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Episode 022 – NCAA and college athletics administrator Stephanie Grace

Posted on Nov 17, 2016 by in Podcast Episode | 0 comments



Steph drops absolute networking gold, then we go deep on the topic of men and women in the workplace!


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Stephanie Grace currently serves as the Assistant Director for Academic and Membership Affairs at the NCAA, where in addition to her day-to-day duties is the lead for the LGBTQA employee resource group.

Prior to that she worked on both Division I and Division II campuses in an NCAA compliance role, including Western Oregon where she and I first connected. Stephanie is also a former student-athlete and coach in the sport of rowing, and is a lawyer on top of all that.

She is someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and I am excited for her to share some of her wisdom with you today.



  1. Steph before we get started, I gotta ask how much you miss Oregon in August.
    1. A bunch – go back every year!
  2. If you would, give us a little bit of your backstory and fill us in on where you got started in your career and how you made your way to the NCAA.
    1. University of Tampa; sports management major; rowing team
    2. Coached there before moving on to Lehigh
    3. Masters in sports administration and law degree at the same time
    4. Got called about a compliance job at Univ. of Jacksonville; coached there too
    5. Hired by me at Western Oregon
    6. Then East Tennesee State before joining the NCAA; been there the past four years
  3. Who (e.g. mentor, coach) has had the biggest impact on you and your career, and why?
    1. AD at Univ. of Tampa Larry Marfise – Emphasized for her the importance of finishing her degree
  4. What leadership qualities or styles did you develop as a rower and/or rowing coach that you have now adapted to use in your job and environment today?
    1. Taught her how to read people
    2. Have to put your people first
    3. In rowing with eight or nine people you have to be able to read people and be completely in sync
    4. Ex. Rowing in a pair
      1. Everything you do is dependent on the other person
      2. Sometimes she and her partner would show up in practice wearing the exact same thing – they were that connected
      3. Critical to read non-verbal cues
  5. You have had the opportunity to observe a number of leaders at all levels of competition and in organizations. Who and/or what stands out to as some of the best examples of leadership you have seen?
    1. People that understand people, and that the team is the greatest resource
    2. If you can help people fulfill their potential and get them what they need to do their best, that’s leadership
  6. Something we’ve talked a lot about on this show is culture. But we haven’t talked much about change and adapting to changes in leadership, organizations and culture. What have you learned about this over the years and how would you advise people who are going through difficult changes within their organizations?
    1. She has gone through lots of changes in leadership over the years
    2. Be as informed as possible; be part of the process as much as possible
    3. Nothing wrong with asking questions and doing research; and realizing that the change may result in the place not being right for us anymore
    4. (Daniel) – change is inevitable; much of it you have no control over; need to expect it and be prepared for it
  7. What is your advice to young people looking to get on the fast track (i.e. in a positive way; not shortcuts) in their careers?
    1. Networking – but there is a difference between “networking” and “valuable networking”
    2. After joining the NCAA, she got a lot of requests from young people on LinkedIn
    3. Quality over quantity – figure out the people who can and want to help you
    4. She gets to work with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and is able to help/mentor them
    5. (Follow up on how to network)
      1. One of all those people who reached out on LinkedIn did it the right way; she called Steph; had a few specific questions; respected her time; referred to their common experience in the same graduate program; then she reached out via LinkedIn
      2. Steph now feels comfortable advocating for her in job searches
      3. Tech is great, but opens up opportunity to stand out in old ways of connecting (phone; mail)
  8. What would you want the women in the audience to hear about how to succeed and earn respect in a male-dominated environment?
    1. Rely on the women who went before you and get them to mentor you
    2. You don’t have to be one of the guys; you can embrace the fact that you’re a woman
    3. Steph is not a big football or basketball fan, and that comes as a surprise to those she works with – but she doesn’t have to fake that in order to fit in
  9. What should men know about how to work with, manage or be managed by women?
    1. Men need to understand the concept of privilege
    2. If you’re a man that doesn’t understand why support groups (women’s, minority, etc.) need to exist, that is step one
    3. Still far from a place where there is parity in the workplace
  10. The Millennial generation is now the largest in the entire workforce. What have you found to be the best techniques to communicate and work with today’s young adults?
    1. Understanding the differences in background and personalities
    2. DISC assessment can help
    3. Recognizing differences in communication methods – some people will read an email differently if it’s not addressed with the recipient’s name and a comma, and then signed with a salutation
    4. Millennials shouldn’t be afraid to connect with people
      1. Often they don’t take time to get to know people who have been there for a while
      2. Don’t just stay in your office, do work and go home. Get out and meet and get to know people
      3. Assumption from employer is either they don’t want to do the work (so we shouldn’t care about you) or you’re not ready
  11. You are involved in several professional organizations. Can you talk about why that is important to you and how young leaders can start plugging into their own industry organizations?
    1. Very good opportunities to network, but also to provide spaces to talk and work through issues
    2. Internal groups are huge and can be a great tool for employee camaraderie and attracting talent to the organization
    3. (Daniel) – Benefits mental health and personal growth
  12. What habits have been key to your success? (e.g. morning routine? Eating? Quiet Time?)
    1. After ten years of rowing, now taking advantage of sleeping later! So no early morning routine
    2. Important to set aside time to unplug; can be taking a day away from your phone/emails; clear expectation of not responding to emails/calls during vacations
    3. Stick to those!
    4. (Daniel) – Aaron Walker just challenged us to set aside a day and rest; Sabbath days are for our benefit and health; long-term game
  13. What is the It’s On Us initiative?
    1. Whitehouse initiative that student-athletes are a part of
    2. Pledge/personal commitment to keep women safe from sexual assault
    3. Got to; take the pledge; you are not going to be a bystander to sexual violence
  14. Where can people go to connect or learn more about you, the NCAA or anything else you have going on
    1. LinkedIn – let her know you heard her on the podcast and she’ll definitely reply to you!
    2. has the sports scores, etc., but is more about the organization
    3. @metzylvania on Twitter

Thank Yous/Acknowledgements:

  1. Antioch Live/Clear Day Media Groupmusic
    1. More here.
  2. Jonathan Davis – production
  3. Clint Musslewhite voice over





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