Jennifer Strawley finds special place at Elon for first athletic director position

Strawley plans to chart a bold path for the next chapter of Elon Athletics through student and community engagement.

Jennifer Strawley knew it would take a special opportunity for her to leave the University of Miami. That is exactly what she found at Elon University.

After spending more than 10 years at Miami, Strawley was hired as the 20th Director of Athletics at Elon University on July 6 and will officially begin the role on Aug. 1.

For Strawley, picking a school that aligned with her personal values was essential, as was finding a place where she could help elevate an athletics department. She said she checked all those boxes with Elon.

“I always believed I wanted to be an athletic director, but it needed to be at the right place,” Strawley said. “I’ve been incredibly selective. It was a special place that was going to call me away, and when I first started to have conversations with individuals about Elon it became clear very quickly how special Elon is.”

During her time at Miami, Strawley oversaw all day-to-day operations of the athletics department and served as the sport administrator for football and women’s basketball, as well as the department’s Senior Woman Administrator. Strawley also served as Miami’s interim athletics director from November to December 2021.

Strawley said her experience at Miami helped her learn about leadership styles, managing different aspects of an athletic department, working with coaches, engaging with donors and understanding strategic decisions.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with two presidents in Donna Shalala and Julio Frenk, and with two athletic directors in Blake James and Dan Radakovich,” Strawley said. “Their guidance, mentorship and trust has really prepared me for this opportunity.”

Strawley was a student-athlete herself at the University of Pennsylvania. A two-time team captain for the Quakers softball team, Strawley also worked in Penn’s athletic department while a student. She earned an undergraduate degree in history and originally planned on attending law school. However, after a stint working for the NCAA as an intern and then managing student-athlete eligibility and reinstatement, Strawley’s plans shifted.

“When I got to the NCAA, I realized you could have this career that really centers around developing young people and being engaged in intercollegiate athletics in a different way,” Strawley said.

In between stints working for the NCAA, Strawley moved on to Columbia University, where she worked as the associate athletics director for Intercollegiate Sports Programs and the Senior Woman Administrator responsible for sport supervision duties and providing oversight for Title IX and gender equity issues.

Strawley speaks at a press conference on July 21, 2023 in the Schar Center introducing her as Director of Athletics at Elon University on July 21.

Strawley indicated that what drives her every day is supporting student-athletes, working with both men and women to prepare them for life beyond their time at Elon. However, because of her experience as a student-athlete, ensuring there are opportunities for female student-athletes is important to her.

“There’s a personal piece for me in understanding what a college athletic experience does in preparing young women for success in their life and their ability to create that self-confidence and understanding of what it takes to be successful,” Strawley said.

Strawley will begin her first athletic director job in a unique time in college sports. With the transfer portal and Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) changing the landscape, she said keeping Elon competitive will take plans tailor-made to the university as there is not one solution that will succeed at every school.

“As we begin to move forward and try to understand what intercollegiate athletics looks in the future, we have to be proactive in how we think about what’s best for Elon,” Strawley said. “We have to be innovative and creative, understanding the impact, but we have to be committed to the values of Elon. I’m confident we’ll be able to work together to chart a path and position for success in this ever-changing world.”

For Strawley, the first few months on the job will be about listening and collaborating with Elon stakeholders to build on the foundation and set a strategic path forward. But, she indicated there are some priorities that will be foundational.

“Student-athletes will be at the center of all decisions we make. We will ensure that Elon continues to set the standard for academic excellence within the CAA. We’ll excel athletically and position our teams to be successful within the CAA and to win CAA championships. We will engage with the Elon community, energize the Elon brand, and create pathways for the institution at-large,” Strawley said. “We want to be bold and position Elon for success in the ever-changing world of intercollegiate athletics, but all of that has to be done while staying committed to the values of Elon and keeping integrity at the cornerstone of everything we do.”

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Working closely with student-athletes is a huge part of Strawley’s passion for college athletics. As she begins her tenure, she has a message for Elon’s student-athletes and said her door will always be open to them.

“To all the student-athletes, I can’t wait to get to know you, to share in your journey and to be a part of all that you will accomplish in your time at Elon,” Strawley said. “I’m committed to you. I will get up every day to serve you and to ensure that we provide the best possible student-athlete experience each and every day. What we do will always be about our student-athletes.”

In addition to connecting with student-athletes, getting Elon students invested in athletics is another priority for Strawley. She hopes to build on the current level of engagement for students to make athletic events an important part of their experience at Elon.

“I want athletics to be a piece that people take pride in and that individuals want to be a part of,” Strawley said. “Student engagement is critically important to not only the success of Elon athletics, but I think what we do in athletics can create synergies for the institution at-large as we continue to evolve and move forward.”

As she looks forward to a new chapter at Elon, Strawley said she is excited about many aspects of her upcoming endeavor. However, nothing excites her more than the people she will get to work with and the student-athletes she will get to serve.

“I’m just so energized by all the people that I’ve met,” Strawley said. “I’m really excited to get to know so many individuals who are so passionate about Elon and to really become a part of the Elon community. I can’t wait to embark on this journey that will help chart a course to allow Elon to soar to new heights.”