Wilson the first female director of athletics at UMKC
Carla Wilson was formally introduced Monday as the director of athletics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City to a crowd of hundreds of well-wishers comprised of sports, civic and educational leaders; student athletes; and sports fans.
During the announcement event, Wilson and other speakers discussed the important role of college athletics in building leadership skills in individual student athletes, and strengthening bonds between a university and its home community.
“Our student athletes will be taught to win in three vital fields of play. They will win in the classroom; win in competition; and win in the community. When they become capable of winning consistently in all three areas, they will be prepared to win in the most important arena of all: Life,” Wilson said. “Our student athletes will mature immersed in an atmosphere of leadership and service. They will understand what it really means to win.”
Wilson is UMKC’s fourth Director of Athletics in the Division I era, the first-ever female director of athletics at UMKC and the only female athletics director in the Western Athletic Conference. She is one of the few minority women serving as an athletics director at the NCAA’s 351 Division I institutions. Currently, less than 9 percent of Division I athletics directors are women; less than 4 percent are minority women.
Wilson has held the position in an interim role for five months but has been a mainstay in the athletics department for the last 16 years, championing diversity, equality and Title IX. An active member of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators, Wilson has served on several committees and as a mentor and speaker, and was the NCAA Division I NACWAA Administrator of the Year in 2012.
Wilson said UMKC student athletes will focus their community service on young people in the Kansas City community, with an emphasis on the urban core.
“Carla is a nationally-recognized leader in college athletics, and was an easy and natural choice for this position,” said Leo E. Morton, Chancellor of UMKC. “While we are promoting from within, we are also choosing the best candidate for this important position. Carla has the experience, the dedication and the vision to be an exemplary leader.”
Featured guests at the event included Roshann Parris, chair of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce; UMKC alumnus Joe Seabrooks, President of Penn Valley Community College; UMKC alumna Annie Presley, Senior Policy Advisor at Bryan Cave, LLC; Patti Phillips, CEO of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators; Kathy Nelson, President and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission; UMKC alumna Sherri Wattenbarger, a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice; UMKC alumna Julie Wilson, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Cerner; and UMKC women’s basketball captain Eilise O’Connor.
“Carla Wilson is the 27th woman this year who has moved into a director, commissioner or other top leadership position in college athletics. That’s a really big deal,” Phillips said. “The ones who are doing it aren’t doing it because they are women. It’s because they are great leaders.”
O’Connor saluted Wilson as “a mentor to many and a resource to all” student athletes.
“It is because of people like Miss Carla, and her commitment to student athletes, that I wear ‘Kansas City’ across my chest with the utmost pride whenever I step on the court,” O’Connor said.
Carla Wilson took over as Interim Director of Athletics on July 1, 2013, and led the Athletics Department as it competed for the first time in the Western Athletic Conference. She oversaw an exciting fall 2013 season – women’s soccer competed for the first time in school history for a conference championship, placing second. Both men’s and women’s cross country placed third in the WAC Championships, with Courtney Frerichs advancing to the NCAA National Championship and earning an All-American designation. Volleyball and men’s soccer also advanced to the conference tournament.
In her role as athletics director, Wilson said she intends to lead the department with vision, integrity and transparency. The strategic plan for the athletics department will align with the mission of the University, and all members of the department will be involved in its development. Academic excellence, athletics excellence, campus and community engagement, and developing leaders will be paramount.
Prior to the AD appointment, Wilson served as the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Business and Administration and Senior Woman Administrator since 2007. Her leadership in the department has touched many facets – budget, human resources, facilities, sport administration and student-athlete welfare and development. She was directly responsible for the human resources and business operations of the department, as well as all day-to-day operations in the absence of the Director of Athletics, and served as a member of the Director of Athletics senior staff. Wilson was responsible for the preparation, development and maintenance of the budgets for all 16 sports and nine administrative areas of the department. She also served as the sport administrator for women’s basketball, men’s soccer, and men’s and women’s tennis.
Wilson has earned a reputation nationally as a respected and collaborative administrator. She currently serves on the NCAA Division I Softball Committee, serving as chair for 2013-14, and the NCAA Region V Post Graduate Scholarship Committee. Previously, Wilson has served on the Division I NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tennis Committee. A member of the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association (MOAA), Wilson serves on the Educational and Professional Development Committee and the Symposium Planning Committee. Wilson is also a frequent presenter at College Athletic Business Management Association (CABMA) Conventions, and serves on the Membership and Program committees for the organization. As a member of NACWAA, Wilson serves on the Nominating Committee, and most recently served on the Local Organizing Committee in a leadership role, as UMKC was a host institution for the 2012 NACWAA Convention held in Kansas City.
A 25-year career Kangaroo, Wilson spent 16 years in athletics, and previously as a budget specialist in the University’s administrative affairs office for four years, where she was responsible for assisting in the preparation of the University’s $159 million budget. From 1988-93, she also served in the accounting department as a senior accountant.
Wilson graduated from UMKC in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. She and her husband Kevin, who reside in Olathe, Kan., are parents to four adult children, Shae, Tristan, Kevin Jr., and Kaylan.