Friday, December 19, 2014

KSU's Vaughn Williams: Perspectives on Service, Success and More

Spend time with Kennesaw State University Director of Athletics Vaughn Williams and you quickly discover how key the role of servant leadership is to Williams’ mission for all involved with KSU Athletics.

Williams’ most recent opportunity for such leadership comes in his selection to the inaugural NCAA Division I Council that is set to convene for the first time on January 15, 2015, during the opening day of the NCAA Convention in Washington, D.C.

Williams will represent the Atlantic Sun Conference on the Council which is charged with conducting the day-to-day business of NCAA Division I Athletics. Appointed at the recommendation of a Division I Board of Directors’ subcommittee, the Council replaces the current Legislative and Leadership councils.

The Council consists of a diverse group of 40 individuals comprised of athletics directors (AD), conference office delegates, faculty athletic representatives (FAR), senior woman administrators (SWA) and two student-athletes. The group’s first order of business will be to design the subgroups that will assist in developing legislation, running championships and performing other necessary functions within the operations of Division I Athletics.

Williams’s selection is the latest news in what has been a big year for Kennesaw State University Athletics. KSU reached new heights particularly in during 2014 as three teams (baseball, men’s indoor track and field and men’s outdoor track and field) captured Atlantic Sun Conference titles. The baseball team’s championship was the first-ever at the Division I level and vaulted the Owls to the Tallahassee Regional title and a trip to the Super Regional in the program’s first NCAA Division I postseason appearance and the A-Sun’s second Super Regional appearance in conference history.

The postseason run by the baseball team, combined with the men’s golf program advancing to the NCAA Championships and junior Kaew Preamchuen earning women’s golf’s first-ever individual berth to an NCAA regional helped to bring well deserved national exposure to KSU and the A-Sun. That national exposure continued through the summer as two rising seniors on the men’s golf team, Jimmy Beck and Austin Vick competed in the U.S. Amateur Championship that was held at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

Kennesaw State student-athletes also excelled in the classroom as they combined to record a 3.07 cumulative grade-point average and 154 individuals earned A-Sun Conference all-academic honors.

Insider: What are you most proud of in your three years now at KSU?

Williams: I am most proud of our student-athletes’ response to all of the demands on them and how they go about handling their business. I can obviously point to their academics, as they are consistently reaching the 3.0 threshold. I can point to their growth in the community, and how they have really taken it upon themselves to understand what service is and how to become servant leaders. We continue to build on our hours in the community and we are really doing some good things and that, I believe, is very valuable to their experience. Also I can point to them buying into being representatives and taking full advantage of the experience as student-athletes at Kennesaw State.

We have been able to put a great team together here at KSU and the community has really gotten behind us. I think our coaches have done a great job. We have a great group of coaches and I am really excited about the future because it is through those coaches that we can impact lives. We also continue to have success in competition, which really makes it a lot of fun.

Adding women’s lacrosse and football to the arsenal has been tremendous, because you don’t get to do that every day. Being able to add those marquis programs is very important.

Insider: What are some obstacles that you and KSU Athletics have been able to overcome?

Williams: Really it has been about educating people in our internal campus community along with the external community as to what athletics is all about. It is about educating them as to where we fit on this campus, and where we fit in in regards to being a part of this great community in Cobb County/Northwest Georgia. We are always educating about that.

Obviously the football hurdle was huge. It was huge getting that approved. First it was also important for our students, because if our students didn’t support it then we would never have football. Then getting the Board of Regents to support it, followed by the partners that gave us financial support. I think that also speaks to this community. We had a certain timeline that we had to operate within and obviously that was a huge hurdle to overcome.

Insider: You began three years ago armed with a vision. Has that changed or adapted at all?

Williams: I think it hasn’t changed, but rather it has become a part of us. It is about being champions in the classroom, champions in the community and champions in competition. I do believe that as far as champions in the classroom, we have really begun to build that foundation. All of the coaches understand that is a part of reaching our potential and everyone involved understands how important it is to be at the 3.0 mark.

As far as champions in the community, it includes everything that we have done athletically which has helped in so many ways. It is not just about athletics, but the institution. We have really made it our business to go out and be in the community, get to know people and to spread the “Black and Gold Gospel” of KSU to the public.

Insider: How nice is it to have institutional administration that totally buys into your philosophy?

Williams: The quality of leadership that we have at Kennesaw State definitely impacts my job. We can’t do the things that we have done for the last three and half years without the student support and without the support of our president and our board of trustees. Dr. Papp has been monumental in his leadership in helping and assisting us get things done in the right manner, which is what we want to do. I would say that it is his leadership, his vision, and I carry out what he wants me to do and how athletics will fit in to the master plan of how KSU reaches excellence.

Insider: What are your expectations of and what do you bring to this newly created NCAA Division I Council?

Williams: I go into this committee with obviously an open mind. I do think, I hope that I can bring my experience and background to contribute. From my time at Utah, Toledo, Boston College, Connecticut and now at Kennesaw State, I have seen Division I at many levels. I can bring that experience, that real-life understanding of the issues and challenges that those campuses faced as we get ready to do what is best for Division I in its entirety. I have never been as excited to serve on a committee as I am now. This is a moment in our history in the NCAA and in Division I, a juncture in time that we will look back and see “how were these things developed?” As we move forward with all of the things that are happening with the Big 5, I do think I will be able to represent the A-Sun, mid-major conferences and other conferences in a very formal, just and educated way.

Insider: KSU played a role in a historic 2014 for the A-Sun, so talk about where you see the A-Sun right now.

Williams: The A-Sun has a lot of momentum in multiple areas, including in meeting our mission of Building Winners for Life. You see it in the classroom, in what we are doing in and for our communities and certainly on the playing field in multiple sports. You can talk about volleyball, soccer, basketball, golf, tennis, baseball and softball – you can talk about an array of sports in which the momentum is building. Our brand is in a good place right now, and I am looking forward to us continuing that momentum moving forward.

Insider: How goes the transition to life in the South?

Williams: This is an unbelievable community. I couldn’t have dreamed my situation up any better. I love the state of Georgia and this community in the Metro Atlanta area offers a very diverse cultural experience. This community has embraced my family, and me and we have embraced it, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else at this time. I work for a great university and a great president and KSU is a member of a great conference, many things are on the horizon, so the transition has been very easy. There have been many facets of my experience that have made me feel very fortunate to be here and I can’t wait to see what can be done as we move forward.

Insider: What is next?

Williams: We are excited about basketball right now and are looking forward to another successful spring season for KSU. We have a consolidation that is happening with another institution that should be finalized over the next month or so, and we will be a bigger and better institution. That is exciting for athletics because it offers another array of educational outlets and opportunities for student-athletes like computer science, architecture, engineering, and construction management. Full-fledged educational opportunities will be available in more disciplines and I can’t wait to see the day when we have student-athletes graduating from the school of engineering or architecture or the others that I mentioned. It opens up a whole new level of service with a student population of 6,000 additional students. As we continue to create a more robust program, that will lead to pride, energy and synergy among the students, alumni and the community. It is a great and rewarding experience that is continuously evolving for those who currently attend and who will attend in the future.  It is a great time to be at Kennesaw State.

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