Leading by Example: Ponsetto a leader at DePaul, in female sports community
Published: Monday, May 14, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
DePaul Athletics Director Jean Lenti-Ponsetto has played a large role in the university’s intercollegiate athletic department, dating back to her years of success as a student athlete more than 30 years ago. Since then, Ponsetto has changed the school’s athletic dynamic, creating more opportunities for students to compete at the varsity level.
Last week, Ponsetto won the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) Title IX Trailblazer Tribute contest and a $9,000 gift. The NACWAA recognizes women collegiate administrators who have been vital to their respective institutions, inviting athletics departments, conference offices and organizations across the nation to nominate and celebrate individuals who have made significant contributions in the area of gender equity. Of the twenty-five videos submitted to the NACWAA YouTube channel, the video paying tribute to Ponsetto garnered the most views.
Ponsetto sat down with the DePaulia recently to discuss her journey as an athletics director and an influential individual in college sports.
The DePaulia: What does Title IX mean to you?
Ponsetto: I am very grateful [for it]. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the foresight that the lawmakers had in 1972. They put this law in the Civil Rights Act and it forever changed the culture of women’s sports, and for that I’m really grateful. It allowed me to have an opportunity to receive a scholarship to help fund my education at a fabulous institution. I was certainly given lots of guidance and support from faculty and was able to develop my leadership skills.
DP: You’re considered on the most prominent athletic directors in college sports. You’ve made a difference in DePaul’s athletic program as well as in the community. What has the journey been like?
Ponsetto: The journey has been really exciting. It’s been filled with a lot of positive results. I was happy to be at a place like DePaul that values diversity and inclusiveness. My time from when I was a student athlete to the time I became Athletic Director was filled with very gratifying experiences. I’ve been able to watch the growth and development of not only DePaul’s women’s program, but of DePaul’s men’s program. I’ve been here for a lot of the high points of our athletic history over the last 30 plus years. It’s been a great journey, one that I’m very appreciative of.
DP: What impact has Title IX had to sports today?
Ponsetto: I’m really appreciative of the fact that one of the unintended consequences of Title IX is that is has helped improve the quality of experience of men’s student athletes. Prior to 1972, most people would have expected college basketball and college football for men to be treated well in the university environment. And other men’s sports that were not revenue producing like golf and tennis had their lives turned upside down for the better when Title IX passed. When athletic directors recognized they were going to make the new commitment to women’s sports by providing scholarships, equipment and facilities, many felt they couldn’t elevate the women’s program without doing the same for many of the other men’s sports. A great benefit was not only had by the women’s student athletes during those early years and all the way up until today, but certainly by a lot of men’s programs as well. So I think Title IX has benefited a good portion of the intercollegiate athletic culture.
DP: How do you see the future of women in sports?
Ponsetto: I would certainly like for women to have numerous opportunities at the elementary school and high school level as well as in recreation programs and in intercollegiate athletics. I would also like to see more women in managerial positions at the professional level.