Ed. Note: Torchbearers is a College AD series profiling female leaders in college athletics. Torchbearers is presented by SM2. SM2 is committed to positively impacting the culture of social networking users in athletics, SM2 provides the only foundational education programs customized for global sports brands.
Associate Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Deputy AD Candice Lee has been involved with Vanderbilt athletics since she enrolled as a student-athlete in 1998. Lee played basketball from 1998-2002 before beginning her career in athletics administration. In speaking with Lee, she brought up the importance of taking advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself.
On Her Journey
“I actually came to Vanderbilt to play basketball to be honest. That was actually the catalyst for me because I’ve been at Vanderbilt since that time. This is my 20th year if you include my time as a student athlete with my career. I was just really fortunate; I had a lot of support as a student-athlete. I took advantage of my time, but unfortunately I dealt with a series of injuries which actually turned out to be blessings. I was able to get my bachelor’s and master’s degrees and start on my doctorate by the time my eligibility was done.”
On Career Challenges
“I have tremendous respect for how athletics are run in our conference. Everyone is committed to student-athlete welfare, providing the right experience, and balancing academics and athletics. At Vanderbilt, we really emphasize integrating our student-athletes into the fabric of the university, and that is the motivation for many of the decisions that we make. We understand that we attract elite students and athletes, so we expect them to be committed to their studies and sport. We also understand that we’re a part of the institutional mission. At Vanderbilt every aspect is committed to excellence, so we expect the same of our student-athletes, but we want them to really integrate themselves into the core of campus.
“We encourage participation in student organizations, and we’ve gone out of our way under David William’s leadership to provide experiences similar to what their non-athlete peers are getting. So whether it’s the opportunity to study abroad in the summer, or complete international community service opportunities, or do an internship that has nothing to do with your sport that’s going to prepare you for ‘life after.’ We know that they’re competing in the classroom against people who are getting those experiences. We’ve been very innovative in how we address the whole student-athlete experience.”
On The Mentors Who’ve Guided Her
“As far as mentors go, I’ll start with my parents who always stressed academics, and I knew that basketball was a vehicle to get a great education. I was very serious about basketball and committed to it, but for education, it really opened a lot of doors for me. My parents really laid my academic foundation.
“I had a great support network starting with Jim Foster, the resources that the department provided which we continue to provide our student athletes. I started my doctorate in higher education administration and David Williams, who is currently our vice chancellor and director of athletics but at the time was a vice chancellor and general counsel, gave me my first job. At the time I worked with him in student affairs, but he also had me doing some academic advising for the basketball team. That’s really how I started in college athletics. I was really fortunate under his tutelage as well as a number of people both inside and out of college athletics who have been very helpful to me.“
On Advice For Aspiring Professionals
“In terms of advice: There are a lot of people who want to be in this profession, and the advice I always give them is ‘You have to be really good at the job that you have. Bust your butt at the job that you have, and if you are going about it the right way and working hard then you’ll be acknowledged for it.’
“People always talk about the importance of networking, and I would never take away from that. You can’t do everything by yourself, and you need support. It’s really important to do the job that you have, and then you’ll be presented with the next job. Work ethic and really digging in where you are is important. I was in the right place at the right time and followed the advice I just gave, and was fortunate enough to be provided opportunities at Vanderbilt. Here we are 20 years later serving as the Associate vice chancellor and deputy athletic director and SWA.”