Director of Athletics, American International College: Age 35
Jessica Chapin was a decorated collegiate athlete. In 2010 alone, she was named the University Athletic Assoc. Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, the Brandeis University Female Athlete of the Year, and a State Farm Women’s Basketball All-American; in 2018, she became a New York State Section 5 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
And then she went to law school, aiming to be an attorney.
But while coaching basketball during that time, she had a realization: that her passion was really in athletics. So, she changed course, enrolled in Springfield College, where she earned a master’s degree in Athletic Administration, and eventually found herself running the Athletics Department at American International College (AIC).
There, Chapin provides leadership for a department of 25 intercollegiate and four club sports, overseeing nearly 45 full-time coaches and another 20 staff members and more than 650 student athletes. She’s responsible for the strategic direction, administration, and supervision of all phases of athletics, including budget management, alumni engagement, fundraising, marketing, enrollment management, personnel management, long-term vision and strategic planning, crisis management and discipline, Title IX and gender equity, facilities, and more.
“Athletics was something I missed, something that was the foundation of my life,” she said of her decision to leave law school, and she’s gratified when student-athletes at AIC make similar journeys of self-discovery. “I love seeing a light go off in the minds of young adults who often come to college not necessarily knowing what they want to do, being able to work with them, seeing the struggles, but then seeing them come out on the other side.”
Chapin also serves with the NCAA on its Division II Management Council, the highest appointment in the organization’s governance structure outside of the President’s Council. In that role, she’s an active participant in the division’s decision making.
She’s also a believer in the value of the athletic experience as a character-building exercise, saying student-athletes possess qualities many others do not, which can serve them well over a lifetime in whatever career they choose.
“It’s definitely gratifying to be a part of all this,” she said. “Sports generally teaches us things that we don’t get to experience otherwise: being on a team, the importance of teamwork, of collaboration, so many things. I feel like, when students are taught by coaches, they learn lessons they might not learn any other way.”