February 2019 Michelle Walsh
This month I met with Michelle Walsh, Director of Athletics and Physical Education at Vassar. In undergrad, Michelle was a three-sport student-athlete at Swarthmore—pursuing an engineering degree while competing in field hockey, basketball, and softball. After some work in the private sector, Michelle got a master's degree in Exercise & Sports from Smith, and returned to athletics and higher education, and realized she loved being part of a team and developing the larger vision of a community as an administrator.
She came to Vassar in 2015, and says that this is her favorite job so far. “It’s great to now be an athletic director here at a liberal arts college that’s academically rigorous, working with students to prepare them for life after Vassar, through athletics.” She continued, “a liberal arts education is about two things—you learn how to learn, and you learn how to lead. In athletics, we do that in a huge way, and I get to help students grow.”
I asked Michelle how she would describe Vassar’s student-athlete community, and she said that it’s “like the Vassar community as a whole—it’s vibrant, and we have a lot of different viewpoints. The thing that pulls together student-athletes is a shared understanding of collective goals, of working hard, and being in a competitive environment. We all enjoy the strong sense of community that comes from being a part of a team.”
We spoke a bit about the QTNB Student-athlete group that’s come together in the past year—and she attributes that to “a bigger push from student-athletes to tackle issues of community and belonging—and to create a more welcoming space. I think student-initiated programs that then become partnerships with administrators, staff, and faculty are incredibly powerful—it becomes a conversation about 'What do you need? Help me understand where you want to go, and let’s see how we can get there together.’” One example of this, is through an upcoming event LGBT inclusion in sports workshop that's cosponsored by EPI. Michelle noted that “we have wonderful partners on campus—in the administration and especially in the Dean of the College area, but there’s always more to do to build connections with other areas… As with any community, we’re all trying to find our voice here.”