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Twelve rising athletics administrators complete NCAA Pathway Program

By Sunny Russell

Another class of NCAA athletics administrators successfully completed the prestigious year-long Pathway Program in January.

Twelve college athletics administrators traveled to the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington, D.C., in mid-January. A historic NCAA Convention – one that would signal a shift in the Division I college sports landscape – was still one day away, yet the lights of recognition first were to shine on the industry’s next leaders.

The dozen, representing all three NCAA divisions, had first gathered one year earlier for the NCAA Pathway Program, an educational program designed by NCAA leadership development for athletics professionals who desire to one day be athletics directors. Quiet and reserved at their first of five group meetings in 2014, they gathered on this January day offering much more than nervous handshakes and soft introductions. Instead, the group filled the Gaylord ballroom with the warm and cheerful greetings of a tight-knit family. Enthusiastic conversations reflected relief after months of learning about themselves, getting closer to career-defining goals and examining college sports as an integral part of higher education.

Each of the 12 senior-level athletics administrators had successfully completed a year of professional and personal growth as part of the Pathway Program. Time was at hand for the recognition ceremony that January day, led by Northeastern University Director of Athletics Peter Roby and attended by past program participants.

“They’re doing it for all of the right reasons,” said Roby, the lead Pathway consultant for the last four years, as he commended the 2014 class. Roby believes in impressing the importance of student-athletes well-being on athletics administrators. He challenges Pathway participants to solidify their core values and lead “out of conviction, rather than convenience.”

Since its inception in 1997, the Pathway Program (formerly the Fellows Program) has produced more than 90 alumni. Nearly 25 percent of the participants have gone on to become athletics directors, while more than 60 percent have received career promotions.

NCAA leadership development and members from the Association select participants for the Pathway Program. The department, located at the NCAA national office, coordinates and facilitates cutting-edge education and customized training for student-athletes, coaches and athletics administrators from NCAA member institutions, conference offices and the national office. The staff annually hosts more than 20 programs at little or no cost to members, with expert curriculum designed to enhance the well-being and personal development of NCAA student-athletes. Also provided are ongoing education and topical training to athletics professionals. For more information, visit ncaa.org/leadershipdevelopment.

The Pathway Program provides an opportunity to gain insight into every facet of an athletics department, preparing administrators to become well-rounded leaders.

Pathway graduate Meredith Jenkins, executive associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Auburn University, found her last 12 months to be life-changing. “I have learned so much about myself, and it has really prepared me in the event that I do want to take that next step and become an athletic director.”

Machli Joseph, deputy director of athletics at Baruch College, was one of four Pathway members to earn a promotion during the program. Joseph likened Pathway to a doctoral program among the NCAA leadership development opportunities. The rigorous program provided expert perspectives into every area within an athletics department while maintaining a strong focus on the student-athlete.

Joseph and his 11 Pathway classmates observed the spring and fall governance sessions at the NCAA national office and participated in additional professional development in Boston. Skill-building took place in values clarification, leadership, media training, diversity and inclusion. Also involved was an in-depth look into search firms and the hiring process within collegiate athletics.

Each program participant is mentored by key decision-makers in college sports. These include NCAA directors of athletics, university chancellors or presidents who are committed to helping the Pathway participants grow.

“We will have these connections forever, and it is great to know that all of these people will still be in our corner,” said new Pathway graduate Kelley Kish, associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator at Nova Southeastern University. “They have such a rich perspective.”

The 2014 Pathway Program class:

  • Melissa Dawson, executive associate athletics director / SWA Florida Atlantic University
  • Laura Clayton Eady, assistant athletics director for compliance / SWA University of West Georgia
  • Capt. William Fell, Jr., interim director of physical education and athletics U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
  • Kevin Forde, associate athletics director for operations University of Mary
  • Meredith Jenkins, executive associate athletics director/SWA Auburn University
  • Machli Joseph, deputy director of athletics Baruch College
  • Kelley Kish, associate athletics director for compliance/operations/SWA Nova Southeastern University
  • Jack McKiernan, associate director of athletics Kean University
  • Jen Mercurio, associate athletics director for student-athlete services/SWA Florida Institute of Technology
  • Shondell Reed, senior associate athletics director University of Washington
  • Amy Schafe,r associate director of athletics/SWA Thiel College
  • Tanya Vogel, senior associate athletics director/SWA Northern Arizona University