Clark Atlanta University’s Dr. Tamica Smith-Jones doesn’t mind being singled out. In fact, she prefers being “one in a few” or “the only one,” when it comes to promoting student-athletes during their journey through college.
Smith-Jones is currently “one of only two” female athletics directors in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), which is composed of 13 institutions in five states including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee. Both she and Dr. Denisha Hendricks of Kentucky State University are African-American.
Just recently, Smith-Jones served as the “only” featured panelist to represent the NCAA’s Division II institutions during the 2012 National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A) Regional Fall Conference, held at Georgia State University, Oct. 14 – 16.
The three-day N4A Conference included representatives from both Division I and Division II schools in the region, focusing on “Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Reality.”
“Having an opportunity as the only panelist from a Division II school to share my experiences in athletic administration and to offer my expertise in the field along with my colleagues was an honor,” said Smith-Jones.
Dr. Smith-Jones, an Atlanta native, served on the administrator’s panel during one of the breakout sessions regarding the transition from within athletics into athletic administration, an area she is most passionate about where she shares her own career path.
Meanwhile, Smith-Jones said she finds it advantageous being a woman in a male-dominated field.
“I don’t feel pressure a lot of pressure being in a field dominated by men,” Smith-Jones said.
On one hand, she said she finds it easier to relate to her male colleagues when it comes to sharing ideas and in getting feedback. But on the other hand, she finds that by belonging to the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) since 2001 gives her a huge support system in relying on other women: “The NACWAA is where I get a lot of my support, too,” she continued.
However, Smith-Jones will be the first to tell her audiences that her overall commitment since taking over as CAU’s athletic director in 2009 continues to be the overall development of student-athletes as well-rounded citizens, and the retention of them through graduation.
“Our biggest task is that our student-athletes become good role models themselves and that they are ambassadors for the school,” said Smith-Jones. “It is not enough that we go out and do community service, but that our athletes serve as windows to the university. For example, our football team was recently involved in a class on domestic violence.”
Echoing Dr. Smith-Jones’ mission of supporting student-athletes during their matriculation, Angela Freeman, the University’s Registrar and Susan Gibson, the Director of Academic Success and Enrichment, also attended the recent N4A conference.
“Our first priority regarding student-athletes is academics first with the overall goal of helping them move toward degree progression,” said Freeman. “…we have to work together for student-athletes to be successful students.”
According to the Division II Athletics Directors Association (DIIADA), prior to taking over as CAU’s athletic director, Smith-Jones served as the SIAC Conference’s Senior Woman Administrator, a position directly responsible to the conference commissioner. Her decision to accept the AD position at CAU came one year after her promotion to the school’s position of Interim Director of Athletics in 2008.
The DIIADA also notes that during her leadership at CAU, the Panthers have demonstrated marked success in the classroom, community, and on the playing fields, and that retention and graduation rates have steadily been on the rise.
When asked at what point in her own life did she realize athletics administration would be her expertise, Smith Jones explained that it was in her final semester as an undergraduate student-athlete at Alabama A&M when she was faced with a challenging situation.
“It was in my senior year at Alabama A&M where I was playing basketball as a shooting guard. I elected to pledge a sorority, something my coach had told us not to do,” Smith-Jones explained. “During my exit interview with our coach, he informed me that my scholarship would not be renewed for my final semester because of my decision to pledge.
“I was hurt but respected his decision, so I asked him to help me get another scholarship in another sports and he agreed.”
After considering track and field but realizing it wasn’t track season, Smith-Jones opted to try her abilities at distance running. She joined the cross-country team, but the results didn’t quite work to her advantage. The challenge, however, helped shape her future path.
“I remember pulling up in the van with the cross-country team and all the runners jumping out in the rain and running to the starting line. After running three miles, the next day I told the coach ‘I can’t do these three-mile runs,” Smith-Jones jokingly recalled. “The coach then gave me an opportunity to help out with travel and by running errands. That turned into a full-ride scholarship. I did everything that was given to me.”
From that point forward, Smith-Jones knew that athletics administration would be her calling.
Smith-Jones earned her B.S. Degree in Business Administration from A&M in 1997, and went on to earn her Master’s in Public Administration from Savannah State University in 1999 while serving as interim head women’s volleyball and basketball coach. She obtained her Doctorate in Business Administration from Kennedy-Western University in 2005.
Dr. Jones is married to T’Michael Jones, a graduate of Morris Brown College. They are the parents of two children, T’Micah Jordan and T’Miyah Jourdan.