Note: The following appears in the May issue of Orange: The Experience. For full access to all of the publication's content, join IPTAY today by calling 864-656-2115.
The Clemson University athletic department has long been a positive force in providing a voice to those who, at one point in time, were essentially voiceless and providing career opportunities to those who were not granted what they rightfully deserved in the workforce. Clemson athletics' longstanding commitment to promoting the advancement of women is one such worthy cause, and Stephanie Ellison and Natalie G. Honnen are shining examples.
A positive beacon in the ever-growing trend of women making a significant impact in the field of college athletic administration, Clemson athletics has been a force for good in promoting increased opportunities to instill female perspectives and voices into many of its high-ranking positions. And due to the unbelievable array of incredibly talented, intelligent and inspirational women holding such positions, the entire Clemson athletics family is better off because of it.
From former senior woman administrator Barbara Kennedy-Dixon, to former associate athletic director of student-athlete performance Dr. Loreto Jackson, several renowned women have made positive, indelible marks on Clemson athletics over the years, serving as trendsetters and inspirations for countless young women also working in athletic administration.
"As more female athletes develop an interest in working in athletics, it's only going to keep getting better," said Honnen when speaking on the prevalence of women in athletics positions.
Honnen, an associate athletic director who oversees student-athlete services & performance, has taken on several fruitful, important duties since arriving at Clemson University four years ago. Serving as a supervisor for men's and women's golf as well as the up-and-coming softball program, Honnen is also responsible for overseeing the mental health and sports psychology facets of Tiger athletics, in addition to the performance areas, such as nutrition, strength & conditioning and sports medicine, for all the Olympic sports.
"There are a lot of positions that are dealing with student-athletes on a daily basis that are women-driven," stated Honnen while speaking on her position at Clemson and what it signifies on a much broader scale. "For a lot of those roles that involve supporting student-athletes, there has been a big uptick in recent years in the presence of women holding those positions."
Recognizing the importance of having an adequate representation of females in sports administration, Honnen, throughout her 15 years working in college athletics, has been inspired to serve as a positive example for female student-athletes.
Like Honnen, Clemson's current senior woman administrator, Ellison, has displayed an impeccable commitment to making a difference in the realm of athletic administration throughout her 14-year ascent to the position.
Beginning as a student assistant for the football team as a student at Clemson, Ellison progressed from a graduate assistant to the head of the compliance department. Within the past year, she became the senior woman administrator, a position that has provided her with the opportunities and responsibilities of evaluating coaches, budgets, recruiting efforts and overall statuses of 12 of Clemson's 19 athletics teams. Furthermore, as Clemson's SWA, Ellison serves as the liaison to the ACC with regard to NCAA legislation.
"This position provides a prominent female voice in athletic departments and ensures that there's an opportunity for decisions to be made with the female perspective in mind," she said.
Ellison has been inspired by countless supportive women working in Clemson's athletic department along the way, particularly former associate athletic director of academic services Rebecca Bowman, senior associate athletic director for internal affairs and chief financial officer Katie Hill and her predecessor, Kennedy-Dixon.
As a result, Ellison has come to recognize the sheer importance of having a woman's perspective prominently featured in the inner workings of any athletic department, and she is pleased with the progress that has been made pertaining to female inclusion over the course of her tenure in athletics.
"I've seen an increase in opportunities for females. It has become a focal point for institutions across the nation to make a conscious effort to factor in female candidates when hiring for jobs in athletics."
Honnen and Ellison are two members of a sizable group of impactful women making a difference in Tiger athletics. Sunny Russell Dueland, who is the director of student-athlete development, is one such example, as are Libby Kehn of athletic communications, Jill Williams-Wilks, an administrative assistant for football recruiting, and Allison Waymyers, director of career & professional development in Dabo Swinney's football program.
"Clemson athletics has done an excellent job of giving women the opportunity to advance," said Ellison. "I've been very fortunate to have been granted those opportunities to work in different areas and experience different things by high-level administrators here at Clemson."
The most important onus of any athletic department is to offer a supportive, enriching community of leadership and guidance that properly reflects the diverse breadth of the makeup of its student-athletes. And with the magnitude of female student-athletes, particularly those with an interest in holding careers pertaining to college athletics, growing at a steady, consistent rate, the composition of women presently holding such positions in athletic departments is as important as it has ever been.
Therefore, providing a platform for well-rounded women in athletics, such as Honnen and Ellison, has been a highly effective, demonstrative example to female student-athletes of the tremendous impact that they, too, can have.
"There are a lot of young women seeing females experience a lot of success in administrative positions," stated Honnen while addressing the growth potential for women in terms of garnering opportunities in athletics. "The progression has been great, and as females continue to have success, that progress should continue."
Part of a much larger trend, Tiger athletics has displayed impeccable growth in its inclusion of women into the fray throughout Honnen and Ellison's tenures at Clemson, a culture change that has benefited all involved parties, particularly the female student-athletes looking for guidance as they look toward their respective futures.
"It's very important to have a diverse staff so that the student-athletes can connect with someone," said Honnen.
Key components of the Clemson athletics family, Honnen and Ellison, as well as the countless women who helped to carve the path that has made their career successes possible, should serve as inspirations to us all. Despite decades of exclusion from the realm of college athletics, women like Honnen and Ellison have been model representatives of the absolute necessity of, as well as infinite benefits presented by, the inclusion of women in athletic administrations. As a result, Clemson athletics has benefited quite nicely from their presence.
"As more female athletes develop an interest in working in athletics, it's only going to keep getting better," added Honnen.
Honnen and Ellison have devoted their careers to athletic administration, because their passion for making a difference in the lives of student-athletes is their ultimate source of drive and inspiration.
While it is worth noting that they are indeed two of the most prominent women in Clemson athletics, they simply want to be remembered as two of the most prominent difference-makers. And like so many other amazing women who have been part of the Clemson athletics family, Honnen and Ellison are certain to be remembered as just that.