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In her own words: Beth Tiffany

Former Puget Sound soccer player was NCAA governance intern

By Beth Tiffany as told to Kyle C. Leach

Beth Tiffany is the associate director of athletics for external affairs at Union College in Schenectady, New York. She graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Puget Sound and played four seasons on the women’s soccer team. In 2004-05, Tiffany was an NCAA postgraduate intern in governance. She also holds a master’s degree in sports administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and was an assistant coach for the Amherst College women’s soccer team. She gained marketing and development experience while working at Yale University and the University of New Mexico.

My first job in college sports was an internship my senior year working with the Puget Sound athletics department. I helped plan the Hall of Fame celebration and worked on the end-of-the-year banquet for student-athletes. And I also worked in the development office at the University of Washington. I was able to fundraise for scholarships for student-athletes, a very different environment, but good experience at the major Division I level.

My decision to attend a Division III school afforded me an array of opportunities. I studied abroad, I joined a sorority and I was a part of different clubs on campus. All things I was able to do while being a competitive student-athlete.

I realized I wanted to work athletics almost as soon as I left college. The summer before I graduated, I had a great sales internship in the corporate world. It was all the bells and whistles that any college student would think were awesome: It paid well, I had a company car. At the end of the summer, I thought, ‘This isn't really what I'm passionate about.’ I was very fortunate to be at an institution with supportive administrators and coaches, and I realized quickly that's what I wanted to do as well.

I learned a lot of details about the governance structure in my first days of the NCAA internship, things I did not know as a student-athlete. I gained an understanding of how the NCAA works as a committee-based entity. It was eye-opening for me. Everybody talks about the NCAA as if they understand it as a single entity. To be in the Management Council meetings, and to see concerns become discussions that become legislation, I think having the knowledge of how the different divisions operate is really helpful for me in Division III.

My primary day-to-day responsibilities as an NCAA intern were to support the governance staff in the meetings with the Management Councils and the Presidents Councils. I had to know what big issues were going to be discussed, gather the right information and support the governance group in preparing for those meetings.

One of my first challenges as an NCAA intern was presenting in front of large groups from the membership. At the time of my internship, I had rotated to work with Division II and was presenting at the faculty athletics representatives convention. I had to find the courage to make my presentation to this group of college professors, after having just come from the college setting where I’m used to being presented to. But this was an important experience for me to get to know the different constituents.

At Union, I have oversight of seven of the varsity sports and oversee the fundraising for the teams, as well as the marketing, primarily focused on the Division I programs with men's and women's ice hockey. I am fortunate to have a supervisor, Director of Athletics Jim McLaughlin, who's allowed me to grow. He encourages me to be involved with a number of different projects and take on new responsibilities. I'm still in a growth period, but I think the end goal remains the same: I would love to be an athletics director.

Union is a unique school, with a nice balance between Division III and Division I athletics. Having two nonscholarship Division I programs, we tend to get that true student-athlete experience that I'm passionate about. I can say we have neuroscience majors on the ice, and I'm incredibly proud to go on and share that story with people in the community.

Winning the 2014 NCAA championship in men’s ice hockey opened people’s eyes up to Union. And was an opportunity to introduce Union hockey to people that weren't as familiar with it. It also opened doors for us to be able to tell the story about what all our student-athletes are doing, not just the hockey program. I would be on the road talking to corporate sponsors and donors, reminding them that we're not a scholarship school. Many people were surprised. These students come here for the academics and they’re leaving with degrees that they're proud of and they're going to be able to lean back on once their playing career is finished.  

My advice to NCAA postgraduate interns is just be a 'yes' person. Say 'yes' to every opportunity because you're going to be in a position where you have many opportunities that a number of other people who are interested in pursuing the same career aren't going to have. Say 'yes' to try new things, put yourself outside of your comfort zone, make presentations, connect with different people. You're going to have the opportunity to meet a number of leaders in the college athletics field.