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Women Leaders Podcast


Jan 3, 2021

In this podcast, Patti Phillips is joined by Valerie Cleary, director of athletics at Portland State University

Val has somewhat of an underdog story that reminds young women that a career in sports is possible! A small, farm town girl from Northern California who never aspired to be an athletic director - Val used her undergrad experiences as a tour guide, orientation leader and sorority sister to find her passion for higher education, which led to a Masters in Counseling and Student Development, a degree she uses every single day.

While Val has spent many years in higher education, she was only in athletics for 1 year before being asked to serve as the interim AD, which says a lot about her skillset and leadership abilities. She has since been hired into two different athletic director roles and is thriving.

Find out she created her own “search firm” for hiring new coaches, developed her philosophy around what “fit” for a department really means, and how she makes sure everyone working under her has a voice in the process. Val also talks about how GIRL POWER is important in her life thanks to the “Big Sky (Conference) Strong Squad,” and why leading by example is so important- especially as we continue to care for our mental health in times of uncertainty.

Managing up in athletics, she shares, is crucial to success - and Val is no stranger to this skill as she has navigated not one, but THREE presidential transitions in just three years. Being a quiet observer, communicating goals, learning your supervisor’s learning style and getting to know your boss’s support team are some of the tricks she has learned along the way. There are nuances to her style, though, that are brilliant.

We hope you enjoy our conversation, and remember, we are Women Leaders!

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