🌟 Rising Stars Spotlight: Nafeesa Connolly 🌟


Nafeesa Connolly enters her third year as the assistant director of marketing and promotions with Boston University’s athletic department. Prior to BU, Connolly worked in athletic communications at Northeastern University and was a governance intern in the NCAA postgraduate program. She graduated from Simmons College in 2014 where she earned her B.A. in Communications. At Simmons, Connolly was a volleyball student-athlete and served on the Division III National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).


What brought you to Women Leaders in College Sports?

I first became a member in 2014 when I was interning at the NCAA. I was so excited to connect with like-minded young women and pioneers in the industry—and still am! I also got to attend my first Convention that year. It still remains one of my favorite events I’ve ever been to.

[Psst: Registration for #WomenLeaders18 is now open! Register here.]

What is the best professional development event you have attended and why?

The NCAA Convention remains my favorite. I attended three as a student-athlete on Division III SAAC and one as a NCAA intern. As a committee member, you’re a part of the membership; you’re voicing opinions on behalf of your respective conference and institution(s). Your position could sway votes when it comes to legislation. As a NCAA staff member, you’re providing resources, historical information, and organizing meetings FOR the membership to have formal discussions and make decisions. Two completely different experiences and set of responsibilities, but both equally enlightening.

What is your best career highlight so far?

During my first year at BU, we did an American Sign Language (ASL) Night promotion for women’s basketball, which is one of my primary sports, and it won gold at the NACMA Convention for Best Single Day Attendance Promotion. The team was very passionate about bringing it to fruition because many players take ASL courses. This season will be our third time hosting it. I’m also very proud to oversee our marketing internship program. We’ve had such stellar interns, including BU student-athletes. It’s extremely rewarding to see them flourish, get jobs after graduation, and come to you for guidance and support. And of course, game day would be nothing without them. Shout out to my gold stars!

What is your favorite quote? Why?

In college I was told, “The only constant is change, and change is good.” (Original quote by Hereclitus). It has stuck with me ever since. For me (or anyone), change can be hard, but I remind myself that with change comes new opportunity and room for growth.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Keep in touch!! Make meaningful connections and sustain those relationships. Athletics is a very small world. Send a text, Facetime, shoot an email, write a letter…or go to NACDA, the Women Leaders in College Sports National Convention, the NCAA Convention, etc. and see folks!

What are some of your go-to musical artists?

Fetty Wap, Major Lazer, MØ, and the Spice Girls. My current go-to jams are Body by Loud Luxury and Classic by The Knocks ft. Fetty Wap!

What are some of your bucket list items?

  • Travel internationally (Vietnam and Italy)
  • Take my dad on vacation
  • Learn how to make my Ba Ngoai's (maternal grandma) chicken curry and Pho... exactly like her

If you could give one piece of advice to other Rising Stars, what would it be?

Invest in some good notecards/stationary (my favorite are Thoughtfulls) to give thanks to colleagues, interns, peers, etc. Showing appreciation goes a long way.

Who is your #BecauseOf? Who helped you become the rock-star leader you are today?

My mom, always. Love you!

Rising Stars, we want to know your #BecauseOf! This is the person, or group of people, who inspired you to be a Woman Leader! Tag us on social and we'll share the love. 

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!

Joining is easy: First, follow the Rising Stars community. Click here, then select "Follow Community" on the right-hand side. (You must be logged into your Women Leaders account).



Once you've joined, you're automatically opted in to receive the Rising Stars monthly newsletter, you'll be invited to Rising Stars Circle calls, you can join our closed Facebook group, and you'll hear from past Rising Stars Award recipients about how they kicked glass and exceeded all expectations!

If you have questions or problems logging in, contact Megan Cairns.