New London - Val Ackerman, founding WNBA president who was named commissioner of the new Big East Conference last June, was the keynote speaker at the Third annual Women's LeadHERship Symposium on Tuesday hosted by the Coast Guard Academy Athletic Department.
"Anytime there is an opportunity for women to gather and to hear about the experiences that other women have had in the sports business," Ackerman said, "and to hear what kinds of skills can make someone successful as they are looking to not only do their jobs well but to perhaps advance, anytime you have that opportunity it is time well spent."
The symposium included a field a prominent women in the field of intercollegiate athletics to gathered at Leahy Hall to discuss leadership and other relevent topics in athletic administration.
Ackerman addressed the crowd on a number of topics, including her journey through athletics, the role outgoing NBA commissioner Davd Stern played in making her career possible because of his leadership style, how good leaders take pride in the quality of their work and how good leaders "are decisive and intellectually curious with outstanding people skills."
"To be able to speak with people associated not only with a service academy, but others in this area was something that I didn't want to pass up," Ackerman added. "I'm privileged to be here and many of the women were nodding their heads at some of the things that I was saying, so my guess is there is commonality of experience and hopefully they took away some other messages.
Brittney Zimmerman, a junior point guard on the Coast Guard women's basketball teams, was among those who attended the day-long event.
"Being able to listen to Val Ackerman speak was an invaluable experience," Zimmerman said. "She talked about how she got to where she is today, and it's not always a straight path and there are obstacles. She told us about showing up and working hard to achieve our goals. To be surrounded today by women with similar backgrounds in athletics is both a great networking and learning experience."
In addition to her new role with the Big East and her past ties to the WNBA, Ackerman was past president of USA Basketball, which oversees the U.S. men's and women's Olympic basketball programs, and she currently serves as the U.S. representative for men's and women's basketball on the Central Board of the International Basketball Federation, the sport's world governing body. Ackerman attended the University of Virginia, where she was the first 1,000-point scorer in the women's basketball program.
Ackerman attended the University of Virginia as one of the school's first female student-athlete scholarship recipients. She was a two-time Academic All-American for the Cavaliers women's basketball team and the first 1,000-point scorer in the program's history.
"Today provided a wonderful opportunity to network with other leaders in collegiate athletics, learn about their experiences and exchange ideas that we can take back to our campuses," said Jeanne Carhart, assistant director of athletics at Brown.
Carhart participated in the symposium along with Susan Byrne, associate director of marketing and sales at Harvard; Debbie Corum, senior associate athletic director/SWA at UConn; Dana Harmon, director of physical education, recreation & athletics at WPI; Amy Huchthausen, commissioner of the America East Conference; and Mo White, director of athletics at Mitchell College. Alfreeda Goff, senior associate commissioner of the Horizon League, served as the moderator.