Leslie Schuemann was named Fresno Pacific's athletic director Jan. 13, becoming the first female athletic director in school history as the Sunbirds complete their transition to NCAA Division II.
A senior associate athletic director at Fresno Pacific since July 2012, she oversees 16 intercollegiate teams that have won 13 team national titles, 50 conference championships and produced more than 500 NAIA All-Americans and national scholar athletes.
Schuemann previously spent five years at the NCAA's national office as assistant director of academic and membership affairs. She also spent eight years at NCAA Division II Texas A&M-Kingsville, five as assistant athletic director for compliance and senior woman administrator.
Schuemann, who attended last week's NCAA convention in San Diego, talked about her plans for Fresno Pacific athletics, which began its three-year NCAA transition in 2012.
Question: President Pete Menjares mentioned that you've provided stable leadership to the department of athletics in a time of transition and significant change. How important is it to keep that going as the school transition into D-II next season?
Answer: The Division II membership process is central to our vision -- not necessarily as an end in itself, but because of what it says about the hard work and success of our amazing student-athletes, coaches and administrators. My job will be to provide vision, leadership and support so we're continually on track toward the goal of achieving full active NCAA Division II membership.
You've been around at Fresno Pacific for the past year and a half and worked with other leaders on campus, including former AD Dennis Janzen. How will you look to maintain the high-level of success he established for the department?
As I got settled in here at Fresno Pacific, I was most impressed by the courage and commitment of the people with whom I am working. These are men and women who are focused on excellence in all areas: competitive, academic, Christian leadership, and community service. I plan to do a lot of listening so I can understand how best to lead a team that's already achieved so much.
Who were some of your biggest influences along the way and how have they prepared you for this role?
I had the privilege to work for some amazing leaders, way too many to mention here, and have learned important life lessons for leadership. Jill Wilson, my former director of athletics at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, was the first female director of athletics in the Lone Star Conference; she has a gift for negotiation, building consensus and relationships. Diane Dickman, the Managing Director at the NCAA, is a very strategic leader who allows her staff to take risks and develop new NCAA policies. She has the ability to teach a global overview of athletics and the impact each decision has on the whole. My brother, Brian Charette, inspires me and is a light in my faith walk and as a leader in higher education.
As someone that was instrumental in formulating the current NCAA Division II membership process and had a senior role with the membership committee, you made decisions on which schools were accepted into NCAA and which schools were rejected. How would you assess Fresno Pacific's progress as a potential NCAA institution and do you anticipate the university attaining full NCAA status this summer?
At the NCAA, I was involved in the conversations regarding institutions' readiness for Division II membership. Based on that experience I believe Fresno Pacific has made excellent progress in the NCAA membership process due to the highly skilled team that is in place. Chris Moore, the Associate AD for Compliance, has many years of NCAA compliance experience and is helping to lead the effort. The coaches, athletics staff and our university partners have embraced the changes to our systems and the new strategies. I expect us not just to attain full membership, but to be a leader in the NCAA Division II membership.
What does it mean to you to become the first female director of athletics, not only in Fresno Pacific history, but also in the Pacific West Conference?
It is an honor and an awesome responsibility. I believe a diverse group of administrators is what is needed to move the PacWest Conference and athletics as a whole into the future. I want to have a role in creating an athletic experience for all our student-athletes that supports their growth holistically. I also believe it creates a pathway for women to view athletics administration as a career.
What is your mission and vision for Sunbirds athletics?
I want us to be a leader in NCAA Division II in all areas: competitively, administratively, graduation rates, developing student-athletes' faith, and in serving our community. I want our staff and student-athletes to bring their A game every day and to strive for excellence. We will continually work to get better every day, so that we leave a legacy of excellence. I want us to never forget that we serve a greater power and that we are working every day to truly glorify God through our gifts.
In what ways can you help student athletes achieve their goal?
Two words come to mind when I think of helping our student-athletes: challenge and support. I want Fresno Pacific to continue to be a place where character, Godliness and discipline are indispensable elements in our culture -- where students are challenged to pursue winning in all areas of their lives. And I also want our student-athletes to be given the encouragement, resources and care they need so they always know they are a valued part of our community. I want to truly honor the commitment our student-athletes make when they choose Fresno Pacific.
Any sports that you're thinking about adding? You practically have every sport. Softball is coming soon, but I was wondering if you thought about adding any other sports?
We want to provide the best possible experience for student-athletes. If we feel like we're in a place financially and with our infrastructure where we can expand and where we can be sure student-athletes will continue to thrive, we will consider adding new sports. We also want to be very strategic as we determine what is in the best interest of the university and the department of athletics.
When you spent five years at the NCAA's national office as the assistant director of academic and membership affairs, you were regarded as someone who was instrumental in the formation of the current NCAA D-II membership process. That obviously helped you in getting the job, but at what point did you feel that this is something that you wanted to do?
When I went to the NCAA national office, I always knew that my heart for serving the student-athlete and watching them grow and succeed would lead me back to a campus position at some point. I saw Fresno Pacific as the perfect opportunity to develop and grow a new Division II program as well as a place that my faith would play an important role in my career.
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