Rising Stars Spotlight: Megan Cullinane

Megan Cullinane was a three-sport athlete at Bridgewater State University, were she competed in field hockey, indoor and outdoor track. She graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and went on to earn an MBA in sports management at Franklin Pierce University in 2015. She also served as a Compliance and Operations graduate assistant for 2 years at Franklin Pierce in athletics. 

She would then go on to New York Institute of Technology as the Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance and then the University of New Haven as the Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Student Athlete Welfare. She is now at the University of Massachusetts Boston as the Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance and Student Athlete Welfare and Deputy Title IX Coordinator for athletics. 

I recently attended the NCAA leadership academy workshop; it was the most incredible program that not only provided me with great resources to bring back to my campus for my student athletes. But also provided me with an incredible network of people. It was a two-part program where the same participants got to meet twice. We worked together a lot and were able to collaborate on programs and ideas. It was put together so nicely by the NCAA leadership programmers and was overall one of the most incredible programs I have attended. 

Why did you join Women Leaders, and how has the organization helped you in your career?

I joined women leaders to build on my network and to have more opportunities for professional development. I had heard such great things about their programming and the support the organization provided, I really wanted to be a part of it. I have attended the symposium, some conventions and multiple circle calls and have enjoyed every program I have been a part of. Women Leaders has given me a huge network of successful mentors to have in my corner and a support system that I can always turn to in time of need. This organization has opened my eyes to so many opportunities and incredible women, and I am truly blessed to be a part of this organization. 

What do you enjoy most about working in student-athlete welfare and compliance? 

My favorite thing about working in athletics is just being able to support student athletes in doing something that they love. Being that I get to oversee compliance and student athlete welfare, I am lucky to be able to build great relationships with athletes and support them not only just in their sport and in the classroom, but in other passions as well. Through student athlete welfare I get to create programs for our student athletes based on their needs and wants. I also get to oversee SAAC and love getting to work on programs and initiatives with the SAAC members that they want to put on. They get so excited about their programs and being able to give back to the community, it is such a fun experience. Also, I like working in compliance because of the structure it provides, I like being able to go back to the manual for answers to questions. I also love working in this field because you get to build so many connections with other compliance people. You work closely with other offices and can bounce ideas and interpretations off each other. 

What was the catalyst for creating the mental wellness campaign at your institution and why is important to you to help educate student-athletes and staff on the importance of mental wellness? 

Working with student athletes on mental health is very important to me. As an athlete I saw some of my friends really struggle with the pressures of being an athlete and a student. As athletes I think we all try to strive for perfection, and it can be extremely overwhelming and damaging to athletes when they don’t succeed or live up to the expectation they set. I have lost a friend to mental health struggles and want to provide my athletes with opportunities, so they do not have to struggle alone or go through loosing someone to mental health struggles. It is important to me to provide resources to athletes so that they are comfortable talking about mental health and asking for help. Also in college you have a lot of support around you, but once you graduate you lose a lot of that support structure, so I find it incredibly important to provide athletes these resources while we have them, so they can thrive when we aren’t seeing them every day.  

How has that education become useful in your institution’s return to competition in the wake of COVID-19?

We have really focused our efforts on providing resources through social media for our athletes. We send out information and resources so that student can reach out for help. We also continue to build on it at SAAC and ask our SAAC student athletes to talk to their teams about mental health. We continue to try to build it into everyday conversations so that our athletes feel comfortable with asking for help or seeking help on their own. We have been remote all year and are only just starting to start up spring sports now, so our athletes have been very isolated this year. We provided programs for them in the fall and will continue to offer resources for them throughout the spring.  

What does Women’s History Month mean to you, and how do you honor this celebration?

I think women’s history month is very important, it is key to see to look back and acknowledge where we have been and what we have accomplished, but also continue the conversation of where we are headed. Women are incredible people and have persevered so much to be where we are at today and I am grateful for those who have put the work in before me and have helped to shatter ceilings so that I can grow and do what I love. I also want to be able to give back to the younger generations and help inspire young women and girls that they are capable of doing anything they set their mind to and I think women’s history month reminds me of that every year.  

What is your favorite Women Leaders membership offering? 

I love the circle calls; I love being able to jump on a call and get an inside look at different positions and what other campuses are doing. I feel like the circle calls allow me to get the inside scoop of different positions and help me to figure out what other areas of college athletics might interest me. Also being at a Division III institution, we wear a lot of hats and being able to bring more to the table for our athletes is important to me; so the circle calls are great for gathering ideas and support for my athletes. 

This or That:

Read a book or watch a documentary: Read a book.
Innovator or educator: Educator.  
Learn a new skill or perfect an old one: Learn a new skill.

What is one piece of advice you would give to fellow Rising Stars?

One piece of advice I would give rising stars is not to be afraid to reach out and ask for help. I think early in my career I thought it would be frowned upon or I would be bothering someone if I reached out and now, I can say it is one of my favorite parts of the job. In in compliance especially, being able to talk through scenarios and ideas it makes the job so much more manageable. It is not a weakness to reach out to grow your network and your understanding of what other campuses do, but an incredible resource! 

Rising Stars is a members-only program designed to assist emerging professionals in developing, connecting, and advancing in their careers. If you're a student, intern, graduate assistant, or young professional with less than three years of full-time experience, this is the program for you!

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