Executive Institute 

The NCAA/Women Leaders in Sports Executive Institute (EI) is an advanced professional development program for women who hold senior level leadership roles within sports. The Executive Institute provides an immersive leadership experience that will teach executive level leadership skills, prepare you for the search process and position you for advancement to the highest level. 


 Program Goals
  • Develop and improve executive presence & leadership brand
  • Understand the search process and win the interview
  • Build connections with key industry influencers including University Presidents, Search Firm representatives and sitting Athletic Director and Commissioners
  • Preparation for success in the first 90 days on the job

Application Process

Applications Open: TBA

Applications Close: TBA

Candidates are selected through a comprehensive application process. Attendees are asked to submit an application outlining their qualifications for the program, followed by a recommendation from a Women Leaders Board of Director, a Women Leaders Education & Professional Development Committee member, or graduates of past NCAA/Women Leaders in Sports Executive Institutes. Candidates are reviewed through their strength of application materials and eligibility requirements. EI includes two separate tracks, a DI track and a DII/DIII track. Each of the two classes tracks are limited to 15 participants, making a total of 30 attendees.

Applicants will be notified of the status of their application no later than April 14th. You must be a Women Leaders in Sports member to participate. (Not a member? Join Here

Application Form

First, the candidate must complete the application below. Each candidate is asked to meet all eligibility requirements prior to submitting an application. Once an application is submitted, please make sure to complete step two by asking for a recommendation by an eligible administrator. This may be completed by filling out the form to the right.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Current Women Leaders in Sports' member
  • Experience and intention to become an athletic director or conference commissioner in the next two to four years
  • Current position (with consideration given to varying organizational structures):
    • Campus: Senior Associate AD-level or above
    • Conference: Senior Associate Commissioner-level or above
    • NCAA National Office: Director-level or above
  • Minimum of 10-12 years intercollegiate athletics experience preferred
  • Recognized or demonstrated ability to lead through any or all of the following:
    • Current work role
    • Educational association
    • Successful completion of professional leadership program (i.e. Institute for Administrative Advancement, Leadership Enhancement Institute, NCAA Pathways)
  • Skills and experience that will be considered include:
    • Sport oversight (revenue sport preferred)
    • Development (i.e. Associate AD for Development)
    • Coaching (previous or current)
    • Senior Woman Administrator
    • Internal operations (i.e. oversight of business, compliance, academics, facilities)
    • External operations (i.e. oversight of marketing, fundraising)
    • Staff supervision experience
    • Service on senior leadership team


Tuition fees are $1,000 per participant and cover all registration fees. The program Includes::

  • 2.5 days of in-person leadership development and coaching, including a comprehensive communication workshop with experts from Dardis Communication.
  • 2 nights at the host hotel inclusive of meals and receptions.
  • A kick-off prep session for all participants to set the tone for Executive Institute and build connection across the group.
  • Two-virtual follow-up sessions that will feature access to sitting Athletic Directors, Commissioners and other industry experts. 
  • All participants will receive an "Executive Institute Toolkit" with program materials, books and your favorite Women Leader's swag. 

Future Event Information

The Executive Institute is held every other year, in "odd" years, and alternates with the Leadership Enhancement Institute, held in "even" years. The next Executive Institute will be held in July 2025 in Kansas City, Missouri. Application information will be posted as it becomes available. .If you are interested in supporting scholarships for future Executive Institute participants, donate here .

2023 Executive Institute Graduates

Past NCAA/Women Leaders in Sports Executive Institute graduates have experienced high advancement rates within intercollegiate athletics. Since 2017, 63%  of Executive Institute graduates have either advanced or been promoted to senior-level positions, including eleven of which have become athletics directors or commissioners. 

Femi Alao, Assistant Director of Athletics/SWA, Roberts Wesleyan University
Brynna Barnhart, Managing Director (Investigations & Processing), NCAA
Rachel Blunt, Senior Associate Athletic Director/Student-Athlete Development & Championship Performance/SWA, University of Missouri
Stacey Bunting, Senior Associate Athletic Director - External Relations, Princeton University
Jessica Carmack, Assistant Athletic Director/Head Women's Basketball Coach/SWA, Christian Brothers University
Renia Edwards, Interim Athletics Director, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis
Kristin Fasbender, Director of Championships & Alliances, NCAA
Jessica Grasso, Deputy Commissioner/Chief Financial Officer/SWA, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
Ursula Gurney, Deputy Athletic Directors/SWA, University of Missouri – Kansas City
Chelsea Herman, Deputy Athletic Director/SWA, California State University - San Bernardino
Paula Jackson, Associate Athletic Director for External Relations, Norfolk State University
Lisa Liotta, Senior Associate Athletics Director/SWA, Canisius College
Jeanette McKillop, Associate Athletic Director/Adjunct Professor/SWA, Franklin Pierce University
Kelli Myers, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Administration/Chief of Staff, Georgetown University
Courtney O'Clair, Associate Director of Athletics/SWA, Plymouth State University
Natasha Oakes, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sport Administration/SWA, West Virginia University
Sarah Otey, Commissioner, Ohio Athletic Conference
Monica Polizzi, Director of Athletics and Campus Recreation, Salisbury University
Courtnie Prather, Senior Associate Athletic Director - Internal Operations & Physical Education/SWA, University of California - Santa Cruz
Sarah Pruess, Deputy Director of Athletics, Western Illinois University
Chesney Sallee, Vice President of Membership Value & Governance, NAIA
Katie Stumpp, Associate Athletic Director of Administration, University of Pittsburgh
Candice L. Turner, Deputy Athletic Director/SWA, Wayne State University (Michigan)
Christie Ward, Deputy Athletic Director/SWA, Catawba College
Emily Wollet, Senior Associate Athletics Director/Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer, University of Illinois Chicago

Cancellation Policy

Registration cancellations must be received in writing by 5pm May 19th. Refunds will be processed within 30 days following the event. Refunds will not be granted after those dates nor will they be given for no-shows, no exceptions.

Questions? Contact  Kara Hess.

Read the 2023 Executive Institute Press Release HERE