In a year marked with seemingly never-ending virtual meetings and Zoom or Webex calls, there was one Northwestern State Deputy Athletic Director Dr. Haley Taitano definitely was happy to join.
Taitano spent the better part of Thursday and Friday taking part in the first TopConnect AD’s virtual leadership symposium, sitting alongside industry heavyweights DeLoss Dodds, Craig Littlepage and Debbie Yow.
“I am grateful to have been a part of the inaugural class of TopConnect AD,” Taitano said. “The leaders of this programming did a remarkable job of providing us with meaningful resources and connections to assist us in developing ourselves as athletic administrators, especially given that this programming was provided in a virtual format.
“Having the chance to interact with dozens of fellow senior level athletic administrators, athletic directors, search firm executives and consultants over the last two day was incredibly motivating and humbling. It was empowering to see that while our experiences as athletic administrators are all unique, we each share a common, unwavering goal of providing the best possible experience for our student-athletes.”
The attendees were nominated by their school’s athletic directors after being identified as being “committed to taking the next step in their careers.” In addition to being able to speak with present and past athletic administrators from across the country, the exclusive roundtable sessions also connected the participants with search firm representatives.
A former school pole vault record-holder, Taitano was a two-year member of the NSU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and is a two-time NSU graduate, earning her master’s degree in sport administration from in 2007.
She was an assistant track and field coach and the head cross country coach for three years at Northwestern State before transitioning into athletic administration. After serving as the executive director of the NSU Alumni Association from July 2011-September 2014, Taitano returned to the NSU Athletic Department as the assistant athletic director for marketing and development.
Despite the virtual format, Taitano said she gleaned knowledge from each level of the participants.
“It was especially encouraging to sit in a (virtual) room full of people who are all facing the same challenges on their respective campuses, yet are all still waking up each day with ambition and hope for the future of collegiate athletics,” she said. “I look forward to building relationships with all of the people I met over the last two days and working together to better the lives of our student-athletes, coaches, staff members and colleagues.”
TopConnect AD, which launched more than a decade ago as Villa 7, works in conjunction with East Tennessee State University’s doctoral program in global sport leadership.