Rising Stars Spotlight: Sarah Vollaro
Sarah Vollaro serves as the Sr. Program Associate of Student-Athlete Development at George Washington University, where she oversees student-athlete development programming. Sarah came to GW from the University of Maryland where she served as an academic advising assistant within their athletic department and a graduate assistant in the university's career center, all while earning her M.Ed. in Student Affairs. As a former Division I softball student-athlete at the University of Iowa, Vollaro earned her bachelor’s degree in Sport and Recreation Management. Sarah notes that she is fortunate to have some INCREDIBLE mentors throughout her journey. Sarah's experience as a student-athlete and on SAAC pushed her in the direction of working in college athletics and as a result, she feels that the student-athlete experience presents so many unique opportunities that she hopes she can help students realize before their experience ends.
Why did you join Women Leaders and how has the organization helped you in your career?
In all honesty, I am rather new to being a formal member of Women Leaders. I heard great things from peers while at the University of Iowa for undergrad, but it took Resa Lovelace pushing me to join during my time at Maryland to really dive into the organization and I have not regretted it for a second! I initially joined for the network, and access to professional development opportunities, but now I would say I am truly captivated and motivated by the other members and Women Leaders office team. The organization truly has an energy to it, a drive to make their members better, and a selfless attitude in a field that is often very competitive.
What is the most rewarding part about working within student-athlete development at George Washington University?
What a great question! Granted, though it has only been about a month working full-time in my role at GW, I've had the privilege of working in some capacity with my unit for about a year now and I can assure you the most rewarding part of my day is collaborating with my peers to help make the student-athlete experience greater. Having been a student-athlete, I love connecting with my students and learning about their experiences, but also talking through how we can help them maximize and utilize all the opportunities for them while at GW. Lastly, especially in a time of teleworking, I am extremely grateful for a supportive staff that has similar passions and goals.
What was a critical attribute to your success in transitioning from an intern to a full-time role at George Washington?
A little back story to my answer to this question, before starting my internship with GW, I met and had coffee with our leader and athletic director, Tanya Vogel. I left that quick coffee chat feeling empowered, inspired and knowing that I wanted to work for her. Thus, I went into my internship trying to learn as much as I could, get involved in as many projects as possible, and make sure that my contributions mattered. Transitioning to full time has been a really exciting journey. I transitioned from part-time to full-time from home due to COVID-19, but because of the relationships I had made through my internship, I have felt like the transition has been really smooth. I have a great amount of support at work (& at home) that really helped champion me through this position change.
How have you best been able to stay connected with your colleagues and student-athletes during this unprecedented time?
This has been a really exciting and unprecedented time, no doubt! I know within my unit we are working to balance the amount of programs offered and resources we share with students, as we know this is a real unprecedented and scary time for some. With that being said, we are thinking outside the box to still build connection and community with our students! We have moved programs online, recorded a “mini-series” of educational resources for students, and hold virtual office hours! One thing that has been cool to see is how innovative people in our industry are being and how willing they are to share resources. I think this time has really exemplified how strong the Women Leaders and athletic community is.
What has been most helpful for you in managing your self-care?
I would be lying if I didn’t share that this is something I struggle with. Anyone who knows me knows that I am very productivity driven and I love to stay busy (and I mean love). Thus, this time has really forced me to slow down and take time for myself. Some ways that help me reset, and focus on my self-care, include long runs or a good gym session, listening to podcasts or anything that takes me outside on a nice day. Recently, during COVID, I have taken up baking thanks to the Great British Bake Off!
What is an essential part of your work from home routine?
An essential part of my work from home routine has been establishing boundaries and knowing when to sign on to work and when to stop checking emails. This is an ongoing boundary that I am trying to be better about. Also, establishing an “office space” in a very small apartment with a husband who is also working from home.
What is a good podcast you're listening to right now?
Besides the Women Leaders podcast you mean?? Kidding, but I do love the podcast that you all share! I am a huge fan of crime-based shows and podcasts, so I always have Dateline downloaded. Currently though I have been listening to Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness. Lots of great topics with one of my favorite TV personalities!
Would you rather watch or participate in a TikTok challenge?
Honestly, I don’t have TikTok and am trying to not get sucked into the TikTok craze!
What was your biggest takeaway or ‘aha’ moment from participating in the 2020 Women’s Leadership Symposium?
What stuck with me the most, was our session on managing up and the importance of having a discussion with your supervisor about what their top properties are. I realized that in order to best assist my supervisor, I must clearly understand what their goals are and how they prioritize them.
What is one piece of advice you wish to share with other Rising Stars?
Stay the course and trust the process. Half the time when you are networking and building relationships, you have no idea what will come from it. It’s a lot like investing, you never know what the outcome will be. Yet, I believe if you are genuine and 100% yourself, the skills and relationships you develop along the way will be invaluable, whether you land in the sport industry or elsewhere. Stay the course, stay genuine, stay you!