Home Academy News Academy Alumna Dr. Kristene Kelly Joins Vanderbilt Athletics

Academy Alumna Dr. Kristene Kelly Joins Vanderbilt Athletics

Academy Alumna Dr. Kristene Kelly Joins Vanderbilt Athletics
Dr. Kristene Kelly. Image: HBCU Gameday

By Dr. Fred Cromartie, Ed.D. |

The United States Sports Academy continues to strive to meet its mission of making great and significant contributions to the field of sport by preparing men and women for the profession of sport. The spotlight now shines on the Academy and its alumnus Dr. Kristene Kelly. 

Kelly was recently hired as the Deputy Athletic Director for Internal Affairs and Senior Woman Administrator (SWA) at Vanderbilt University. Kelly previously served as a senior associate athletics director for varsity sports and SWA at Dartmouth College. She earned her Doctor of Education degree in sports management from the Academy in 2014.

Kelly’s oversight responsibilities include various student-athlete resource areas, such as health and wellness, student services, and the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center. Kelly serves as a liaison to several campus offices, including the Title IX Office and the Dean of Students.

Kelly has worked within each of the NCAA’s three divisions and boasts one of the most diverse resumes of any college administrator as one of the few – even perhaps the only – to hold throughout her career the titles of sports information director, associate athletic director, senior associate athletic director, executive associate athletic director, faculty athletics representative, senior woman administrator and athletic director.

Kelly, who has nearly two decades of experience in the college ranks, arrived at Dartmouth in 2018 after spending two years as the director of athletics at Keene State College. Her first 18 months with the Big Green were spent as the senior associate athletic director before being promoted to executive associate athletic director and overseeing all varsity sports for the then 35-sport program.

During her two seasons at Keene State, where she oversaw a group of more than 35 coaches and staff competing in 18 sports for the Division III program, six programs advanced to NCAA postseason play including the 2016-17 men’s basketball team that earned a trip to the Elite Eight. Nearly 200 student-athletes were recognized as Little East Conference All-Academic performers during her tenure.

Kelly also served as associate athletic director and senior woman administrator at Saint Augustine’s as part of her 2009-16 stint in North Carolina, overseeing the day-to-day operations for the 14-sport program, directly supervising head coaches in five sports, writing all grant proposals for the department, administering all programs funded by grants and serving as deputy Title IX coordinator for athletics. Kelly earned the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Senior Woman Administrator of the Year award in 2011 and 2013.

On St. Augustine’s academic side, she also was an adjunct professor (2009-15) before being elevated to an assistant professor and department chair for sport management (2015-16) as well as the faculty athletics representative.

Kelly began her career in collegiate athletics as an academic counselor and graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee in 2001. She began working toward her master’s degree at Tennessee in human performance and sport studies, completing her degree the following year while starting a job at her alma mater as the sports information director, a post she held for over six years.

Only the second female to be named the CIAA John Holley Sports Information Director of the Year in 2005, Kelly earned her doctoral degree of education in sport management from the United States Sports Academy in 2014.

Kelly is a very active committee member within the NCAA, with service on the NCAA Woman of the Year Committee and the NCAA Division II Track and Field Committee. She served as a member of the CIAA Management Council and as a committee member for numerous CIAA championships.

Kelly has completed multiple leadership development institutes, including the NCAA Leadership Institute for Ethnic Minority Women (2007) and the NCAA/NACWAA Executive Institute for Administrative Advancement (2010). A frequent guest speaker on a variety of topics centered around college athletics that include, “Best Practices for Improving Graduation Rates,” “Title IX” and “Work Life Balance,” Kelly has also been a presenter for the Black Women in Sport Foundation’s Next Step Women of Color Mini-Forum.

A 2000 graduate of Johnson C. Smith with bachelor’s degrees in physical education (sport management) and communication arts (public relations), Kelly earned all-rookie honors on the softball team before captaining the squad as a senior. In addition to serving as a sports information intern all four years, she was also a student trainer for the football team.

Kelly is an active member of the National Association for Collegiate Directors of Athletics, Women Leaders in College Sports, Minority Opportunities in Athletics Administration and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

A native of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, Kelly is married to Jonathan Kelly Sr., and the couple has one son, Jonathan Jr.

Dr. Cromartie is the Director of Doctoral Studies at the United States Sports Academy.


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