Mark Bennett, a 2016 alumnus, was selected by the NCAA as one of 17 minority athletics administrators in the country to participate in the annual Dr. Charles Whitcomb Leadership Institute from July 15-22 in New Orleans.
According to the NCAA, the institute provided programming to enhance participants' leadership skills and accelerate their professional growth.
Those in the first year of the institute’s two-year program engaged with a variety of subject matter experts to learn about the challenges of minority leadership in college athletics, student-athlete welfare issues, strategic planning, budget management, fundraising, compliance, human resources, and performance management.
Participants had the opportunity to explore the internal workings of an athletics department with a visit to Tulane University, where they toured the facilities and actively engaged athletics department staff members in discussions of campus culture, organizational structures, and communications best practices.
“I really enjoyed learning with and from the people in my cohort,” said Bennett. “One of the benefits of the institute is that is allows you to do a deep dive into yourself and come away with clarification of your values, awareness of your strengths, and opportunities to address your challenges.”
Bennett currently serves as an assistant athletic director for compliance and internal relations at Lincoln University. He holds a master’s degree in sport business from Neumann and a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Eastern University.
He said that he was able to implement some of the ideas he learned at the institute during his first week back on campus.
“It was definitely a transformational experience for me,” he concluded. “The NCAA leadership development team did an amazing job and was intentional about presenting information that would prepare us for the rest of our careers.”
The NCAA, assisted by alumni of the institute, selected applicants who met several qualifications: three years of administrative and/or coaching experience in college athletics; service in a mid- to senior-level leadership capacity; experience with staff supervision, sport oversight, or budget management; and the ability to advise unit leaders and/or executive staff.
On its website, the institute reports that more than 400 administrators have graduated from the leadership institute since it started in 2002, and more than 60% of those have gone on to hold senior leadership positions in college athletics.
The institute is named in honor of Dr. Charles Whitcomb, who worked at San Jose State University for 40 years and was a founding member of the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association. Whitcomb was the chair of the first NCAA committee to push for programs designed specifically to create opportunities for ethnic minorities in college athletics. He also served terms on the NCAA Management Council and on numerous NCAA policy committees.