Kristina Navarro – EXSS Impact Alumni

faculty headshot_Kristina NavarroWe are fortunate to have an outstanding group of alumni from each of the different graduate programs in EXSS.  This week we highlight the impactful work being done by one of our Sport Administration alumni, Dr. Kristina Navarro (Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater).  Dr. Navarro’s research focuses on developing best practices in high impact career and professional developmental programs in higher education.  Her current work is centered at the nexus of sport and education, career development and student development.  The impact of her work was recently highlighted in a recent article from Inside Higher Education.

We are proud to have Dr. Navarro as one of our EXSS Impact Alumni.  In this week’s post, she describes the impact of the EXSS Sport Administration program.

What led you to choose the EXSS Sport Administration program as a graduate student?

The EXSS Sport Administration was a destination graduate program for me since my senior year of undergrad. Knowing this was my postsecondary education goal, mentors in the athletics department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison provided me with an invaluable opportunity to gain hands-on experience during an intense one-year internship. This enabled me to develop skillsets across athletics administration units to become a viable candidate in the competitive admissions process. I specifically was attracted to the opportunity to work within the UNC athletics department with the Carolina Leadership Academy and Division of Student-Athlete Development. In addition, I was eager to learn from well-respected, student-centered faculty at an R1/Division 1 institution. I was very interested in the scholar-practitioner approach of the program and the ability to write a thesis as well as complete hands-on practitioner based work.

What were your career goals upon graduating from the EXSS graduate program in Sport Administration?

Upon graduating from the SPAD program in 2009 I planned to pursue a hybrid career as a scholar-practitioner. I planned to continue to work at the nexus of higher education, student development and intercollegiate athletics. For me the next step toward this end goal was to pursue a Ph.D. in higher education leadership and continuing practitioner work in athletics.

Where are you currently working and what are your primary responsibilities?

I currently serve as an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the College of Education and Professional Studies. I also hold an appointment as a Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and UW Athletics Badger Life Skills Academy. In this role I work to prepare aspiring scholar-practitioners in higher education and sport administration. My research, teaching and service centers on high impact practices to promote holistic student development during the higher education experience. I continue to work with athletics departments to develop career and leadership development programming for student-athletes.

How did your experience at UNC prepare you for your current position?

My experience as a student and graduate assistant at UNC-Chapel Hill was pivotal and life changing. I was able to work within the nationally renowned Carolina Leadership Academy. In this multifaceted role, I developed a true passion to assist athletics departments to design, implement, and assess high impact career, leadership and professional development programs for student-athletes. The scholar-practitioner approach faculty in the program present enabled me to consider critical issues in higher education and intercollegiate athletics from a policy level as well as apply theory to practice. Training in NCAA compliance, development, marketing, student development, and organizational administration–in both classroom and practicum experience–has been invaluable to my personal career development thus far.

Were there any specific courses, projects, or people at UNC that sparked your interest in pursuing your current career path? 

Dr. Deborah Stroman and Barbara Osborne, both members of my thesis committee, truly sparked my interest to pursue doctoral study and a faculty role. These individuals continually challenged me to think critically and conceptually about issues influencing student-athletes. A specific piece of advice from Dr. Stroman continues to stick with me today. Her advice to “align your passion with your purpose” to find your processional calling continues to guide my personal career trajectory. I often share this advice with mentees who look to me for career and professional development guidance. Dr. Cricket Lane and Carolina Leadership Academy Co-Directors Shelley Johnson and Jeff Janssen also provided a phenomenal experience within the Division of Student-Athlete Development that solidified my interest to dedicate my life’s work to the holistic development of student-athletes.

What makes UNC and the EXSS Sport Administration Program special to you?

The camaraderie shared by members of the SPAD cohort is second to none. As an out-of-state student, the SPAD student cohort, academic staff and faculty became like a second family. Individuals in the program invest in students for the long-term, not just the two-year period on campus. This level of investment in students and alumni is a program characteristic that makes me very proud to be an EXSS alumnus.