Posted by Sara Meers on January 10, 2013
Aurora University officials today announced that James Hamad, currently Associate Director of Athletics for Student Development at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., has been named its new Athletic Director. Hamad will join the university in late February.
Hamad has held a number of leadership posts for Division I collegiate athletics over the past decade, including positions at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Akron, directing initiatives that improve student performance in the classroom and on the playing field. At Pepperdine, he revamped the academic support system for the athletics program, which has led to the highest graduation success rate among southern California Division I institutions, and has been part of an athletics administration that won 17 conference championships.
Hamad received a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University and a master’s degree from the University of Akron. He succeeds Mark Walsh, who retired this summer and was granted the status of Athletic Director Emeritus.
Hamad recently took a few moments to share his experiences and offer his thoughts on his new role.
After working with several Division I universities, what brings you to Aurora University, a Division III competitor?
I was attracted to Aurora University because of the opportunity to work at a respected academic institution with competitive athletics, regardless of the level. It is appealing to take over as the Athletic Director because there is such a strong foundation in the athletic department to build upon. Additionally, with a background in student development, I have always been impressed with the emphasis Division III schools place on developing complete student-athletes. Personally, I also competed at the Division III level, and I have been interested in working at that level since I started in college athletics.
What is your vision for Aurora University Athletics? What is the first project you plan to undertake?
As the Athletics Director, it is crucial for me to empower coaches, ensure resources are available for programs to accomplish goals, and create an environment of success. This will set the tone for recruiting, graduating students, and winning championships. There are a few projects I am eager to start to further promote this vision and upgrading the athletic facilities is at the top of the list.
It is important to you that student-athletes succeed academically. Why is it imperative that athletes have strong support systems so that they can succeed in the classroom and on the playing field?
Most people do not realize the demands that are placed on student-athletes. With practice, workouts, competitions and travel, a strong support system of coaches and administrators is imperative. Everything from tutoring to study skills and time management techniques need to be readily available to assist students. I have a background in successfully working with student-athletes and am confident that I can provide Aurora’s athletes with the support to excel academically.
How will your experience benefit Aurora University’s athletic programs?
I am fortunate to have worked in a variety of roles within dynamic athletic departments, which has given me a well-rounded perspective. This allows me to step into my new role with fresh ideas that will be a benefit to AU Athletics. I have also been involved with a diverse range of institutions, and I understand the issues that are common in collegiate athletics. Being able to draw from previous experiences is important in determining how to bring about change and accomplish the goals of AU.
How do you plan to further engage students across campus and continue to build support for our athletic programs?
It is important for AU Athletics to promote the personal and professional development of students. There will be a push to get students to attend events and to create a pleasurable environment, but engaging students goes much further than just attending contests. Duties within the department and employment opportunities are ideal ways for students to truly feel involved in athletics and build campus support. As I spend time at AU I will better understand the best techniques to create student involvement.
What are you most looking forward to at Aurora University?
I am most excited about starting the next chapter of AU Athletics. There is a strong foundation of success and I’m humbled to be able to take this great school to new heights. I spent several days on campus and immediately felt a connection to the administration, coaches and the community as a whole. I am thrilled to be able to work with these people to graduate excellent students and win championships.