“I highly recommend this program to anyone in the sport management field who is looking to strengthen their leadership skills. Or if you’re seeking a new position, having this credential will be a great addition to your resume. The education I received was enormously helpful when I was with MIT and is now an integral part of the leadership style I’m taking with me to Wellesley College.” — Lauren Haynie, Graduate, Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program
Lauren Haynie is taking the skills she developed at UConn—
and fine-tuned on the job at MIT—to her new position
at Wellesley College.
Making of a Leader
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for having an exceptionally diverse student population. But as Lauren Haynie points out, MIT’s goal is to be a universal model of what a truly inclusive academic community looks, feels, and acts like. So when Lauren discovered the Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Connecticut (UConn), she recognized that earning the certificate would help her cultivate important leadership skills to support MIT’s mission to “advance a respectful and caring community that embraces diversity and empowers everyone to learn and do their best.”
After having worked in athletic training for more than a decade, Lauren Haynie was hired as Special Assistant to the Athletic Director at MIT in 2013. A few months later, she decided to seek additional training of some kind that would help fine-tune her leadership style to be more compassionate, empathetic, and sensitive to the importance of advancing MIT’s diverse and welcoming culture. As she says, “Being inclusive has always been a major part of my life and it’s a value that I wanted to continue working on as a leader.”
She found exactly what she was looking for on the National Association for Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators’ website. “I saw a banner ad on the site about UConn’s Leadership & Diversity in Sport Management Online Graduate Certificate Program. It piqued my curiosity. When I clicked on the link and realized I could take all but one course in the summer, I was totally sold,” says Lauren. “The fact that the program was offered by UConn, a world-renowned institution for both academics and athletics, was the frosting on the cake,” she adds.
Lauren started the program in the Spring of 2015. She then took two courses over that summer, completing the final course the following summer of 2016. The online nature of the courses didn’t faze her. During her college and graduate school years, she had taken several courses online, so she found it easy to get up to speed on the Husky CT Blackboard platform. “The asynchronous schedule was so convenient. And even when we had to collaborate with other students on various projects, it wasn’t a big deal because everyone was so committed to the program,” says Lauren.
That commitment also cultivated a strong sense of community, she notes. “If you think being in an online course means you’re off working somewhere in a vacuum, think again. For me, I felt a strong sense of connection with the other students, most of whom were in multiple courses with me. We were all encouraged to talk about ourselves, both from a professional and personal basis. It was so helpful listening to other students share the challenges they faced in their jobs.”
Over the course of this past academic year, she had the opportunity to implement the ideas and practices she learned. “MIT is all about innovation and pushing the envelop—not just in technology, but also in designing recruitment and hiring strategies to create a pipeline of top-notch candidates. While we know we have a diverse student and student athlete population, we wanted to find out what we were doing well, what we could do better, and how we could enhance the experience of all student athletes,” notes Lauren, who adds: “One of the big takeaways from the program is very basic: while you may not be able to treat everyone equally, you can treat everyone equitably. Diversity is coming, whether we are prepared for it or not. I truly believe that as a leader, being proactive is far more effective than being reactive.”
Toward this end, Lauren and her supervisor decided to initiate a “climate survey.” One of the goals was to assess whether varsity students feel a sense of belonging in terms of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity, among other factors. “Sure, we think we’re inclusive, but the evidence has been all antidotal. So our objective was to obtain baseline data that would help us determine if there were glaring problems, if our athletes and coaches needed additional training in diversity, or if there were other actions we needed to take.”
Working closely with her colleagues in her department, Lauren helped develop and implement the survey. With results in hand, MIT’s Athletic Department is now putting together a framework for implementing many of the learnings from the survey in order to intentionally strengthen diversity throughout the department. “For example, we found that we need to wordsmith our job descriptions to provide more inclusive language. And we discovered that we need to cast a wider net to make sure our job postings are listed where a more diverse pool of candidates will see them,” Lauren explains.
So why does diversity matter so much to Lauren and to MIT? As she explains, “MIT attracts the best and the brightest. Those students need to feel supported on a personal level, especially since our college years are often a volatile time of self-discovery. Cultivating an inclusive, supportive environment fosters excellence—in the classroom and on the field. I also believe that when people feel comfortable and accepted throughout their college years, those individuals are more willing to advocate for the university—as active alumni who give back in terms of volunteer time and philanthropic support. And being more deliberate in hiring women and ethnic minorities also helps in applying for National Collegiate Athletic Association grants.”
There was another big benefit that came out of Lauren earning the certificate credential. This summer, she is staring a new job as Senior Association Director of Athletics and Physical Education, Recreation, and Athletics at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. “Following through on earning the certificate demonstrates that I am willing to take on new challenges to develop more effective leadership skills and diversity awareness. I think that had a big impact on my getting the job,” she says.
As Lauren concludes: “I highly recommend this program to anyone in the sport management field who is looking to strengthen their leadership skills. Or if you’re seeking a new position, having this credential will be a great addition to your resume. The education I received was enormously helpful when I was with MIT and is now an integral part of the leadership style I’m taking with me to Wellesley College.”