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Women In Sports Profile: NCAA's Sonja Robinson
Sonja Robinson (left) leads the inclusion and diversity program at the NCAA's national office in Indianapolis, implementing programs association wide.
Sonja Robinson (left) leads the inclusion and diversity program at the NCAA's national office in Indianapolis, implementing programs association wide.
Sonja Robinson
Sonja Robinson

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The third “Women in Sports” career seminar, presented by the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, will be held Saturday, April 8 in Portland, Ore.

Designed for college and high school females interested in pursuing sports-related careers, the seminar will take place at Memorial Coliseum.

The event will feature panelists from a broad cross-section of occupational paths, including coaching, administration, business, marketing, media, media relations, NCAA compliance, sports medicine, ticket sales, and officiating. Attendees will have an opportunity to interact with -- and seek career advice from -- a slate of experienced sports professionals in a round-table format. 

Below is a profile on a panelist who will be featured at this year's event.

SONJA ROBINSON, NCAA
Position:
Director of Inclusion at NCAA National Office
Colleges Attended: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of Missouri; University of New Mexico
College Majors: B.F.A. Interdisciplinary Studies: Architecture and Engineering M.B.A. Organizational Behavior and Entrepreneurship Ph.D. Physical Education, Sports and Exercise Science (Sports Administration)

Years In Current Position: 1.5 years

Primary Job Responsibilities: The office of inclusion leads and supports education, programming and funding for inclusion initiatives in intercollegiate sports and the local Indianapolis community. In my role I am the primary contact for questions related to, and initiatives in support of, race/ethnicity and disability as well as the program manager for national office Employee Resource Groups.

Things You Enjoy Most About Your Job: As a former student-athlete, I was drawn to this position for the ability to influence and impact the student-athlete experience, primarily in ways that would allow me to help create access, equity and opportunity for underrepresented and marginalized groups. We rarely have two days that are alike and the variety is a plus. My work includes public speaking, workshop development, resource creation and coalition building, among other elements.

Why You Pursued A Professional Career In The Athletics Industry: I am grateful for the exposure to opportunities, experiences and networks that my time as a student-athlete provided, and sought a career that would allow me to do the same for others.

First Job In The Sports Industry: I worked sports camps early in life, but I would say that my first "real" position was as Life Skills Coordinator while a graduate assistant.

A Key Mentor Who Helped You On Your Career Path: I've had, and continue to have, many great mentors throughout my career path who influenced and inspired me in different ways. A key mentor in helping me frame my philosophy for the work I do was my dissertation chair and program advisor, Annie Clement.

Most Influential Person In Your Early Professional Development: I would say that my mother was the most influential person in my early professional development because her example resounded and created the idea of what professionalism should look like. Her path was one of constant growth, the value and pursuit of education, and grace in challenge and success.

As for a person most influential that is directly related to sport, I would identify Jody Adams, my former coach when I played at Minnesota. The conversations we would have about the game, especially when I was a fifth-year student-athlete, influenced my philosophies around teaching, coaching and impact.

Biggest Hurdle You Overcame Breaking Into The Sports Industry: Choosing the time and path. My trajectory is unique given all of my different interests and career stops. The biggest hurdle was probably deciding on the when of the next opportunity, even when it did not appear to make sense.

Key Attributes That Have Helped Shape Your Career Path: Integrity, work ethic, passion, vision, focus and reflection.

Looking Back, What Is One Thing That You Would Do In College Or Early On To Help You Along Your Career Path? I would have tried to get more internship experience, specifically in the job that I aspired to obtain. Many times, it takes really living the day-to-day to realize if the job matches what you imagined it to be. Also, I would have benefitted from getting connected with people doing the job I wanted in order to find out how they got there.

Best Advice You Would Give To A Young Female Wanting To Work In Sports: 1. Talk About What You Want to Do: you'll never know what connections are possible if no one knows your aspirations. 2. Do Your Research: talk to people and ask questions about their paths so you can frame your next steps with the best information. 3. Prepare: Get the education, skills and experience that is needed for the role you want to have in the future. 4. Be Creative: It doesn't always look like you expect it to, but the opportunity you need could be at hand.

Favorite Sports Team: Venus and Serena Williams playing doubles tennis.

Favorite Athlete: Scottie Pippen

Most Memorable Sports-Related Moment: Traveling with the Big-Ten All Star Women's Basketball Team the summer before my senior year.

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