By Sophia Harris
What is your educational and professional background?
I have my bachelor's degree from a small liberal arts college out in Kansas. I got my master's degree from the University of Iowa. I received my Ph.D. from Florida State University. My area of expertise is organizational leadership and sports management. Professionally, I started as a physical education teacher. I then became the specialist for adaptive physical education in Kansas, where I was teaching, and also in Iowa. While I was doing my master's degree in Iowa, I was a coach, and an official, and ran programs for the college. After getting my master's degree, I worked for the state of Florida, as a physical activity specialist in charge of health promotion and all the physical education in 67 school districts across the state of Florida. I also was the liaison for high school athletics while I was there. After that, I took a position as a department chair for sports management in North Carolina at Johnson C. Smith University. I also helped to get the school involved in marketing major sporting events. We created a Carolina's football classic and created the legacy basketball classic and those were major events that I was able to help my students get experience in the sports industry by running those events while they were undergrads and I was their professor. … I went up to the Special Olympics at the headquarters of Special Olympics, and I created the professional and leadership training program for Special Olympics, which meant I got to travel around the world working with executives and leaders from all over the world. … After Special Olympics, I ran an [education] leadership program at Dominican University, was the director of Instructional Services for Dominican University, and a professor. From there, I moved over to DC as the bureau chief for recreation for the city of Baltimore, and then ultimately became the interim director of the program. From there, I moved up to the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to be the director of recreation and parks for Parks Recreation and Enrichment. And then at Lasell University, I was the department chair for sports management and a professor of sport management. While I was at Lasell, I got a position here at Framingham State and have been here for eight years. And I've had several consulting positions in between and since that time.
Do you have any hobbies?
No. Framingham state is my life! That's it! … So, number one is playing pickleball - I play competitively. I am planning to train to play in some tournaments. I really like playing mixed doubles, but also possibly playing singles, too. Beyond pickleball, I have my own consulting network, which is quite a bit of work around youth and community development. I use what's called sports-based youth development. Programs that use sports, not as a hook to get kids to improve their academics, [but] to be more engaged in their community, to be civic leaders in their community, and be leaders. … They're growing up as the next leaders of their community, but they have to know what it means as a young person. … We've got to talk with young people as they're engaged in different activities to say, “Here's how you continue these things, and make them available to more people in the community.” That's what I do as a consultant. I work with organizations, mostly nonprofits, that run programs in communities and so I work with their leaders to say, “Here are the types of things that you all need as skills, knowledge, and ability.” And so then you can take those things to then improve your programs and services, and therefore improving the outcomes like making the community better, making each family better, and making each young person better. That's how you make better citizens. That's how you make a better community. It's more than a hobby - it's a passion of love that I have for them. It started with my mom - she used to do it in our community. … And now I continue that at a much bigger scale.
What is something your students would not expect to know about you?
They wouldn't expect that I play pickleball and they probably think I'm just some old stodgy professor. They don't know that I'm a great dancer. I love to dance. I took ballet lessons to improve my football when I was a football player in high school and college. I had an opportunity to - I was actually asked - to be in a ballet troupe. I loved it. I loved the power and expression of someone like Mikhail Baryshnikov - it would take a lot of discipline to be like that.
Do you have any advice for students?
One of the things that I share in my class - it's about following the money. Students have to learn how the things they learn in class impact the bottom line of the business and understand that their job is to have an impact on the bottom line. Now, whether that means saving the organization money or making the organization money, it's about those things. The things that you're learning in class have to translate to impacting the bottom line. If you don't understand the product, then learn the product, or what are the services of the company that you're working for. Be able to know those things before you go into an interview. Be able to talk with people about what you know about their company. … I'm paying you to come in with some type of knowledge. Most students don't understand they're generating their level of expertise as undergrads, and with those experiences they get with the knowledge that they gained with the abilities that they acquire - all of those things are what you're going to hope that someone then will eventually pay you for - or you'll be able to provide a service or generate some product that people will buy. But, at any rate, you need to know what those are. And then you need to know how those things match up with their needs. Because the consumers have their needs and they may or may not express those to you clearly. So understand those things, what the needs are, and then how to satisfy them. And the more that you can satisfy them and the more money you can have them put into your business, then the more bonuses you get, the higher salaries - you get all of those things. Those are the things that you are actually sitting in class for. The other piece of advice for students is they need to engage in class. If you're not engaging in the class, then you're missing out on the greatest opportunity because your professors have these areas of expertise, and they're willing to share them with you. But if you don't ask questions, then you're losing out. You're paying tuition for that person to be able to assist you. If you don't come prepared, then you're losing one of the major resources that you have. I tell my students, I am absolutely willing to be the best resource that I can be. But that means you have to come ready to ask me questions because I can't read your mind.