am thankful.  So in this season of giving, I will provide a glimpse into it all.

I am a native TEXAN and no matter where I live or how far I ascend up the professional ranks, the word Ya’ll, will forever be a part of my working vocabulary.  My mother, father and sister all still live in Texas and we communicate regularly because they keep me grounded and accountable for what is really important in life.  I thank my parents for instilling in me a Christian upbringing which gives to me the centering and foundation I need to walk this road.  

I attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas where I had the privilege to be a scholarship student-athlete where I competed in the hurdles.  I graduated from Baylor with an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education, Health, PE, and Coaching and remained to obtain my Masters in Sports Management.  For those of you who know me I was planning to be a dentist, but while tutoring student athletes during my fifth year I realized that I wanted to be an academic counselor and give back to other student athletes because my coaches and administrators had impacted me.

Arriving at the NCAA to be an intern was something only a higher power could have orchestrated.  I was selected as one of 9 interns from over 400 applicants to serve at the national office for a year to work in Professional Development. That one year has turned into 12 and while the road has not been easy, I don’t feel in any way tired.   Currently serving as the Director of Inclusion, focusing on race and ethnicity; having access to outstanding leaders in higher education, successful administrators, coaches and student-athletes all while sharing the message of the importance of building inclusive cultures is a tremendous task that I am up for.   I do not see what I do on a daily basis as work but I see it as a mission or calling.  I often get called an “optimist” by others but I like being referred to by that term.  In this role I have the opportunity to impact a national organization with our internal NCAA effort, encourage and mentor other individuals in the athletics community and within higher education to strive for change and I have the opportunity to engage with other national organizations and leaders.  Who would not want to make a professional impact like that?

If I had to share some words of wisdom with others I would say the following: don’t be afraid to ask the question – we often times make mistakes because we don’t have all the necessary information we need to make the correct decision; help others – never forget to reach back because someone held out their hand for you; be committed – remember the work we do is necessary and adds value; and when the road gets tough remember your worst day is someone else’s best day. 

I recently attended a conference where the moderator closed the conference with the following quote.  I have decided to make this my call to action for 2013. "This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind...let it be something good.”  Be Blessed.

 

Ann-Marie Guglieri, Senior Associate Athletics Director/Internal Operations-SWA, Colgate University

I wouldn’t do anything differently.  I have certainly made many mistakes, and learned many valuable lessons, however I am a firm believer in everything happening for a reason... Becoming better than I was yesterday is a huge motivator for me. View more.

Ann-Marie Guglieri, Senior Associate Athletics Director/Internal Operations-SWA, Colgate University

I was a psychology major and field hockey student-athlete at Syracuse University.  I then received my Master’s Degree from Springfield College where I was also an assistant field hockey coach.

When I was a student-athlete, I was fortunate enough to win a Big East Championship.  I can still remember celebrating on the field, and in that same moment I actually started noticing how the ceremony that was being set up to present the trophies was being constructed so seamlessly and quickly.  It was actually at that point that I realized there was a whole other side to intercollegiate athletics.  After that realization, I explored the field a bit more and was 100% convinced it was the field for me after my first day of graduate school. 

I have had a few influential people in my career and advancement. First and without hesitation– my mom.  She is my biggest role-model. Professionally, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to have met many great people; however Vicky Chun and Lynn Oberbillig have been extremely influential to me in my career. Vicky Chun is my current AD, and she has helped me tremendously throughout my career path.  Her leadership style, work-ethic, know-how and pure integrity continue to teach me many lessons every day.  I worked for Lynn Oberbillig, Director of Athletics at Smith College, as an intern while I was in graduate school.  The responsibilities and opportunities she allowed me to have were integral to my confidence and growth when I started in this field.  I continue to rely on her heavily for advice. 

My most enriching experience I have encountered was two years ago when we had a women’s soccer student-athlete diagnosed with an unpromising prognosis of Ewings Sarcoma cancer.  A few of her teammates came to me one morning wanting to organize a run in her honor with the money raised going to cancer research.  The challenging part was they wanted the run to take place only eight days later when she would be returning to campus for a visit.  We set a goal for ourselves of raising $3K, and had hopes of having 50 runners participate because of our short time frame. When it was all said and done, we ended up having over 800 runners and raised over $17K for cancer research.  That next fall, she was a starting defender for our team, is still in cancer remission and achieved a 4.0 semester GPA.  Watching her strength in overcoming such an obstacle, and seeing the love her teammates had for her was an extremely heartening experience. 

A few years ago, I read a book by Patrick Lencioni, and there was a message in there about “earning your job every-day” that really resonated with me.  Becoming better than I was yesterday is a huge motivator for me. 

I wouldn’t do anything differently.  I have certainly made many mistakes, and learned many valuable lessons, however I am a firm believer in everything happening for a reason. 

Advice I have is two things my mom would constantly tell me when I was growing up.  “Impossible is nothing” and to “Do the better thing” when it comes to dealing with people.

 

 

Amy Huchthausen, Commissioner, America East Conference

The lesson here is to trust your instinct and pursue it.  It may work or it may not, but you’ll never regret following what’s inside of you. I believe every person you encounter influences you in some manner if you allow yourself to pay attention and learn from them, directly or indirectly. View more.

Amy Huchthausen, Commissioner, America East Conference

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a degree in exercise and sport science and a concentration in sport management.  I played softball at UW-L, served on the student-athlete advisory committee and worked in the athletics office for two years.  I was also fortunate to serve on the conference and national student-athlete advisory committee while in college.  I had a great college experience and it certainly helped prepare me for the next chapter.

I’ve loved sports my entire life…playing them, watching them, reading about them, anything and everything.  So once it came time for me to select a major in college, it was natural for it to be sport management, which is one reason why I attended UW-L.  After getting to know the AD at UW-L and seeing the dynamics of an athletics department, I knew college athletics was where I wanted to be.  Following my senior year of college, I did a summer internship with the US Olympic Committee.  The overall USOC internship experience was attractive to me (e.g., spending a summer in Colorado), but I also wanted to explore other parts of the sports industry to prove or disprove my instinctive lean towards college athletics.  It did just that and my next move was into an internship at the Big East Conference and I’ve been in college athletics ever since.  The lesson here is to trust your instinct and pursue it.  It may work or it may not, but you’ll never regret following what’s inside of you.

I’ve been immensely blessed to be guided and surrounded by wonderful people throughout my career; people who have been willing to mentor, teach, listen and counsel me.  I believe every person you encounter influences you in some manner if you allow yourself to pay attention and learn from them, directly or indirectly.  The most influential person in my career has been Bridget Belgiovine.  She was the AD at UW-L during my first two years in college.  She was the first person willing to ask me questions in order to draw out the shy, introverted student worker in her office and hasn’t stopped since.  She knows me - knows what makes me tick and what ticks me off - and it’s been invaluable to have her in my life.

My current job is probably the most challenging experience I’ve encountered so far.  It’s challenging because my learning curve upon starting was big, but there was no time to ease into the job as it essentially started as soon as the announcement was made.  Adding to the whirlwind was my grandmother’s passing only days after accepting the offer.  The rollercoaster of activity and emotions during that time was something else.  I’m grateful for the support system of friends who helped me get through the loss of a loved one, leaving an amazing group of colleagues and friends at the NCAA, moving to a different city with all of the associated logistics and starting a new job.  It had already been a difficult year for me and the confluence of everything during that period of time really stretched me personally and professionally.

I said during the search process that if I got the America East job, it would be the biggest professional challenge of my career and it has certainly been just that, which is one reason why I enjoy it so much today.

I’m inspired by the good of college athletics.  While it often goes unrecognized, the impact our institutions, staffs and coaches have on our student-athletes is enormously positive and I like to be a small part of facilitating those experiences.

I’m motivated to be successful because I know how lucky I am.  I don’t ever want to take for granted the job I have or the life I have.  Life is hard for a lot of people in this world and I believe it’s my responsibility to not waste any opportunities I’ve been given.

Have I made mistakes?  Of course.  But I wouldn’t do anything differently.  I have a good life.  I have good friends, a good job and I want for nothing.  All of the successes, mistakes and failures in my life have helped me arrive in this place, which I feel pretty good about.  Changing something here or there may have led me elsewhere and I’m content with the journey I’ve had thus far.

My advice is don’t be in a rush to get anywhere; your life will unfold as it’s meant to be.  Work hard, do right, do good, be genuine, be respectful, be patient and things will work out for you.  Pace yourself so that you can find happiness, find success and savor it.

You deserve to be treated fairly and with respect, but you do not deserve a promotion or a raise just for being good at your job or being a good person.  You earn those things and even then, it may not happen because this is a business.

Avoid comparing yourself to others.  Be proud of yourself, but not so much that you cannot be proud of others.  Don’t let your success be measured only by being better than others, for you may be settling for less than what you’re capable of.

Learn yourself, know yourself and be comfortable with yourself.  Self-awareness is critical if you expect to grow and advance.

 

 Kris Kuhr Fowler, Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, Indiana University

I wouldn’t change anything about the path that I have taken.  At each step of my career I have grown, made mistakes, been out of my comfort zone and seen successes.  There are always going to be bad days, you just have to make sure there are more good days. View more.

Kris Kuhr FowlerKris Kuhr Fowler, Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, Indiana University

I loved college!  I was born and raised in Nebraska and like most of us from the state went to the University of Nebraska.  I was not a student-athlete but did start working in the athletic department the fall of my freshman year and continued to work throughout my undergraduate career.  I majored in Business Management. When I started college I had my mind set on working in a Fortune 100 company and about half-way into my sophomore year I thought “athletics is big business so why not work in athletics.” So I decided that I was going to go down the path of a career in athletic administration.  I went on to get a master’s in Sport Management at Barry University. 

The most influential and helpful person in my career and advancement has been Dr.  Barbara A. Hibner, Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator at the University of Nebraska.  Dr. H hired me, took me under her wing, shared her stories and experiences with me and inspired me to be the very best that I could be.   

Most of my experience has been in the field of compliance which has its own set of challenges and obstacles – it is hard when you have to deliver bad news to a student-athlete, parent, or a coach.  I can’t say that will ever get easier with time. I get inspired and motivated when I get to work with great people and great teams and achieve awesome results.  I stay inspired and motivated by maintaining and seeking out connections with individuals that will push me to be my best. I wouldn’t change anything about the path that I have taken.  At each step of my career I have grown, made mistakes, been out of my comfort zone and seen successes.  There are always going to be bad days, you just have to make sure there are more good days.    

The best advice I can give is “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

 

China JudeChina Leigh Jude, Assistant Vice President/Athletics, Queens College

My leadership was just recently tested when Hurricane Sandy landed upon my Queens College family. Our entire athletic family did not have practice or playing facilities after the hurricane because we had 600 evacuees placed in our athletic facilities. In addition, we were not able to utilize our revenue generating areas (fitness center, swimming pools, and gym) because public safety did not want evacuees to co-mingle with students and community users. We asked for the coaches to encourage our student athletes to complete their mandated community service hours by helping the evacuees and the American Red Cross. View more.

China JudeChina Leigh Jude, Assistant Vice President/Athletics, Queens College

I was a scholarship Division I volleyball player at 16 years old where I started every game/match in my collegiate career and earned all-conference honors. I majored in Broadcast Journalism. I worked in radio and television for 5 years. My goal was to work for ESPN.

I did not know that athletic administration was an actual career until graduate school. While having a bachelor’s degree, I worked in parks and recreation to "find myself." When I started investing in the field, I decided to return to graduate school where I learned about the various job opportunities in the field.

The most influential and helpful person in my career and advancement was an assistant basketball coach, who was a co-worker at one of my previous institutions, and believed in me. After I left that college, I went on to two other schools to work. When he found out that I was in between jobs, he recommended me for the Athletic Director job at Cheyney University.  Although I served as an Assistant Athletics Director I did not believe that I was ready to lead a department. He said that I was trustworthy and passionate about students so I needed to apply. Fortunately, the president worked at the same institution that I worked at years before so she hired me.

My leadership was just recently tested when Hurricane Sandy landed upon my Queens College family. Our entire athletic family did not have practice or playing facilities after the hurricane because we had 600 evacuees placed in our athletic facilities.  In addition, we were not able to utilize our revenue generating areas (fitness center, swimming pools, and gym) because public safety did not want evacuees to co-mingle with students and community users. To assure that we got our students and coaches engaged, we asked for the coaches to encourage our student athletes to complete their mandated community service hours by helping the evacuees and the American Red Cross. Assistant Athletic Directors secured city high schools and middle schools for practice facilities and our intramural program representatives created a college event to help raise money for the American Red Cross. Instead of our department getting upset because of a lack of facilities, everyone pitched in to make the best out of a tough situation. Many of us made new friends and the evacuees were appreciative of the support.

My student-athletes keeps me inspired and motivated. I love seeing them as naive freshman who eventually blossom to strong, confident young adults. They keep me young. Thanks to my SAAC, I now know Facebook and Twitter. I am happy where I am. I love my President, my students, alumni and my athletic family. This was one of my best professional decisions.

If I could do anything differently I wish that I would have gone straight into administration after my first coaching opportunity. I love volleyball but the goal was to be an administrator. It took several coaching jobs to get to the administrative level but I did not have the confidence needed. Never compromise your values to get ahead. See-Believe-Achieve!

 

2012 Pathways Contributors

Nona RichardsonNona E. Richardson, Executive Senior Associate Athletic Sirector/SWA, UC Davis

Leaving yourself open and available for opportunities is critical in the world of intercollegiate athletics. Timing may not always be right, but opportunities are not always timed for that ideal job. Who you know may get you in the door (for the opportunity), but what you know will keep you in the door. Have confidence in what your abilities are to get the job done. View more.

 

NonaRichardsonNona E. Richardson, Executive Senior Associate Athletic Sirector/SWA, UC Davis

Note: Nona served as Interim Director of Athletics at UC Davis from 2011-2012.

I started my collegiate trek as a student-athlete at Michigan State University.  I wanted to play volleyball in college, so everyone said go west. Michigan was far enough west to still have access to my home, Albany, New York. That is where my connections began, which enabled me to be where I am today. As a student at Michigan State, I studied Physical Education and Health. My plan was to teach and coach… I never taught in a classroom but did get to teach and coach on the court.

When you are a coach you get to do a lot of administration work, but on a smaller scale. It’s funny as I think about it, but when the NCAA recruiting exams started to come forward, I realized that I liked the compliance (sick, I know). That is the first time I thought about focusing on that aspect of administration. I got my first administrative job in compliance at Valparaiso University.

In this profession it sometimes takes a village to assist you along the way. Each job has a different dynamic which you can draw insight from various individuals. I have had the fortunate opportunity to have been encouraged and surrounded by some amazing woman from the time I was an undergrad until now. The late Dr. Nell Jackson was the Assistant Athletic Director for women at Michigan State, as well as the woman’s track coach while I was a student-athlete. Kathy DeBoer was a former student-athlete who challenged Michigan State on their equality for woman relative to Title IX. Lucy Parker was the Associate Athletic Director at Eastern Michigan University during my coaching tenure and assisted me as I moved forward. Today, there are so many in the profession who I draw from just by being in their presence and gaining perspective through their perspective.

I draw energy and am inspired from those around me.  I am a positive person and I surround myself with those who are also positive.  We all know that every day is not going to be a perfect day, but each day can evolve as you allow it to. The motivation that I have to keep going, is knowing that what I allow to happen with me and around me is a reflection of me. Knowing that I am responsible for the organization is motivation enough to keep one going.

Leaving yourself open and available for opportunities is critical in the world of intercollegiate athletics. Timing may not always be right, but opportunities are not always timed for that ideal job. Who you know may get you in the door (for the opportunity), but what you know will keep you in the door. Have confidence in what your abilities are to get the job done.

 

Kate Hickey

Kate Hickey, Senior Associate AD/SWA, Rutgers University

Take some time to figure out what your core values are and then ensure that you conduct yourself in such a way that reflects these values. Always think about the decisions you make, the things you say and how you treat people–and how these will reflect on you, your family and your employer. If we know our core values and are committed to them, decision making becomes easier. View more.

Kate Hickey

Kate Hickey, Senior Associate AD/SWA, Rutgers University

I attended the University of Rhode Island as an undergraduate, earning a degree in Health and Physical Education. While I played tennis and volleyball in high school, I was not an athlete as an undergrad.  I worked various jobs while I was in school including coaching my hometown high school volleyball team all four years I was at URI. After graduating, I went directly to graduate school full-time at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to earn a degree in sport administration. Going to Carolina got me out of the Northeast for the first time (besides vacations) which was a huge priority for me. I wanted to experience life in another part of the country. Getting my masters was valuable to me from an educational standpoint and from a financial standpoint – it meant I could be paid more money as an elementary school teacher when I finished my degree. In addition to teaching, I was planning to coach at the high school level and eventually become a high school athletic director. Clearly my plan did not work out as expected!

When I applied for the sport administration program at Carolina it was a broad-based sport administration program encompassing high school, intramural, recreational, collegiate, and professional athletics.  I was accepted to the program and offered a teaching assistantship to help pay my way through school.  Then, a few months later–and about three months before I was to start classes–I received a letter in the mail explaining that there was going to be a change in the program, starting with my class. The university had decided to re-focus the program completely on college athletics. I decided to attend anyway, as I believed the aspects of administration at the college level would translate to the high school level and it was a great opportunity at a great institution in a warmer climate. 

In the second year of my graduate program, each person in our class had the opportunity to do a full-time internship in the athletic department at Carolina. I split my time between compliance and academic support. I was given the opportunity to attend some ACC meetings during my internship and was fortunate to make great contacts which became key in my professional advancement after I graduated. After grad school, I was hired at the Southern Conference as an intern (compliance and championships) and then as a full-timer (solely doing compliance). This is when I was first introduced to NACWAA. My boss was hugely supportive of NACWAA and one who valued networking.  So he sent me to the NACWAA convention. Knowing no one and being a bit of an introvert, it was quite a daunting experience. In the end, though, it gave me the chance to learn from some great women and develop some now-longstanding relationships. 

After the SoCon, I moved on to the Big East and then to Rutgers. Each next position has surfaced at exactly the right time and been the right fit. So, really, the way I see it, once I was part of that newly re-vamped Carolina sports administration program, I took advantage of the opportunities presented to me in the college athletics world and have not really looked back since. Whether at Carolina, the SoCon, the Big East or Rutgers, I have been very fortunate that there have been many, many women and men over the years who have provided me with advice, encouragement, and opportunities that have helped shape my professional experience and allowed me to advance in the field. I am thankful for all of them.

Like every profession and job, there have been ups and downs over the years. The three most difficult situations I have experienced were when we went through an NCAA infractions case shortly after I arrived at Rutgers, when our institution eliminated six of our 30 intercollegiate athletics programs several years ago, and when one of our football student-athletes was traumatically injured two seasons ago. I have learned from each experience–and our football student-athlete is making strides every day–but I would never want to experience any of them again. Challenges aside, I am excited to go to work every day because of the opportunity I have to work with and help our coaches and student-athletes. I know it sounds cliché, but that is truly what keeps me going.

I also transitioned out of compliance on campus in August 2011 (although I continue to serve as President of the National Association for Athletics Compliance until June 2012). Compliance is a hugely important aspect of our profession and is very stressful on those who must manage the compliance programs on campus. I have realized recently that I did not know how stressed I was until I no longer had the responsibility for compliance. It is hard to do it well for a long time–or at least it was for me. I now supervise of all of our Olympic sports at Rutgers (in addition to the various other things I previously handled). The change has given me an opportunity to have a different impact on our coaches and student-athletes and has been thoroughly enjoyable thus far.

Over the years there have been many things I think I have done well and just as many things I think I could have done better.  However, I don’t think I would really do anything differently.  I wish I had known at age 25 what I know now–but otherwise, I am a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason” and I do my best to take something away from every experience.

There are a few things that I suggest keeping in mind for professional and personal success. First, take some time to figure out what your core values are and then ensure that you conduct yourself in such a way that reflects these values. Always think about the decisions you make, the things you say and how you treat people–and how these will reflect on you, your family and your employer. We all preach this to our student-athletes and we should subscribe to this as well. If we know our core values and are committed to them, decision making becomes easier. Second, and this is particularly directed at our younger professionals, make sure you know what hard work is and then make sure you work hard. Make sure you know what you job is and what it isn’t and then do your job well. You will be rewarded for it.

 

Monique A.J. SmithMonique A.J. Smith, Associate Commissioner, Director of Fall and Spring Championships, SWA, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association

If you address challenges as an opportunity to do something different, you can overcome and have another lesson etched in your personal manual. My opportunity has been dealing with change and navigating the unknown. Addressing these opportunities with new approaches has added to my skills set, maturity and faith. View more.

Monique A.J. SmithMonique A.J. Smith, Associate Commissioner, Director of Fall and Spring Championships, SWA, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association

I was a mass Media Arts major at Hampton University, where during my sophomore year I began a public relations internship at the CIAA. For the next two academic years, I was a student assistant in the sports information office, where we hosted the Division II Track and Field national championship. My assignments were developing media guides and distributing media credentials.

After working two national championships and several CIAA championships as a student, I knew I wanted a profession where I could promote the student-athlete. During my first year in the workforce, 1990, as the sports information director for Saint Paul’s College, several books on corruption in athletic departments were published and “institutional control” became the buzzword. So instead of getting my master’s in public relations, I decided to enroll in Old Dominion University’s third year Sports Management master’s program. My transition into administration came out of necessity. We didn’t have a compliance officer yet; I was waiting for someone to certify the teams so I could complete my rosters. Becoming impatient, I went to the registrars’ office myself and got it done. I always say people don’t gravitate to titles but to those who get things done. I went through five different athletic directors before I became interim athletic director, then I left to become a compliance director for a Division I program.

Alfreeda Goff, the Chief of Staff/SWA for the Horizon League Conference Office, has been one of the most influential and helpful individuals in my career and advancement.  We served on several CIAA championships committees together when she was the athletic director at Virginia State University. Alfreeda’s leadership is by example; I observed her gain the respect of the Commissioner and other male colleagues by using her knowledge and grasping of the facts to tactfully show the bigger picture. While working within committees to gain consensus she never belittled herself, nor did she look down on others to be heard. She was so respected for what she brought to the table. Alfreeda nominated me for my first NCAA committee in 1997, gave me one of my first speaking engagements, and appointed me the Chair of the NACWAA Awards Committee, which forced me to be the mistress of ceremonies. As a former stutterer in public speaking, this was a huge step for me; Alfreeda threw me into the water, knowing what I didn’t--that I would be able to swim.  

From my 22 years in athletic administration, and the last 11 being here at the CIAA Conference office, I have come to the conclusion that obstacles cause one to become a creative problem solver. It is similar to a game situation where the team is expecting one situation but the opponent shows them something very much unexpected. It is the team/individual who is able to adapt to the current situation that will take home the crown. If you address challenges/obstacles as an opportunity to do something different you can overcome and have another lesson etched in your personal manual. So my opportunity has been dealing with change and navigating the unknown. Addressing these opportunities with new approaches has added to my skills set, maturity and faith.

Seeing others become empowered motivates me. For the last decade I have been presenting leadership workshops for women, youth, senior-citizens and student-athletes. I find the most joy from them and have adopted the mission statement “Planting seeds of empowerment to lead others to greatness.”  In order to do this I am committed to being a life-long learner so I can share with others.

I enjoy the role I serve now for the CIAA, which is governance and championships. However, if I had the opportunity to solely execute professional develop programming and training year-around, that would be great. A dream opportunity would be serving as an advisor to the Department of Education or other government agencies that have intercollegiate and/or scholastic athletics oversight.

I can’t say I would do anything differently, because I believe my steps have been ordered by God, even the difficult paths. The journey has made me a better person and able to leave billboards of advice for others travelling behind me. Some of that advice is : 1) Know why you do what you do  2) Let your motivation be intrinsic and not extrinsic, for if you look for approval from others for your every move you will become paralyzed with fear of disapproval and will enjoy nothing.  3) Live below your means, because otherwise you have to take a position to fit your lifestyle instead taking a position that follows your passion. 4) Most importantly, whatever actions you carry out, be sure you can look yourself in the mirror the next morning.  

 

Alfreeda Goff, Sr. Associate Commissioner/Chief of Staff, Horizon League

As a minority female one of the most challenging experiences is having to continually prove to others that you are competent and can do the job as well if not better than your counterparts. I was determined not to let my gender or ethnicity define me in the world of intercollegiate athletics. View more.

 

Erica WilsonAlfreeda Goff, Sr. Associate Commissioner/Chief of Staff, Horizon League

I am a graduate of Slippery Rock State College, now Slippery Rock University.  As a student, the athletic opportunities were limited for women to intramurals and club sports.  I attended school pre-Title IX, but my experiences there prepared me for future leadership opportunities even though I thought I was preparing to be a teacher. My undergraduate major was Health, Physical Education and Recreation.  Knowing what I know today, I would definitely want to return to Slippery Rock if I was choosing a school because of the interaction I had with the women leaders on the campus. They were always pushing us to set the bar high and taught us how we could and should prepare ourselves to reach and even go over the bar.

I had not thought about being an administrator.  Being a coach and working daily with the student-athletes was where I wanted to be as far as a career was concerned.  My son, who was 11 at the time, was very active in academics, sports and leadership programs, and informed me that when I was on the road with my team and could not attend his various activities, that he really missed not having me there.  Without any hesitation, I informed my Athletic Director that I would be stepping down as the Head Coach and returning to teaching at a local high school.  When I explained the reason for my decision, she asked me to consider moving into an administrative position, as she really wanted me to remain on staff.  After a discussion with my son and explaining how this new position would impact me in a positive way as far as travel was concerned, I agreed to be the Administrative Assistant for Women’s Athletics.  I have spent 30 of my 37 years in intercollegiate athletics as an administrator and have enjoyed it to the utmost. After year one as an administrator, I knew that I could help so many more student-athletes, coaches and staff people than when I was a coach and knew then I had made the right choice going from coaching to administration.

Several individuals influenced me throughout my career.  First, my parents, Albert and Lola Smith, who always encouraged me to pursue my dreams regardless of obstacles that might be put in front of me.  Second, my college professor, Marie Wheaton, who made sure that we did not see ourselves as second class citizens and that we were prepared to make a difference in the work force and have a positive impact on the lives that we touch. Third, and probably the most influential, is my son, Anton. Any decisions that I made regarding my career, I discussed with my son and continue to do so even today.  I value his opinion and when he was younger, I wanted to make sure that at no time would my decisions have a negative impact on him.  For advancement of my career, I give credit to my supervisors at the various institutions where I worked and my connection with individuals in professional organizations such as NACWAA, NCAA, MOAA, NACDA, etc.

As a minority female one of the most challenging experiences is having to continually prove to others that you are competent and can do the job as well if not better than your counterparts.  I was determined not to let my gender or ethnicity define me in the world of intercollegiate athletics.

The young people that I get to work with on a daily basis and those that reach out to me for guidance keep me motivated. This career has afforded me many opportunities that I otherwise would not have experienced and enjoyed, so I want to be able to give back as much as I can. Each one reach one is my professional and personal motto.

If I could have any position, it would be the position that I currently have.  I work with an outstanding staff, live in a great city and love what my job responsibilities are. Looking back, one of the things that I would definitely change would be negotiating contracts for myself and when doing them with staff.  It was a skill I learned late in my career and feel it was skill set that I did not pay a lot of attention to in my early years in intercollegiate athletics.

The best advice I can give is be true to your values.  Do not forsake your integrity to advance your career. Treat people as you would want to be treated. Learn to listen as well as talk.  Communication is a two-way street. Be willing to give back. Make sure that you have some fun.  Be the best you can be each day knowing that some days you will be better at what you do than other days.  Keep in mind who we serve--our student-athletes.

 

2011 Pathways Contributors
 

Erica Wilson, Assistant Director for Development, University of Tennessee

My experience at NACWAA was my foot in the door to athletics and I owe a lot of where I am today to my opportunities there. I was hired full-time after 8 months and gained valuable skills in event management, membership relations and most importantly, leadership. View more.

 

 

Erica WilsonErica Wilson, Assistant Director for Development, University of Tennessee

Throughout my high school career, I was determined that I would go on to play volleyball in college. I was fortunate enough to have that dream become a reality when I was offered a few scholarships. After my official visits, I choose East Carolina University for several reasons. For one, I felt the most comfortable with the coaching staff there at the time, and two, it was located south of the Mason-Dixon Line. I had grown up in Toledo, Ohio, and was ready to say goodbye to winters! We definitely had our hardships as a team throughout my career at ECU, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Being a college athlete is an amazing experience and it molded me into the person I am today. I was always a good student, but to be honest I never gave much thought to what I wanted to do with my career. I majored in marketing and before I knew it, graduation had come and gone and I was still adjusting to life without volleyball. That was who I was and I felt lost at that point in my life. I interviewed for several jobs and had offers, but nothing appealed to me. I finally settled on becoming a loan officer at a local bank in North Carolina. I quickly realized that it wasn’t for me and how much I missed athletics in my life. So I quit my job, enrolled back in school to get my MBA with a Sports Management certificate and never looked back.

I was into my second semester when I learned about an organization called NACWAA. My Sports Law professor forwarded us some internship opportunities and that one caught my eye. I applied, but didn’t hear anything back for quite some time… so I started calling. I’d like to think it was my persistence that got me the internship, but in reality I think Jennifer Alley, Executive Director at the time, was so sick of hearing my voice on the phone that she finally just gave in and hired me! Two interns had already been offered, but Jennifer decided to let me jump on board too. I was in Wilmington the next week.

My experience at NACWAA was my foot in the door to athletics and I owe a lot of where I am today to my opportunities there. I was hired full-time after 8 months and gained valuable skills in event management, membership relations and most importantly, leadership. Due to some circumstances out of everyone’s hands at that time, I was thrown into many situations without much training or guidance. However, I figured things out along the way and in the process learned a lot about myself, teamwork and how to get things done.

Another valuable asset I gained was the network I established at NACWAA. I was able to connect with so many powerful administrators across the country and I took advantage of that. Some of my mentors (even though they may not know it) include Julie Hermann, Carolyn Center and Robin Harris. Many of the board of directors at that time and members I met at conventions have been huge advocates for me and my career and I believe it’s due to the work they saw me perform at NACWAA and how I handled situations.

However, I knew I wanted to eventually get back to working on a campus. To help prepare me for a development position, I volunteered at UNC-Wilmington with the Seahawk Club and was a Pirate Club Rep for the Cape Fear chapter of my alma mater. As a rep, I met my future boss. At our rep training, I made it clear to him that I wanted to get into development. About a year later, one of his directors moved onto another job and he called me with an offer. It was a perfect fit and such an easy transition into development since it was my alma mater. Recently, I was presented another opportunity with the University of Tennessee. I wasn’t particularly looking for this job when it became open, but everything just fell into place and it was too perfect to pass up. It provided me a chance to grow professionally and the timing personally was ideal.

I owe my inspiration and motivation to the student-athletes. Being a student-athlete is such a unique experience and I get satisfaction knowing that I’m helping to provide them with even more opportunities than I was given. I love development because I’m able to meet new people every day and really get to know them. It’s gratifying to witness donors build a connection with the program and student-athletes firsthand. Some of the relationships I’ve established through work will stay with me for the rest of my life, which is yet another reason why I enjoy this career.

Aspirations of becoming an athletic director are probably in the back of everyone’s mind when working in this career and it’s definitely crossed mine several times. However, I am very happy in development and my current plans are to stay within this department and continue to advance. My advice to anyone pursuing a career in athletics is to network! As we all know the world is small, but the world of athletics is even smaller. And it’s just not about who you know, it’s who knows what about you. Tell those you meet about your goals and where you want to be. You’ll be surprised at how much they will try to help you get there.

Suzette McQueen,  Associate Director of the Davidson Athletic Foundation, Davidson College 

I attended the University of Michigan on an athletic scholarship where I ran track & field and majored in Communications. While I never had time to find a job during the year, I volunteered to write copy for the public radio station and it was a great experience. After graduation, I spent the next 10 years in various jobs in corporate America. I was a retail sales manager in North Carolina for a large cellular company, overseeing three locations and 15 employees when I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to. So, I decided to go back to college and since I was always interested in sports, chose the Sport Administration graduate program at the University of North Carolina. View more.

Suzette McQueen, Associate Director of the Davidson Athletic Foundation, Davidson College

I attended the University of Michigan on an athletic scholarship where I ran track & field and majored in Communications. While I never had time to find a job during the year, I volunteered to write copy for the public radio station and it was a great experience. After graduation, I spent the next 10 years in various jobs in corporate America. I was a retail sales manager in North Carolina for a large cellular company, overseeing three locations and 15 employees when I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to. So, I decided to go back to college and since I was always interested in sports, chose the Sport Administration graduate program at the University of North Carolina.

I have been inspired by many people and still am. My sister, who is a principal, is someone I look up to because of her integrity and commitment to her staff and students. She really inspires me. My professors at UNC instilled the passion for college athletic administration. I have found many role models in NACWAA that I look up to and aspire to be like. My A.D. has also been very supportive and allowed me to really grow within my position.

At UNC, most of my classmates had come right out of undergrad and I was the oldest. I wish I had made the transition to college athletics sooner, because now I am at a point in my life where work/life balance is the biggest challenge for me.

When I was young and single, I would work 10- to 12-hour days and come in over weekends and holidays—but not anymore. There are so many opportunities that I would like to pursue, but as the mother of two small children, I struggle internally with my need to excel at work and desire to be with them. Guilt (for not being at home or at work) is always lurking.

However, the student-athletes definitely keep me inspired. I love trying new technologies and different ways to improve what we do and my A.D. is 100% supportive of that. My motivation is to make sure that our department is always doing its best and that we serve the needs of our student-athletes.

Division II has allowed me to wear many hats. I like that aspect quite a bit. One day I am planning an event, the next I’m counseling student-athletes for internship opportunities and another, I’m working on web-streaming and social media or fund-raising. There’s never a dull moment. As long as I can keep that flexibility and creativity at work, I will be very happy.

Other than wishing I had started earlier in my career, I wouldn’t change anything. Athletics can be very demanding. My advice is to make sure it’s the career for you, because it will take all that you can give and then some. You must have a life outside of work, guilt or no guilt. There will always be more work to do and a reason to stay just a little longer. However, you must remember to have some balance in life. Everyone is replaceable at work. If you get sick, believe me, the “show” will go on. However, that’s not the same in your personal life--there, you are irreplaceable. Be the best sister, friend, mother, aunt, niece, or spouse that you can be. At the end of the day, that’s really what’s most important.

 

Vicky ChunVicky Chun, Director of Athletics, Colgate University

I grew up in Southern California and wanted to follow in my cousin's footsteps by going to a private college/university on the East Coast. I decided to attend Colgate University, a small liberal arts school with NCAA Division I athletics. At Colgate, I played varsity volleyball for 4 years and studied Political Science and Education, which led me into the coaching profession. While I enjoyed coaching Division I volleyball, I wanted a career change but still wanted to remain involved with intercollegiate athletics. This is when I knew athletic administration was where I wanted to be. View more.

Vicky ChunVicky Chun, Director of Athletics, Colgate University

Note: Vicky served began her role of Director of Athletics at Colgate University on January 1, 2013.

I grew up in Southern California and wanted to follow in my cousin's footsteps by going to a private college/university on the East Coast. I decided to attend Colgate University, a small liberal arts school with NCAA Division I athletics. At Colgate, I played varsity volleyball for 4 years and studied Political Science and Education, which led me into the coaching profession. While I enjoyed coaching Division I volleyball, I wanted a career change but still wanted to remain involved with intercollegiate athletics. This is when I knew athletic administration was where I wanted to be.

I have relied (and still rely) on several important people in my life who served as mentors to me (whether they liked it or not :) ... Peg Bradley-Doppes (Denver University), Mark Murphy (Packers), Janet Justus (UMKC), Stan Johnson (consultant), David Roach (Colgate University) and Sandy Barbour (UC Berkeley).

No matter how big your athletics department is, you will know most of your co-workers and student-athletes very well. Therefore, it is not easy telling them they are not working hard enough, they need to change their behavior, their performance is subpar, etc. I find this difficult to do on a daily basis but something that has to be done. Of course there was this time I had to coordinate a fighter jet flyby for a home football game and although I broke several FAA rules, it went rather smoothly.

Working with student-athletes and professional colleagues and always trying to make a positive difference in someone's life are two things that keep me motivated and inspired to stay in this profession. I am very happy with the position I am currently in. I get to work in a strong academic institution, with outgoing student-athletes and hard-working colleagues. Therefore, an ideal situation would be to serve as the Director of Athletics in such an environment.

Looking back, if I could do anything differently, I would, say "thank you" more often and to say "yes" when opportunities present themselves. Lastly, if I could offer any advice, I would say to find your "Who" people (The Power of Who by Bob Beaudine) which leads to my second advice...read, read read!

 

Kelley KishKelley Kish, Associate Director of Athletics/SWA, Nova Southeastern University

 

I attended The University of Florida and received my undergraduate degree in telecommunication, initially wanting to be a sports broadcaster. After interning and working at a couple of stations, I realized I wanted to be on the other side of the camera and my outside concentration in sport management confirmed that was my true passion. View more.

Kelley KishKelley Kish, Associate Director of Athletics/SWA, Nova Southeastern University

Note: Kelly served as Assistant Director of Athletics for Compliance/Senior Women Administrator at the University of Indianapolis from 2010-2012.

I attended The University of Florida and received my undergraduate degree in telecommunication, initially wanting to be a sports broadcaster. After interning and working at a couple of stations, I realized I wanted to be on the other side of the camera and my outside concentration in sport management confirmed that was my true passion.

I attended The University of Florida and received my undergraduate degree in telecommunication, initially wanting to be a sports broadcaster. After interning and working at a couple of stations, I realized I wanted to be on the other side of the camera and my outside concentration in sport management confirmed that was my true passion.

While working at the University of Florida as the Volleyball Staff Assistant, I knew sport administration was exactly what I wanted to do. I was fortunate enough to earn my Master's at the University of Florida during my nine seasons with the volleyball program. Between my education and exposure to the many facets of college administration, I built a broad and solid foundation in athletics administration.

Lynda Tealer (Sr. Associate Athletic Director at Florida) is one the most influential people in my career and someone I looked up to while at Florida. She is the one that suggested I apply for NACWAA/HERS, which was a huge step in my career. Besides the week-long knowledge and friendships gained, without attending NACWAA/HERS I would never have entered the 2009 NACWAA Awesome Auction. In that Auction, I won a mentorship from my current boss, University of Indianapolis Athletic Director Dr. Sue Willey. That mentorship and all that I have gained from it has never ended. Instead of emailing or calling when I need her, I just walk down the hall to Sue's office. =)

My former boss at the University of Florida, Head Volleyball Coach Mary Wise, has also been extremely influential in my career. Without her willingness to expose me to as much as possible at Florida, and encouragement to grow my career, I would not be where I am.

I am most proud of achieving my master's while working more than full-time at Florida. It was very challenging to balance my duties at Florida and graduate school, but with the support of my coworkers and family, I was able to get it done!

I work every day to make the lives of our student-athletes better and help them achieve their goals. I am fortunate that all of my positions have allowed me to see the positive impact I am making, and that drives me every day.

The position I have right now is perfect. I have been at the University of Indianapolis for just over 5 months and have loved every minute. I drive to and from work each day with a huge smile and know this is the right place for me!

I would not change anything about my career path and how it has unfolded. I have been lucky to have wonderful mentors and role models along the way, and met some lifelong friends and colleagues at NACWAA/HERS.

The advice I would offer women just starting out in their career is to use all networking and career development opportunities to the fullest. I think the NACWAA Awesome Auction ticket I bought was better than winning the lottery. Without the recommendation and support to attend NACWAA/HERS and staying involved in NACWAA, my life would be very different right now. And when those opportunities present themselves, grab them and go for it! While I have grown and learned from every mentorship and educational session, I know they have made me a better administrator, and that is what is most important to me—being the best administrator for our student-athletes and staff that I can be.

 

Carrie McCawCarrie McCaw, Practice Group Specialist Collegiate Sports Practice, Ice Miller LLP

 

In August 1994, I decided to leave my hometown of Louisville, KY, and attend school at Syracuse University. While volleyball was the main reason for making such a big move, I also wanted the opportunity to live in a different part of the country, meet new people and have new experiences. I immediately enrolled in the School of Management, bound and determined that I was to one day become a career business woman with a nice leather briefcase and corner office. View more.

Carrie McCawCarrie McCaw, Practice Group Specialist Collegiate Sports Practice, Ice Miller LLP

In August 1994, I decided to leave my hometown of Louisville, KY, and attend school at Syracuse University. While volleyball was the main reason for making such a big move, I also wanted the opportunity to live in a different part of the country, meet new people and have new experiences. I immediately enrolled in the School of Management, bound and determined that I was to one day become a career business woman with a nice leather briefcase and corner office. However, I was a naïve 17 year-old girl and had no idea what that really meant. I began taking classes in accounting and finance, neither of which interested me with regards to finding my major, much less a career path. The marketing major seemed oversaturated to me and by the time I completed my first year and a half at Syracuse, I was left wondering if the School of Management was the right choice for me.

During the second semester of my sophomore year, I took the introductory class for business law. Halleluiah! I found my calling!! I loved the class because I was able to deconstruct situations and construct a finding accordingly. My professor, Elet Callahan, who I can only describe as amazing, agreed to become my advisor as I worked toward my major: managerial law and public policy.

Professor Callahan and I sat down to determine what I could do with this degree. She informed me that law school was the usual next step for such a degree, but given my status as a student-athlete and my interest in athletics, NCAA compliance would be a logical direction to take my career.

I began working as an undergraduate intern in the athletics compliance office and was permitted to use this time as credit towards my degree. I assisted the compliance coordinator with the revision of the athletics compliance manual and with compliance monitoring efforts. During my senior year, I also served on the Syracuse University Certification team on the Commitment to Equity Subcommittee. On this subcommittee, I received an education on Title IX and gender equity issues and was a part of developing solutions to any equality issues at the University. I also was able to work with senior members of the athletics staff and University administration.

Another thing I took advantage of my senior year occurred during Christmas break. I knew the NCAA was planning a move to Indianapolis, so while I was home in Kentucky, I drove two hours and met for "informational" interviews with the Horizon League's Commissioner, the CEO of the Indiana Sports Corporation and two sports lawyers, one of the attorneys being with my current firm, Ice Miller. The purpose of these interviews was to have them look at my resume and determine what I needed to add to my resume in the next couple of years to be deemed "hirable". Most recommended a background in coaching or athletics administration as being useful. Upon graduation, I moved to New Jersey with my new husband and began searching for a job in athletics. Fortunately for me, Rutgers University was looking for an assistant volleyball coach. I was hired in August and hit the ground running.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the coaching aspect of the job, I knew the recruiting aspect of the job was not what I was looking for in a career. In the summer of 1999, I had the opportunity to move to Indianapolis and immediately submitted my resume to the NCAA headquarters, which was in the process of moving from Kansas City to Indianapolis. I also made a call to the attorney at Ice Miller who I met with during my senior year. During our meeting 18 months before, he described the firm's desire to start a collegiate sports practice. He offered to bring me in for an interview. I soon was hired, and the Ice Miller Collegiate Sports Practice began. I liked the idea of working at Ice Miller because I was able to work on a multitude of NCAA compliance-related issues, including major and secondary infractions cases, student-athlete reinstatement and waiver issues, as well as assisting NCAA institutions in a proactive nature through rules-education and compliance reviews.

I always thought I would stay at Ice Miller for about three years to gain experience and move on to the NCAA headquarters. However, the more I worked at Ice Miller, I liked the idea of working in all aspects of NCAA compliance and not being pigeonholed to one area. I now have been at Ice Miller for over 11 years, and the amount of experience I have gained in all areas of NCAA compliance, as well as the business of athletics, has opened up more career paths to me outside of athletics compliance. I have seen how institutions operate in and around athletics and have developed a list of best practices for athletics department operations, policies and procedures. I also work with organizations which operate in and around collegiate athletics with sponsorship and event planning opportunities. This expertise only helps me offer Ice Miller clients the best service possible and enhances my resume if I choose to embark on a different career path. In addition, after working seven years for Ice Miller, the firm allowed me to move back to my hometown of Louisville and work from a home office. Being a mother of four, this kind of flexibility allows me to have a career in athletics and create time to dedicate to the parenting of my children—not always an easy task.

Based on my experiences, the best advice I can give to anyone interested in a career in athletics is to put yourself out there, talk to anyone you can regarding preparation for your desired career path, and volunteer for committees or activities which allow you to gain experiences to not only enhance your resume, but to enhance your network and get to know employment decision makers. You never know what can open your eyes regarding an athletics career path and the many possibilities that exist in the industry. If you have any questions regarding my career path or current position, please feel free to contact me at carrie.mccaw@icemiller.com.

 Jennifer StrawleyJennifer Strawley, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Administration & Student Excellence/SWA, University of Miami

When I began college, I could never have imagined my professional career playing out the way it has to this point. Although athletics had always been an important part of my life and helped define me as a person, I enrolled in college with the dream of practicing law. I attended the University of Pennsylvania and played softball. During my time as a student-athlete at Penn, I had the opportunity to work in the athletics department and also to be involved in various student activities, including being a member of SAAC. View more.

Jennifer StrawleyJennifer Strawley, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Administration & Student Excellence/SWA, University of Miami

Note: Jennifer served as Director of Academic and Membership Affairs at the NCAA from 2010-2012.

When I began college, I could never have imagined my professional career playing out the way it has to this point. Although athletics had always been an important part of my life and helped define me as a person, I enrolled in college with the dream of practicing law. I attended the University of Pennsylvania and played softball. During my time as a student-athlete at Penn, I had the opportunity to work in the athletics department and also to be involved in various student activities, including being a member of SAAC.I was very fortunate to meet Carolyn Femovich, who was a Senior Associate Athletics Director at Penn during my time as a student-athlete. Carolyn was my first professional mentor and a very important mentor I rely on to this day.   

After graduating from Penn, I was offered the opportunity to intern with the NCAA. The NCAA internship helped create the foundation for me in college athletics. It provided tremendous opportunities, allowed me to network with a wide variety of people and helped me define my true passion for college athletics. As opportunities presented themselves, I tried to take advantage of those opportunities and put myself in a position to be successful. There is no question that sometimes being in the right place at the right time plays a role in opportunity, and I recognize that I have been very lucky in my professional career; but at the same time, seizing opportunity, working hard and always putting your best foot forward allows you to be recognized when the luck of timing works to your benefit.

During my nine years at the NCAA I had tremendous opportunities to grow professionally and personally. Some of those growth opportunities came in the form of promotions, but many of them also came in the form of different assignments and interactions. Truly, opportunities and growth are found in a variety of forms and taking advantage of all opportunities helps provide the greatest possibility for growth.

I left the NCAA to become the Associate Athletics Director for Intercollegiate Sports Programs and the Senior Woman Administrator at Columbia University. Going to Columbia was a tremendous opportunity for me to experience campus life and to learn from Dianne Murphy. The Ivy League is a special place and the place where my journey in college athletics began. The passion I had developed for college athletics drew me to the campus. The opportunity to have more direct impact and interaction with student-athletes was truly rewarding. Working directly with coaches was also an experience I truly enjoyed.

Returning to the NCAA was a difficult decision, because of my passion for working directly with student-athletes. That being said, I have equal passion for working on national issues and working in the area of academics. When the NCAA opportunity presented itself, it was the right job for me at the right point in my life.  

Change, solving problems, working with people and being challenged are what keep me motivated on a daily basis. There is no question for me that the best part of working in college athletics is the people. I have been very fortunate to have numerous mentors and role models who have played an important part in my professional development. Cultivating relationships is a very important part of professional development. I know that I would not be where I am today if it were not for others taking the time to help me grow. I only hope that I can pay that forward in some small way throughout my career. 

Mentors are an important part of navigating a career in college athletics. I encourage all young professionals to seek out mentors who will be honest with you, genuinely care about you and who will help you navigate opportunities. The world of college athletics is a small and powerful network of people. Always take advantage of opportunities that present themselves and work hard at all you do. Even if the task does not seem important, be open minded to possibilities and always follow your heart. Only you know what makes you happy, and, ultimately, that is what is most important.