Women Leaders in College Sports Announces 2018 Administrator of the Year Awards


July 24, 2018

Rachel DeSchepper
Women Leaders in College Sports

Kansas City, Mo. – Women Leaders in College Sports, the nation’s premier women’s athletic leadership association that develops, connects, and advances women working in intercollegiate athletics, announced today its 2018 Administrator of the Year Award and Nell Jackson Administrator of the Year Award recipients.

The recipients will be honored Tuesday, October 16 at the Jostens Administrator of the Year Luncheon at the 2018 Women Leaders National Convention in Atlanta—which will be emceed by Maria Taylor, host, analyst, and reporter for ESPN. Nominated by their peers and selected by the Women Leaders Awards Committee for their service during 2017-2018, the eight recipients are:

  • NCAA Division I FBS: Maggie McKinley, Executive Senior Associate Director of Athletics/Senior Woman Administrator, University of Cincinnati
  • NCAA Division I FCS: Jennifer Williams, Interim Director of Athletics, Alabama State University
  • NCAA Division I: Dena Freeman-Patton, Deputy Athletics Director, California State University, Bakersfield
  • NCAA Division II: Carrie Michaels, Associate Director of Athletics/Senior Woman Administrator, Shippensburg University
  • NCAA Division III: Stevie Baker-Watson, Associate Vice President for Campus Wellness & Theodore Katula Director of Athletics and Recreational Sports, DePauw University
  • Association/Organization: Val Ackerman, Commissioner, Big East Conference
  • NAIA/NJCAA/CC: Jill Jokerst-Harter, Director of Athletics, St. Louis College of Pharmacy
  • Nell Jackson: Dr. Amy Wilson, Director of Inclusion, National Collegiate Athletic Association

"The commitment these women have to intercollegiate athletics and the advancement of women in our profession is unparalleled," says Patti Phillips, CEO of Women Leaders in College Sports. "Women Leaders in College Sports is honored to celebrate these extraordinary women at the National Convention in Atlanta—for their outstanding leadership and service, and for their tireless commitment to championing their student-athletes, colleagues, institutions, and conferences."

The Administrator of the Year Award is presented to Women Leaders in College Sports members for significant contributions made as an administrator of intercollegiate athletics. This award, recognizing administrative excellence, is presented annually to members in each NCAA division: Division I, FBS, FCS, Division II, Division III, NAIA/NJCAA or Conference/Organization.

The Nell Jackson Administrator of the Year Award is presented annually to an athletics administrator who exemplifies the personal qualities and professional accomplishments of Dr. Nell Jackson. This award is given to an individual who demonstrates qualities such as courage, conviction, and perseverance, and who is an advocate for gender equity and diversity. This award honors athletics administrators who are NCAA/Women Leaders in College Sports Institute for Administrative Advancement graduates, and demonstrate vision and outstanding leadership.

Winners will be honored Tuesday, October 16 at the Jostens Administrator of the Year Luncheon at the 2018 Women Leaders National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. The National Convention is the premier conference for women working in intercollegiate athletics, offering unparalleled leadership and professional development, industry training, and networking opportunities.

View past Women Leaders award winners here.

About the Honorees

Maggie McKinley joined the University of Cincinnati staff in 2001 and currently serves as an executive senior associate director of athletics and the department's senior woman administrator. She was elevated to her current role in July of 2016 after serving as senior associate director of athletics/SWA.

McKinley serves as the chair of the American Athletic Conference Track & Field committee and Women Leaders in College Sports Governance committee. She previously served on the National Association for Athletics Compliance (NAAC) Strategic Initiatives and Communication’s committees and Women Leaders in College Sports Foundation Fund and Membership committees. On campus, McKinley is a co-advisor for UC's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), the chair of the department of athletics' equity and inclusion One Team committee and is a member of the University's Diversity Council, Bias Incident Response Team and Enterprise Risk Management Risk Council.

She is a graduate of the LEAD1 (formerly D1-A) Athletic Directors' Institute and the Women Leaders in College Sports Executive Institute.

A native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, McKinley spent four years at Cincinnati as a women's track and field student-athlete from 1996-2000 as she earned her bachelor's degree in psychology. She then went on to Xavier University where she earned her master's degree in sports administration in 2001 and serves as an adjunct professor in the XU Master of Education Sports Administration program.

Jennifer Williams
was elevated to interim director of athletics at Alabama State University (ASU) in October 2017. Previously, she served as the deputy athletic director for the Hornets for the 2016-17 academic year.

At ASU, Williams serves on the president’s executive leadership team and manages the day-to-day operations of Hornet Athletics. Williams has direct oversight of the Hornet Club, the official fundraising arm of ASU athletics, and serves as the sport administrator for football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball.

Williams comes to Alabama State after spending four years as the associate athletic director for development and executive director of the Aggie Foundation at North Carolina A&T State University. Williams oversaw all giving initiatives for athletics, establishing and implementing aggressive fundraising programs, while overseeing the athletics marketing department. She was also the liaison between IMG Sports Properties.

Prior to arriving at NC A&T State University, Williams worked at DePaul University as the assistant director of development for athletics (2009-12). There, she was responsible for advancing DePaul’s athletic fundraising and alumni relationship efforts, increasing annual giving and producing high-level communication pieces for athletic events and fundraising initiatives.

Williams was recently appointed to the NCAA Division I Council, serving on the Football Oversight Committee as part of her council duties. She is in her second year as an Executive Committee Member of the National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD), an organization that enhances the athletics development and fundraising profession by providing educational, ethical and networking support.

Williams currently resides in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband, Valdez, and daughter, Harper Lynne.

Dena Freeman-Patton, deputy athletics director, heads into her sixth year at California State University, Bakersfield. With more than 20 years of collegiate athletic administration experience, she serves as chief operating officer for the department and is responsible for the day to day operations and administration of key department functions.

Freeman-Patton served as sport administrator for women's basketball, men’s soccer, softball, and men's and women's swimming and diving and oversees the areas of sports medicine, strength and conditioning and the Kegley Center for Student Success. She also launched and is the director of the first ever Runner Varsity Club at CSUB.

Freeman-Patton led the efforts to secure a $870,000 NCAA Accelerated Academic Success Program grant that contributed to the opening of the new $1 million Kegley Center for Student Success. She also implemented the Student-Athlete Leadership Academy and International Student-Athlete Program. Under her leadership, CSUB has also introduced a nutrition program and a mental health awareness program and management plan.

Freeman-Patton received the 2018 ShePower “SheEducates” award for her contributions at CSUB and the Bakersfield community.

Prior to CSUB, Freeman-Patton served on the department’s senior staff and was the sport supervisor for women’s soccer at Georgia State University (2007-2013). She also held positions at the University of Maryland, College Park (2005-2007) and North Carolina State University (2002-2005).

Freeman-Patton is a member of Women Leaders in College Sports and 2017 Executive Institute graduate. She currently serves on the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee (MOIC) and the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association (MOAA) Board of Directors. Freeman-Patton also serves as an instructor and is on the Board of Advisors for the Emerging Administrators Academy.

Freeman-Patton lettered in basketball at Liberty University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in sports management in 1996. She added a master’s in sports administration from Georgia State in 1999. The Baltimore, Maryland, native and Lake Clifton High School Alumna is a member of The Bakersfield Chapter Links, Inc.

Carrie Michaels is the associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator at Shippensburg University. She enters her ninth year in this role in 2018-19. It is her 11th year with the Raiders and 13th at the institution.

Michaels was the acting associate director of athletics from April 2010 through November 2011 before earning a permanent appointment to her position. She was SU’s assistant athletic director from 2008 to 2010.

Michaels serves as the deputy Title IX coordinator on behalf of the athletics department and as a member of the university’s Title IX Team. She is proficient in gender equity evaluation and plan development, and has worked specifically with university legal counsel and the Office for Civil Rights to address compliance issues. Her professional development includes training at the institution, conference, regional, and national levels along with certification through the National Association of College and University Attorneys.

Michaels came to Shippensburg in September 2006 and worked for two years as the interim coordinator of academic support services for student-athletes.

Before Shippensburg, Michaels served as the assistant to the athletics director at Slippery Rock University where she coordinated all academic support services for student-athletes in addition to directing athletic fund-raising and camps and conferences. Prior to that position, Michaels served as the athletics academic coordinator and was an assistant women’s basketball coach. After Slippery Rock, Michaels served as the commissioner of the Atlantic Women’s Colleges Conference (AWCC).

Michaels earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminal Justice in 1995 at Duquesne University where she also competed as a student-athlete in the sport of basketball. She earned her master’s degree in sport management at Slippery Rock in 2001 and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Intercollegiate Athletic Administration from California University in 2010.

Stevie Baker-Watson is the associate vice president for campus wellness and Theodore Katula director of athletics and recreational sports at DePauw University where she supervises a staff of over 60 in a comprehensive NCAA Division III athletics program that supports 650 student-athletes and 23 sports. In June 2015, Baker-Watson also assumed the role of associate vice president for campus wellness managing a portion of DePauw Health, a collaborative relationship between DePauw University and Hendricks Regional Health to provide health and wellness services to all students.

Upon arriving at DePauw in 2012, Baker-Watson completed a comprehensive brand redesign for athletics and worked collaboratively with others on campus to develop the DePauw University Athletics and Recreation Facilities Master Plan. In March 2013, DePauw broke ground on the first phase of improvements to the Lilly Center and the Athletics Campus, totaling over $26.5 million. She also successfully launched the Tiger Club, a fundraising affinity group for athletics, and annually secures an average of $125,000 from Alumni, friends and family of DePauw Athletics.

Prior to coming to DePauw, Baker-Watson served as the assistant athletics director/SWA at North Central College for four years where she directed the department's compliance and eligibility activities as well as all aspects of its student-athlete leadership development programming including the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Student-Athlete Mentors and Cardinal Marketing and Promotions. Additionally, she supervised undergraduates and post-graduate interns in areas of athletics administration, academic services and athletics marketing and promotions.

Baker-Watson also spent eight years at Aurora University where she was the head athletic trainer, senior woman administrator and instructor of physical education. As part of the athletics management team, she oversaw all aspects of game operations, directed student-athlete education as CHAMPS/Life Skills Coordinator, helped develop marketing and promotions initiatives and served as advisor for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

A graduate of Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training, Baker-Watson earned a master's degree in exercise science and cardiac rehabilitation from Northeastern Illinois University. Stevie and her husband, Brian, have three children, Shay, Brooks and Sydney.

Val Ackerman was named the fifth Commissioner of the BIG EAST Conference on June 26, 2013. She spent eight years as an attorney and executive at the National Basketball Association, was the founding President of the Women’s National Basketball Association, and is a past President of USA Basketball, which oversees the U.S. men’s and women’s Olympic basketball program. She also served for two terms as the U.S. representative to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).

Ackerman is currently a member of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee, the Board of Directors of the U.S. Soccer Federation, and the Board of Directors of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She is a 1981 graduate of the University of Virginia, where she graduated with high honors with a B.A. in political and social thought and was a three-time captain and Academic All-American on the women’s basketball team. She received her law degree from UCLA in 1985.

Jill Jokerst-Harter is in her 14th year at the helm of the Athletics, Fitness and Recreation Department at St. Louis College of Pharmacy.

In 2010, Harter was presented the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) Athletic Director of the Year award after completing a two-year term as president of the conference. During her presidency, Harter was instrumental in implementing conference strategic plans, including redefining the conference and evaluating operations. Since joining the American Midwest Conference (AMC), Harter plays an active role in conference administration and maintains positions on several national committees within the NAIA.

No stranger to sports, Harter developed and coached the field hockey team at Lindenwood University for three seasons, earning KIT Conference Coach of the Year honors during her three-year tenure. As a student-athlete, she competed as a Saint Louis University Billiken on the women's field hockey team and still is among record holders for single season and career statistics.

In her spare time, Harter enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, and playing ice hockey, softball, and cycling.

Dr. Amy Wilson serves the NCAA as director of inclusion where she works on gender equity, Title IX, LGBTQ issues, and sexual violence prevention and education for the NCAA membership. Currently, she is leading projects such as optimizing the Senior Woman Administrator designation, the publication of the second edition of the NCAA’s Transgender Student-Athlete participation guide, and the Common Ground initiative, which fosters discussions about religion and LGBTQ with the goal of supporting all student-athletes.

Dr. Wilson’s entire career has been in higher education where she won multiple awards for teaching excellence. At MacMurray College, she served as in instructor in the English Department, a head coach, and the Senior Woman Administrator. Most recently, Wilson was an Associate Professor of Education at Illinois College where she taught sport-related courses and served as the Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) and chair of the Athletics Committee. She is a former basketball and softball student-athlete who is a member of the Illinois College Athletics Hall of Fame.

Dr. Wilson has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English and earned a Ph.D. in health and sport studies with a concentration in athletic administration at the University of Iowa. Since 2005, she has worked closely with nationally recognized Title IX expert Dr. Christine Grant on equity issues in intercollegiate athletics and has given numerous presentations on Title IX, gender equity, and inclusion on both the national and international levels.

Women Leaders in College Sports (formerly NACWAA) presented Wilson with its Administrator of Tomorrow award for Division I-Football Bowl Division in 2009. For Title IX’s 45th anniversary in 2017, Wilson completed a report commissioned by the NCAA’s Committee on Women’s Athletics and Gender Equity Task Force--“Title IX at 45: The Status of Women in Intercollegiate Athletics.” Wilson is the NCAA’s primary liaison to the Committee on Women’s Athletics and the Gender Equity Task Force as well as a member of the leadership team for the Association’s sexual violence prevention efforts.

About the Women Leaders National Convention

The Women Leaders National Convention is the premier conference for women working in intercollegiate athletics. Attended by athletics directors, conference commissioners, coaches, administrators, and staff from all divisions of intercollegiate athletics, this annual gathering provides three days of unparalleled education, leadership training and networking. The 2018 event will be held October 14-16 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

About Women Leaders in College Sports

Founded in 1979, Women Leaders in College Sports (formerly NACWAA; womenleadersincollgesports.org) is the only nationally recognized collegiate professional membership organization whose mission is to develop, connect, and advance women leaders working in intercollegiate athletics. More than 3,500 members strong, Women Leaders promotes the growth, leadership, and success of women as athletics administrators, conference commissioners, professional staff, coaches, and student-athletes. Follow Women Leaders on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @WomenLeadersCS.