Staff Highlights

Staff Highlights

Offering the Extras that Bring Education to Life
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At the Top of His Game

“Athletics are part of the total educational experience — a laboratory of life. So many intangibles of the workplace are fostered on the fields of play.” For John Parente, executive director of athletics at the Providence Campus, sports and life are interchangeable.

In addition to overseeing 16 NCAA teams, intramural programs, athletics facilities, budget and communication and close to three dozen coaches and staff, he spends half of every month following teams at home or on the road. “It’s the nature of the beast. Everybody who works here recognizes they’re going to give up their nights and weekends for the kids.” It’s also a labor of love.

News and sports director for 20 plus years for former Kent County radio station WKRI-AM, writing columns and sports roundups for local print and radio, Parente came to JWU in 1995 to do sports information work, game updates, summaries, and report scores to media outlets. University programs were “in a very embryonic stage.” They’d expanded considerably by 2001 when he took over for Tom Carmody as director.

The $1.1 million budget he calls “good bang for the buck,” is stretched to fund all aspects of athletics from recreational to team. “Our students are competing in an intercollegiate environment with class and with honor. We have a coaching staff of teaching professionals who not only teach the game, but they teach life.”

The lessons carry over. This year’s 257 student athletes in Providence have a combined overall GPA of 3.12, the highest ever. In the past 18 months nearly 40 percent made dean’s list, close to two-thirds with GPAs over 3.0. He notes that organized programs are only 14 years old and growing. “Now it’s up to the rest of the university to embrace them and build upon those areas of tradition that you find at other schools.” Go Wildcats!

JWU Staff Highlight Matt SharpProviding that ‘Full-Life Gamut’
It’s a short stretch for Matt Sharp to know what students want. Hired directly out of graduate school, he came to the Charlotte Campus two years after its launch, to coordinate activities and take charge of leadership training and student government. His task was to take his professional experience as a grad assistant and put structure and policy to the early vestiges of student offerings. “It was a challenge, but it was a great opportunity.”

Although his background in hotel resort management is “unconventional” in student affairs, it meshes well, he says, with the university’s career driven path and students’ hotel and tourism background. Programs have grown so solidly that in August 2009, he was promoted to director of student activities, overseeing two professional staff members, 35 leadership students, 30 members of the Student Government Association, plus a myriad of clubs and organizations.

Though Sharp’s challenges are similar to those on other campuses, Charlotte has a more formal setting, he says. Housed downtown in one two-block area in the middle of the business district, it includes a dress policy. “Students complain at first, but they enjoy being part of the business world while still being able to have fun realizing the student life experience. They get the full-life gamut,” Sharp says.

From open house to orientation the message is delivered. There are clubs, organizations and teams that they can join. “They come onto campus expecting that they can get more out of their four years than just being in a classroom.” Education only begins with a textbook.

“We want them to have a great time,” Sharp says. “We also want them to leave here knowing that it’s not just about the degree, but it’s about growing personally and professionally. It’s the holistic experience.”

Image: Matt Sharp, (back row, center, in yellow,) led an Emerging Leader Series Retreat, at Haw River State Park, N.C. in fall 2008.