Meet Online Master of Athletic Administration Program Director, Kelley Walton

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Good afternoon everybody. My name is Sean Dove and I am one of the enrollment advisors here at Ohio University’s Master of Athletic Administration program. I’d like to welcome all of you to our webinar this afternoon where we’re going to be going over some brief program information for you, but more importantly we have a special guest. We have Ms Kelly Walton who is going to be our new program director here. So we’re going to get to know her a little bit and get a little bit of her vision for the future for the program here.

But first before we get started just wanted to let you know a little bit about the program. It’s been around since 2003 and it’s been online since 2008. So you can rest assured we know we’re doing at this point. We’ve worked out all the kinks with it. And Ohio University is a real university, we’ve actually been around since 1804. Were actually the ninth oldest university in the United States, so we got a strong reputation and as far as this particular program goes, this was the first program in the nation to focus exclusively on interscholastic athletics, as well as, I believe it may still be the only one or only one of a small handful that focuses on the interscholastic level. We have a true partnership with the NIAAA. The reason I mentioned that or in case you didn’t know, the NIAAAA stands for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and that is the national body that gives accreditation to athletic directors around the nation at the high school and middle school level. You can earn their accreditation through taking LTC courses through them and then taking the exams and they have partnered with Ohio University to create this program and when I say that we’re a true partnership with them because you’re going to find a lot of schools out there may say they’re partnered with NIAAA but in reality all that means is they buy advertising on their websites and newsletters. When I say that we have a partnership with them they’re actually going to give you credit for a lot of the work that you do here at Ohio University that will translate into LTC credits for you moving forward as you look to receive your RAA and your CAA certifications. So without any further ado I’d like to go ahead and introduce Ms Kelly Walton. She’s been a longtime faculty member here with Ohio University on this program as well as our Masters of Sports Administration program and she’s recently just ascended to the role of Program Director.

So with that Ms. Walton I’d like to go ahead and, you know, let you introduce yourself, and tell us about your background, and, you know, what’s your vision for the future is for this program.

Kelley: Great thanks for the introduction. Appreciate it. My backgrounds a little bit different than some of the I would say traditional academics. I worked for 10 years in professional sports, 3 of those years I was in the legal department for the Columbus Blue Jackets, one year as a law clerk and two years as an attorney and then I made a move in to with the Columbus Blue Jackets into the Director of Human Resources role that was their head of Human Resources. We didn’t have a VP. I was the department head of that department and I did that for seven years where I oversaw immigration, recruiting, hiring, you know, benefit administration, retirement administration a variety of things with all the employment for our staff. And in about 2009 I started really getting the bug to teach and I love my job. Great job at the Blue Jackets, it was a great experience but I had kind of gotten to the point where I wanted to do a little bit something different and maybe get on the other side of things as opposed to you know looking at hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of resumes and picking one person, can I get on the other side of that and help people get ready for their careers. You know could I do more we’re good at that way. And so I started teaching in 2009 at Capital University as an adjunct to see if that’s really what I if I wanted to make that move and I did. And I was fortunate enough, so I used to recruit at Ohio University both in their undergraduate and graduate programs and so when I left the Blue Jackets go to go teach. I sent them an email and said “hey you know I’m looking to I’m leaving to pursue a career in academics.” Lo and behold they had online programs that I was unaware of and so they reached out to me about teaching in their professional Masters of Sports Administration and the MAA program. And so I started teaching these human resources in sport organization classes very early. I started doing that in 2011 and my involvement with OU and the Department of Sports Administration has just grown over that time. I’ve served as an adjunct. I was full-time for a few years. I taught online, on-campus. I’ve taught Human Resources, tort law, court governance leadership, capstone, variety of different courses and that brings me to today where I am super excited about bringing my both my business experience and my program administration experience too. I was an assistant director for the professional MSA program for a few years. I was interim director while the director was on sabbatical, so trying to bring my business, academic, and program administration to the MAA program.

Sean: Outstanding! Tell us what can this program or what can students in this program hope to achieve out it? How will it prepare them for the job market?

Kelley: You know I think that’s one of the the more exciting things. And things that I like the best is getting students ready for their careers and being a part of that. Helping them know and get ready for what’s out there. I’ve been on the other side of it where I’ve hired people and or not hired people because they didn’t meet the criteria and I like being on the other side of it where, you know, at the beginning stages of a master’s program you can tell people like listen you know if you want to be an athletic administration here are the skill here’s the skill set that you need to have to be competitive. You have to understand, you know, the financial aspects of a program administration or athletic administration. You have to understand marketing and fundraising. You have to understand human resources and how do you hire coaches. How do you manage coaches, how you fire coaches, both legally and that which is not just legally but the right way. As well like how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of your employees. You know what is it that you need from beginning to end and that’s what our program offers and we take it you know step by step. You know we start with an athletic administration seminar. Give you the basics of athletic administration and Interscholastic athletics focusing on high school and middle school sports as well as. Then we take you to the legal in finding or legal and HR classes to give you those those foundation before then you get into your marketing and finance and and research and the rest of the rest of the courses along the way and it’s a two-year program you take seven. One seven week course at a time. It’s a condensed three hour course. So it’s it’s um there’s a lot of content but it helps you in every single one of those classes. It helps you get a skill so one of the things that I always encourage people about a master’s degree is to look at it not just as a piece of paper but as professional development. These are skills that you need to have in order to be successful and we’ve worked with the NIAAA. We have our faculty is amazing. We have I think 17. The last Iooked, which was last week, we had 17 faculty members who have athletic administration experience who over the program will serve either as facilitators or faculty for our students so they’re they’re learning not only the basics of what you need to have, but they have access to people who have done this before and who have gosh we have three faculty on staff who have over 35 years of experience of athletic administration individually apiece. Um so you know pairing people with the knowledge and then also with experienced people to help them through and help them understand you know how to develop a marketing plan, how to do a title IX audit, how do you do those things. Those are expected if you’re going to be an athletic director you’re the answer. There’s no one to tell you how to do things. There’s no one to help you through, so you know this is really a you know it’s a degree but it’s also professional development and getting you ready to do a job and that’s I think one of the best things about it.

Sean: Yeah. Absolutely. I talked to a lot of our alumni that have come out of this program and I’d say each and every one of them, we’re excited about what they’ve learned from it how well is prepared them to move forward into the career field. Let me ask you this, what is the ideal student for this program or or let me rephrase that what would make somebody successful in this program? What do they need to be well invested to be successful?

Kelley: I think that’s the nice thing about a program like this is that we hit a variety of types of students where you know whether it’s a middle school coach or it’s a current athletic director at a high school you know of 5,000 students who’s just looking to go back and get their masters during because maybe they got the job but they don’t really know how to do it yet. It’s there, but they don’t know how to do the financial aspect or they don’t know how to do a title IX on it or they’re just looking for advanced education. I mean we hit the you know the way that our program is set you know the kind of like the ideal student or the type of student we look for it’s really just how how much do you want this and how much are you willing to work for your own professional development? It’s it’s about commitment and you know obviously we want you know people have to have some some base knowledge of that this is the areas that they want to go into and and online skills and be able to you know navigate through a webpage but the way that our blackboard is set up it’s a really simple system. If you can navigate the internet. If you can navigate something like Facebook, you know you don’t need a lot more than that. We’ll help you get to that point where you can navigate the technology but it’s more about that commitment level are you committed to your own future because we’re committed to you and if you’re committed to that, then you know this program has a lot to offer people and again a wide variety of backgrounds middle school teachers, middle school coaches, high school teachers, high school coaches, current ADs. You know we have a variety of different types of students that are very successful in the program.

Sean: Absolutely. I know personally from working on the program for several years in addition to the diversity of you know the students that are in it but they’re locations. I know I personally learned two people in the program from South Korea. I know one in Switzerland and one or two in Belgium that current, well they may have graduated by now but that have gone they have graduated but yeah. Kelley: I had I had them in class as my students but they were great and it’s been really interesting to you know the way we have our students come in as a cohort. So every you know. They start you know at the beginning of the semester and they’re going to take the class the classes or the courses with their class and so it’s nice that they get to know each other and then so the first four classes they take first four courses they take together and then they go into a carousel where they will take a variety of courses with or will take a course with a variety of other cohorts so they get to know other people as well so you have the space of a cohort where we get to know people from all over. International, I mean most are in the US but it’s really neat when we get somebody who gives us a perspective of a lot of of our US kind of schools based someplace else or a IS type of a system school based some place else we have students from California in New York and Ohio and Michigan and Indiana and Florida and you know all over it’s really interesting to me when we start a new semester and we do introductions as to the you know the variety of places that people are from it and then they learn from each other so again another one of the best things about a master’s program like that where you’re connecting with people all over the place is that you learn best practices and you learn and connect with people all over. And so what one school might do in Florida is different from what they might do in Ohio, but you learn from each other and you wouldn’t learn that if you were you know anywhere else because you know you’re you get access to people all over the place and so learning from each other is a big part of the program as well.

Sean: Absolutely and the networking that on not only benefits students that are going through the program but throughout the rest of their careers because I hear from they still stay in touch they run into an issue they’ve never dealt with before as an AD, but they have not only their professors they can reach out to but they can also reach out to their classmates. So that’s outstanding. With the program there is the campus visit. The Athletic Leadership Forum can you talk a little bit about that and what students can expect when they come to campus?

Kelley: Sure we have an athletic leadership forum every summer and it’s the last week of June. It’s three days and we do a variety of things there. One, it’s a great opportunity to network and connect with each other and I can’t stress enough how important that is in these types of programs you know with your cohort you might only you might only meet them one time, but it’s a great opportunity to connect. We do some coursework, so that is right before students start a finance class and Finance tends to be something that most students have a lot of trepidation about. They do fine in it everybody does a good job getting through it but so we do some on-campus work with that finance class so that that is face to face. It gives students an opportunity to ask questions about technology, any you know questions that they have about how the different systems work in Blackboard where we deliver the courses and then we also have a couple of different pieces that we add every summer. This summer we’re looking at having two guest speakers. One is a leadership speaker that again students wouldn’t have access to accept coming to campus for that and then they do a leadership type exercise after that. After this presentation will be made. And then another one is we have a guy who comes and talks about safe sport and his how that can be used in the different athletic departments so we give it act like it’s kind of like access to a variety of different things like best practices in athletics what you know if you were an athletic director what are things you should know, how to use final forms, base sport for things like that we put those in front of people so that they learn it so it’s a big mix of networking getting to know your cohorts, classwork some leadership exercising. You know some leadership exercises and leadership speakers and again and then connecting with faculty. We have a variety of our on campus or our on campus and off campus faculty who teach in the program come and connect with our students as well. And sometimes we throw in a baseball game.

Sean: I’ve heard about some of those and the thunderstorms that come along with them or the fun that comes with the barbecue. Yes. The thunderstorm came with the barbecue but I’ve talked to former students and a lot of them said that the coming to campus for that weekend is probably the highlight of the program because they finally get to meet everybody, they actually get to see the Ohio campus, and yes it’s a real brick and mortar school, with a proud history, the OHIO bobcat you may seen have won TV. They’re up and coming within the conference playing football and yeah it’s fun atmosphere. I mean if you want the college town experience Athens, Ohio has it for ya and then some.

Kelley: It is. If it’s it’s just that connection to kind of that brick-and-mortar education piece I mean with with online learning you know we do everything we can to help continue to engage our students but we do feel like it’s important to have at least one on campus connection for that networking and for that connection um you know most of what we do is online and we you know we want to keep it that way so that students are able to connect from all over you know the US and all over the world but that on-campus piece is is extremely it’s really important it’s and again. It’s just to connect with your cohorts if at the very least that’s all you do. That is that is really what a lot of them take away from it.

Sean: Awesome just to wrap up here. You know what sort of advice would you give somebody who’s considering a master’s degree in Athletic Administration?

Kelley: I think the best advice that I have is do it. Um to just go do it like go for it. If this is the career you want a master’s degree is going to help you out. And you know commit to it. Commit to yourself to what the expectations are. It is a master’s level program so the expectations are there but it’s doable and if you make that commitment to you know the time that it’s going to take and it amazes me every single year. We have coaches and athletic directors who have babies. One of my students she had a baby in the middle of class um you know seven week class. She three weeks in she had a baby and we gave her a two-week extension and she got it done. She was very committed to the program. I think most people would maybe have taken that semester off and that’s okay but commit to it and be a part of it. Don’t be afraid of it. I think that’s that’s my message, don’t be afraid of it you have you know your life, you have your work, you have your teaching, you have your coaching, you have all these things going on, and every student at the end of this tells me they are so glad they did it. They’re so glad that they made that commitment to despite everything that was going on. It is made them better and it makes them more prepared for the career that they want to do. If you want to take that step a master’s degree is going to help you do it. So just make that commitment and we’ll help you get there.

Sean: Thank you for that. Everybody just want to quickly go over some the admissions requirements. You obviously got to have a bachelor’s degree for a regionally accredited college or institution. We’re looking for a cumulative GPA for just your last two years of your last 60 credit hours at least a two point seven if it is less than that, speak to your enrollment advisor and we speak on a one-off basis and let you know on what we can do to move forward with that. And then you need at least a minimum of two years experience working with high school or middle school within the athletic department. Now to clear some things up here I talked to a lot of people on the phones on a daily basis and they’re currently working with club sports or the YMCA like that and they tell me are AAU and they say that they’re working with high school kids or middle school kids that’s great and we appreciate it but this program is designed to prepare you to become a high school or middle school athletic director. So we want you to be fluent in the bureaucracy and the red tape and the unique challenges that come with being in that environment. So therefore that is why you have to have experience even if it’s volunteer experience working with a high school or a middle school athletic department. If you look over on the right-hand side of the page you’ll see the requirements for the application process. There’s a fifty dollar application fee however we have just been notified this past Friday that we are going to be able to offer an application fee waivers. You’ll need to speak to your enrollment advisor to get information about how you can take advantage of that. So that will save you $50. We’ll need official transcripts from every school that you’ve attended, as well as, a statement of purpose essay. Now this is a two-page essay but it’s double-spaced so it’s not bad at all and basically this is where you get to sell yourself to the admissions committee. Because you don’t get to stand before them and plead your case you’re going to do it through this paper what they want to see is your passion for athletic administration particularly at the Interscholastic level. You know a lot of people start with you know stories of how they first got involved with athletics or when they made the or came to the point that they realize that that’s what they want to do with their career they go into you know what their short-term long-term goals are and how they feel this program can help them to achieve it. Again reach out to your enrollment advisor. We’re here to help you. We know what the committee is looking for and we can make sure that your application is as strong as possible for you. So we’ll walk you through the entire process, then you’ll need three letters of recommendation one of which needs to be from athletic director at a high school or a middle school. This is mandatory because you need to be able to demonstrate you have that relationship with an active AD because part as you’re going throughout the program you’re going to need to access that person not a whole lot but you are going to need their help or you know at least discuss some things with them as part of your projects going to the program.

So if you take a look here on the next page you’ll have our contact information. If you have any questions whatsoever, please feel free to reach out to us the numbers there on the screen 866-226-7643 or you can reach out to us via the website or through the Facebook page there and as well. And we are currently accepting applications not only for the Summer semester, but we are also accepting applications for our Fall semester which is beginning in mid-August. So with that ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to thank Ms Walton. once again for her time this afternoon and I thank everybody for your attention and we look forward to seeing you become an OHIO Bobcat. Goodbye everyone!