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WSSU's New Athletic Director – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson announced on Wednesday, Nov. 6 that Etienne Thomas, director of athletics at Kentucky State University, has been named the university's next director of athletics. Here are a few frequently asked questions (FAQs). 

What made Etienne Thomas stand out as a candidate?
Etienne Thomas is well-known among her peers in the NCAA and has nearly two decades’ experience as a seasoned athletics administrator. Currently serving as the director of athletics at Kentucky State University, she has worked for Division I and Division II programs, among them North Carolina Central University, San Jose State University, Howard University, Saint Paul’s college, and the University of Iowa – a Power 5 school.

A leader with a track record of integrity, Thomas has a long list of career highlights that include serving as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference representative on the NCAA Division I Council. She was also a member of the NCAA Governance Student-Athlete Experience Committee and a council liaison to the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Included among her many accomplishments is assisting NCCU with its transition from a Division II program to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and its transition to Learfield/LRG licensing. Additionally, Thomas is also an experienced fundraiser — a crucial skill for any senior athletics administrator.

Thomas’s vision for our athletics program aligns with the university’s strategic plan. She understands the importance of not only winning on the field, but succeeding in the classroom and raising funds to support our student-athletes. She is an intellectual in her discipline and is current on the trends in athletics across the country. Having worked at a sister UNC System institution, she is very familiar with WSSU, our programs, our alumni, and the challenges and opportunities of Division II athletics.

Winston-Salem State University is once again a trailblazer. Thomas is one of only 23 African-American women who serve as athletics directors in all of the NCAA. At WSSU, our student body demographics reflect a significantly higher proportion of female students over male students. While we strive to ensure a diverse student body, we must also be mindful that our female students and female student-athletes are keenly aware of our decisions and how they reflect our student body. That said, this hire is not just about appointing a person to a job because she is a woman. It is about continuing to develop women as leaders where diversity in thought and presence is sorely needed. We believe at WSSU we will become the standard and example of the benefit of having a strong leader in this role, creating a pipeline for future leaders in athletics.

When does the new athletics director start?
January 1, 2020. 

Why was the standard search process waived?
We appreciate everyone who participated in the search process. While our initial effort did not result in a successful candidate, the insights shared throughout the process were invaluable in determining that Thomas would be an excellent leader to take WSSU’s Department of Athletics to the next level. When Thomas expressed her interest in the position, we carefully weighed the opportunity to bring on board a leader of her caliber and opted to waive the standard recruitment process, as permitted by university and UNC System policy. WSSU Policy 102.8 Waiver of Recruitment for EHRA Faculty and Non-Faculty Positions allows for recruitment waivers for any position defined in UNC Policy 300.1.1 Section I.A as Tier I Senior Academic and Administrative Officers. The Chancellor may authorize a waiver for any position defined in UNC Policy 300.1.1 Section I.B Tier II Senior Academic and Administrative Officer, or any position defined in Policy 300.2.1 Instructional, Research, or Public Service. 

Will Interim Athletics Director George Knox remain at the university?
George Knox has done a phenomenal job leading the department since May 2018. During his time as interim athletics director, he has done amazing work to stabilize the department’s budget, raise funds for new uniforms, and increase ticket sales. Chancellor Robinson is deeply grateful for his service and is pleased that he intends to stay at the university in his role as associate athletic director for compliance.

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