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!
Providing 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
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.