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Meet Tamica Smith Jones of University of California, Riverside (Athletics)

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tamica Smith Jones.

This has been an incredible journey so far. I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia, where I worked hard to standout both in the classroom and in sports. I went to Lithonia High School where I competed in basketball and track and I was also a saxophonist in the Bulldog’s Marching Band. I earned a full basketball scholarship to Troy (1993-95) and Alabama A&M (1995-97), where I was also a member of the Alabama A&M cross country team in 1997.

I earned my bachelor’s degree in management from Alabama A&M in December 1997, my master’s in public administration from Savannah State in December 1999 and completed a certificate program in business administration from Warren National (formerly Kennedy- Western) in February 2005. Also, I am a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and a member of many other professional organizations and committees relative.

Fast forward to today, I am now the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of California, Riverside, a position I have held since being named AD in June 2015. I am quite proud of what we are building in the Inland Empire with our Highlanders Athletics Department. We are a rising Division I program in the Big West Conference, we have 17 sports, 300 student-athletes and an amazing culture we are building throughout Athletics.

Our overall focus at UC Riverside is on building a culture of champions and in my first year at the helm, we enjoyed our most productive season in our Division I history. UC Riverside captured Big West Conference Championships in Women’s Basketball, Women’s Golf and Men’s Golf,  and we recorded our highest finish in the Big West Conference Commissioner’s Cup Standings since joining the league in 2001-02. We also celebrated our first national champion at the Division I level in the Weight Throw at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship.

I am also a person who likes to stay involved in my industry, and in May of 2016, I had the honor of being appointed to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Sport Committee. This committee (among other things) determines the host institutions and the site of the championship(s) in collaboration with the Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee, and selects, seeds and brackets the NCAA Championship. Then, in 2017, I was both humbled and honored to be recognized by my peers as Women Leaders in College Sports Division I Administrator of the Year. That same year, California State Assembly Member, Jose Medina, presented me with the 2017 61st Assembly District Woman of Distinction Award, identifying me as one of the top 100 Most Extraordinary and Influential Leaders in the Los Angeles area.

Prior to my time here with UC Riverside, I had the privilege of spending two years as Senior Associate Athletics Director for Internal Affairs and Senior Woman Administrator at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where my primary responsibilities with the Roadrunners included oversight and supervision of Women’s Basketball, Volleyball, Soccer, Softball, Cross Country, Track & Field, Golf, and co-ed Cheer. I was also involved with our work and efforts on Title IX/gender equity, diversity and inclusion, student-athlete well-being, life skills, community engagement and coaches’ development. And, I served as the athletics liaison to the UTSA Student Affairs division, providing strategic planning and assessment.

I also served as the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Clark Atlanta University (NCAA Division II, Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – SIAC) from January 2008 until July 2013. During my time there, the Panthers captured seven SIAC Championships, including the first men’s basketball title in 46 years and the first-ever women’s cross country and volleyball crowns. And, I was  able to help lead our efforts in securing funding for numerous projects on campus, including a new field turf for the football stadium, a pair of weight room upgrades, and a football facility renovation. I helped established Clark Atlanta’s Athletics annual giving fund in 2008 and instituted several new opportunities for student-athlete participation and staff development.

The student-athlete experience has always been one of my top priorities and Diverse Issues in Higher Ed Magazine (March 2013) highlighted some of my efforts toward student-athlete well-being and establishing a successful academic support program at Clark Atlanta.

I truly believe in the mission of intercollegiate athletics. I wrote my book, “A Ball and a Dream,” for those aspiring to apply their gift in sport to access higher education. “A Ball and a Dream” shares the ups and downs of my journey as a student, collegiate athlete, coach, athletic administrator and much more.

Finally, I am a member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), Minority Opportunities Athletic Association (MOAA), Women Leaders in College Sports (formerly known as National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators – and on the Board of Directors), NCAA Leadership Selection Committee for Ethnic Males and Females, and Achieving Coaches Excellence Program Selection Committee; among other organizations.

Has it been a smooth road?
This has been an interesting road and one that has presented many obstacles and challenges along the way. But, you learn to push through and overcome those challenges.

Some of the challenges I have experienced as a woman of color in this industry have included bias in gender hiring in a male-dominated profession and the role/importance of advocacy for advancing minority females in the position of intercollegiate athletics director, as well as discrimination and bias in college basketball. As a former student-athlete and coach who is now serving on the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, this has been an area of focus on which we can improve. Race and gender report cards also show the disparity in hiring since Title IX, showing on some levels a reversal of progress along with several misconceptions surrounding coaching and leadership readiness among minority candidates.

In addition, being one of the few African-American women athletics directors at the Division I level, I have at times experienced (and had to overcome) limited access, glass ceilings, microaggressions, and age and racial discrimination. There is a need for more mentorship, models as an illustration of hope and stronger networks and partnership development to improve related knowledge, skills and resources. I work with many groups and organizations committed to establish initiatives for achieving ethnic and racial diversity, gender equality and inclusion, with a focus an emphasis on quality of leadership education for young minorities.

I earned my academic degrees at historically black universities and over the past 20 years, I have worked for institutions that have made a commitment to building students as well as serving minorities and helping to elevate their platforms is and will always be important to me.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
As Director of Athletics at the University of California, Riverside, my role is expansive. I am proud to represent our amazing institution of 23,000 students, of which 300 plus are student-athletes from very diverse backgrounds and experiences. We are a rising Division I program with 17 sports, 70+ coaches and staff and compete in the Big West Conference.

We are excited about the direction we are heading in Athletics. Since my tenure beginning June 2015, we have been more transparent, inclusive and accountable to our stakeholders and intentional regarding elevating our athletics profile. Our program has enjoyed the most successful sports season of our D1 history (2015), with a national champion and several conference championships, all led by student-athletes who are working hard in the classroom and representing the community in their chosen sport and field of study. Our coaches and staff hold themselves accountable and are committed to supporting our student-athletes and holistically developing them into outstanding young men and women.

We are building a great culture and quality athletics experience within our program. We are focused on a culture that is both caring and results driven. What sets us apart is our focus on inclusion, teamwork, diversity, great attitudes, building and growing staff, supporting coaches and student-athletes and inspiring those around us each day, including our campus colleagues and community stakeholders. We believe in doing things the right way – the Highlander Way!

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