Kinesiology, MA Alumni Profiles
To celebrate the Graduate Kinesiology Program's 40th anniversary, 40 alumni share how Saint Mary's helped shape their careers.
Since the program's start, students have pursued a variety of career paths from coaching basketball at Diablo Valley College (Steve Coccimiglio MA ’89) to founding UrbanPlay, a nonprofit teaching kids about fitness (Miwa Natsuki MA ’13). Featured Alumni followed by a list of 40 notable alumni.
Continue reading below for stories from four decades of alumni.
President and Executive Director of UrbanPlay
The graduate kinesiology program gave Natsuki the flexibility to work full-time and allowed her to tailor the curriculum to her interests.
"There are so many paths you can take and different directions you can go in this field. Be open to various opportunities."
Program Coordinator of the UNLV PGA Golf Management University Program
The graduate kinesiology program helped him learn to work in stressful situations and with people from different backgrounds.
“Do not be afraid to take risks and also chase every single dream.”
Chloe Janfaza MA ’16 has been a part of the sports for all her life. In her previous positions, Janfaza focused on the logistical side of guest services for the Oakland Athletics, responding to and resolving customer complaints, and also acted as an event representative on game days. She also worked part-time in Football Game Day Operations for UC Berkeley’s Athletic Department and in Arena Operations for the Golden State Warriors. Janfaza credits the graduate kinesiology program for exposing her to different ways of thinking, managing, planning, communicating, and executing, in addition to teaching her the important academic principles she uses daily. Her advice? Expose yourself to anything and everything you can. She says, “Your path is 100 percent what you make of it. SMC provides a well-rounded curriculum so that students can enter the field of study with a large skill set and a high level of exposure.”
Shane Connolly MA ’16, strength and conditioning coach for the National Basketball Association in China, is no stranger to hard work. Connolly took an unconventional road to his current position in the NBA, quitting his job and driving across the country, networking and working camps, before he landed an internship at UC Berkeley, in addition to earning his certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS). After Cal, Connolly began the graduate kinesiology program at Saint Mary’s and worked as a volunteer strength coach for the SMC Gaels before becoming a co-director of the strength and conditioning program, a position he held for three and a half years before moving to the NBA. Now he teaches Chinese basketball coaches a basketball-specific philosophy and approach to physical training and nutrition, as well as evaluates players’ potential to play at a higher level. He credits the graduate kinesiology program for helping him refine his coaching philosophy. His advice? Show up and ask questions. Connolly says, “It seems simple and funny, but ask the hard questions because ‘no’ doesn’t mean you’re wrong or it was a bad idea. All it means is at that time, someone doesn’t think it’s the right idea.”
Galen Johnson MA ’15, director of youth development at the North Ward Center, provides programming and opportunities year round for more than 3,200 children. At the North Ward Center, Johnson also serves as the president of Little League Association, has created a new cheer program to try to increase female participation, and wants to start a cross country and track program. Johnson credits the graduate kinesiology program for helping him define what he wanted to do with his life. The relationships he developed with professors before he began the program was the biggest selling point and what made him really want to come to Saint Mary’s. Johnson especially enjoyed directly applying his coursework to his experiences and goals outside the classroom. His advice? Build connections. He says, “It is important to build connections and put yourself out there.”
Kate O’Neill MA ’14, assistant director of marketing and communication for Campus Recreation at Georgia Tech, is in charge of the department’s social media, marketing strategies for all campus recreation activities, and public and media relations, in addition to campus and external relations. As a former swimmer, the highlight of her career was hosting the 2016 Swimming & Diving Olympic Team this past summer, as they trained for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the Georgia Tech Campus Recreation facility. O’Neill credits each graduate kinesiology class for helping her daily with her current position. The law and external relations courses she took were particularly helpful as she works with branding and risk management every day. Her advice? Try new things. She says, “Take different classes that don’t necessarily fit your career goals—you’ll be surprised with where it may take you.”
Miwa Natsuki MA ’13, president and executive director of UrbanPlay, empowers youth to be active players in creating a healthier future by partnering with schools, after-school programs, and youth organizations throughout the Bay Area. UrbanPlay aims to promote healthy choices and active lifestyles by combining play and education. The graduate kinesiology program gave Natsuki the flexibility to work full-time and allowed her to tailor the curriculum to her interests. It also gave her the confidence of having a degree and the chance to continue being a life-long learner. Her advice? Don’t limit yourself. She says, “There isn’t a clear career path. There are so many paths you can take and different directions you can go in this field. Be open to various opportunities. Learn what you like and what you don’t like. As you go through the whole process, don’t lose the reason why you started.”
Marcus Schroeder MA ’13, assistant men’s basketball coach at Saint Mary’s College, got a head start on his Lasallian education, at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif. After Schroeder graduated from Princeton University, he worked his way up the SMC basketball sidelines. He began as director of basketball operations and now helps with player development, game strategies, recruiting, and camps as a full-time assistant coach. Schroeder chose the graduate kinesiology program for the relationships he formed with students and with the teachers. He believes there are a lot of good people in the program and the community, who want to see everyone succeed. His advice? Be passionate. Schroeder says, “Be passionate about your work and you will really enjoy life.”
Carli Wittman MA ’12, executive assistant for Chase Center Arena (currently under construction in San Francisco), spends her time preparing for the building’s opening by scheduling meetings, booking tours, and staying ahead of schedule. Wittman also spent three and half years with NBC Sports Bay Area as an executive assistant to the president and general manager. Following her completion of the graduate kinesiology program, she worked as an intern for the San Francisco Giants during their 2012 World Series Championship season. Wittman credits the program with pushing her to build relationships and expand her networking circle. Her advice? Network. She says, “Meet with as many people you can, do informational interviews, keep in touch with your connections. People can have a huge influence on your career path and you never know what short 30-minute meeting can lead you to big things. Put in the time—it definitely pays off.”
Richard Wooten MA ’11, physical health and wellness specialist at the Wounded Warrior Project, has worked in many different aspects of sport from recreational fitness, to working at the fitness center at NASA, to now with wounded military members. Wooten currently teaches online health education courses, develops monthly workout challenges, in addition to managing a 90-day coaching program where wounded warriors come from all over the country for a three-day seminar and are then sent back home with the equipment they need to work out on their own. Wooten chose the graduate kinesiology program for its inclusive community and after a meeting with former program director, Professor Bill Manning, said it just felt right. He believes every interaction matters and every interaction can turn into a relationship—you never know how you can help that person. His advice? Focus on the process. He says, “Take pride in the process, understanding that hard work will get to the results.”
Kendall Murphy MA ’10, program coordinator of the UNLV PGA Golf Management University Program, has made some big swings in the golf world. A former assistant coach for the Saint Mary’s golf team, Murphy moved to Florida to work at the PGA of America headquarters as a financial planner. In his current role at UNLV, Murphy oversees in-classroom instruction, recruiting, and community development. Murphy has also served on many boards, including as the secretary of the Las Vegas PGA chapter. Murphy chose the graduate kinesiology program because of former program director, Professor Bill Manning’s strong passion for the program and that he could complete it at an accelerated pace. The program helped him learn to work in stressful situations and with people from different backgrounds. His advice? Don’t be afraid to trail blaze and follow your passion. Murphy says, “Do not be afraid to take risks and also chase every single dream.”
Sarah Kolstad Prudencio MA ’10, BaySport Fitness program manager for Visa, manages the health and fitness program at eight of Visa’s U.S. sites where she runs everything from group exercise classes to weight loss programs. When Prudencio started working at Visa, there were only seven group exercise classes per week offered at their headquarters in Foster City, Calif.—now there are 33 classes offered weekly. She chose the graduate kinesiology program because of the small class sizes. The program helped her with time management as well as getting and staying organized. Her advice? Work hard. She says, “You really have to work hard and put your mind to what you want to do and work for that, and just know that something will come across your plate.”
Ivan Kepčija MA ’09, academy assistant director at the Dinamo Zagreb Academy in Croatia, works at one of the world’s best youth soccer academies where he works with over 230 athletes in addition to managing coaches and scouting players. Kepčija also works as an assistant coach for the Under 19 Men's Croatian National Team. Kepčija is also a guest lecturer for the master course in football management at Real Madrid University and co-wrote the Croatian Federation’s national curriculum. Kepčija credits the graduate kinesiology program for having an “all-encompassing and welcoming degree” that helped him shift careers and gave him a broader picture of working in sports. He uses the program's wide spectrum of skills and applies them to his everyday job. His advice? Do what you enjoy. Kepčija says, “That is what gives you the drive to do it for a long time. Work relentlessly and find ways to improve your skill set, open your mind, and put yourself in a position to network and open doors to opportunity. It is cool to look back and think that a 250-page book was first drafted as a 20-page project with Professor Derek Marks at Saint Mary's nine years ago.”
Kelly Clark MA ’09, associate adjunct professor and wellness coach, got an early start in her career when she was offered a job a UC Berkeley as a strength and conditioning coach at age 24. At Cal, Clark worked with college, professional, and Olympic athletes, before taking her strength and conditioning talents to Stanford where she helped the women's basketball team advance to the Final Four. Clark left Stanford to complete her master’s degree in kinesiology at Saint Mary’s, while working as the assistant director of strength and conditioning, teaching undergraduate activity courses, and running the SMC strength and conditioning internship program. Currently, Clark owns a personal training business in addition to teaching as an adjunct professor at three San Diego community colleges. For Clark, the graduate kinesiology program was a good match, a fast-tracked program that fit well with her job and family. Her advice? Always continue to educate and learn. She says, “Just because you’ve finished school doesn’t mean you can’t learn.”
Tom Carroll '04, MA ’07, major gift officer for Athletics at Saint Mary’s College, always knew he wanted to work in Division I athletics. In his current position, Carroll helps raise money for SMC athletics and has been working in the athletic development field for over 10 years. Carroll credits the graduate kinesiology program for enhancing his communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. He also appreciated being able to tailor the program to his interests in marketing, sales, and revenue. This advice from Professor Mark Nagel MA '97 has stuck with him: “Always stay on the revenue side of athletics. That way you can always justify your position and your success.” His advice? Do anything you can. Carroll says, "I volunteered and served as an intern for approximately two years in the Athletic Department and even wore the Gael mascot costume on a couple of different occasions."
Monica Roseberry MA ‘06, speaker/author/peak performance coach, has been a part of the massage therapy field for over 30 years. As a speaker and writer she focuses on stress management and energy psychology, commonly referred to as “tapping.” Currently writing Beyond the Bubble Bath: A Woman’s Guide to Stress Relief that Really Works, she has written multiple books and sold over a half-million copies in eight different languages. She also taught sports massage to thousands of students, and has performed professional sports massage with the Golden State Warriors and Olympic swimmers. The graduate kinesiology program was invaluable to her in understanding the sport industry, including research, liability, marketing, and philosophy. Her advice? Think outside the box for how what you learn can inform your path personally and professionally. Roseberry says, “As a performance coach, my classes had me think a lot about play, game, and sport, and how the human race seeks out or creates obstacles to overcome just to see what we are capable of.”
Damon Dukakis MA ’05, general sales manager for IMG College (UCLA/Rose Bowl), has worked at nearly every level of athletics, from high school athletic director, to director of athletics in marketing at Sacramento State, to now IMG College. Today, Dukakis works for the nation’s largest collegiate sports marketing company where he oversees marketing and sponsorships related to UCLA athletics. Dukakis chose the graduate kinesiology program for its flexibility and his original passion to become a college-level athletic director. His advice? Understand how important it is to network. He says “Learn how to communicate effectively and network with others. Once you get the education, it is so important to network and make connections in order to succeed in the company/organization you choose to work for.”
Erin Niemeyer MA ’04, recreation supervisor at Redwood City Parks, Recreation & Community Services Department, has gradually moved up from a recreation leader, to facility leader, to program coordinator, and now to supervisor. In her current position, Niemeyer is in charge of the Health and Wellness Division where she oversees after school programs with more than 3,000 children and supervises three full-time staff, over 20 part-time staff, and 150 volunteers and coaches. Her goal is to create a safe and engaging place for youth to engage in after school programming and believes every child should have an opportunity to play and explore. The graduate kinesiology program provided Niemeyer with resources, a solid foundation, and opened doors that helped her continually want to learn. Her advice? Try to do as many things as you can. Niemeyer says, “Learn as many things as possible. The more you learn, the more marketable you are. Combine real world experience with your education.”
Eduardo Nuño MA ’04, professor and associate head football coach at City College of San Francisco, has always had a passion for coaching. He joined the football coaching staff at City College in 1993 and has helped the team win eight national championships. But his biggest accomplishment comes from helping student-athletes fulfill their dreams of playing collegiate football. In the past seven years, Nuño has helped 22 offensive linemen transfer to a Division I school. Nuño credits the graduate kinesiology program for giving him a great grasp of the basics and the skills to stay current in the field, continually improve his methodology, and fully develop his philosophy. His advice? Don’t forget how important human connection is to the field. Nuño says, “Make sure you always look at the big picture and do what’s best for all involved.”
Valerie Fleming MA ’03, program manager for G-Force Bobsledding/Skeleton Development in Park City, Utah, turned her love for bobsledding into a career by working at Velocity Sports while attending the graduate kinesiology program. Originally a javelin thrower, Fleming could not compete at the Olympics because of injuries so she decided to try out for the Olympic bobsledding team instead. Not only did Fleming make the team, she competed for nine years and won a silver medal in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. She chose the graduate kinesiology program because the class schedule fit well with her work and training schedule. Fleming applied what she learned in the program to her nine-year bobsledding career, where knowing about proper body strength and conditioning measures was crucial. Her advice? Apply what you learn and be prepared. Fleming says, “As an athlete, it is important to be prepared and the graduate program offered just what I needed in order to compete at a high level.”
Mark Papadopoulos MA ‘00, associate director of athletics for operations at Saint Mary’s College, has worked his way through nearly every level of sport from Division I, Division II, junior college, Major League Baseball (Oakland A’s), as well as the West Coast Conference. One of his career highlights was working as the tournament director of the 2006 Sweet 16 at Oracle Arena. In his current role, he mentors undergraduate and graduate students considering working in the world of sport. Papadopoulos says the greatest benefit of a career in sport is that you can still be involved with athletics, without being in the game. The graduate kinesiology program allowed him to open his mind and taught him to always look at topics from different angles. His advice? Just go for it. Papadopoulos says, “If you want to do something, go for it, so that 10 years down the road you won’t have what-if’s. Lay it on the line, have no regrets.”
Stephanie Shrieve-Hawkins (Shrieve) MA ‘00, associate athletic director for compliance at Saint Mary’s College, has held multiple positions in Division I college athletics for over 20 years including coaching, fundraising, senior administration, and serving on NCAA committees. Shrieve is an advocate for helping student-athletes with their eligibility and overall collegiate experience. She takes pride in helping those she works with navigate through challenges and decisions. Mostly, Shrieve values the relationships she’s built throughout her career. Shrieve’s brother, Zachary MA ’99, was a student in the graduate kinesiology program first and inspired her to join the program. Shrieve credits the program with helping her become a better writer, a skill she uses in her job every day as a compliance officer, drafting waivers for player eligibility. Her advice? Choose positions that allow you to do more than you’re ready for. She says, “Take that leap and do something that you don’t even think you’re prepared for. If someone is giving you that opportunity, then you are ready. Take it!”
Keith Spataro MA ’99, director of athletics at Menlo College, is a man of many talents. In his current position as AD, Spataro’s primary focus is mentoring young coaches, helping them develop their philosophy and strategic plan. He takes pride in being a change agent for student-athletes. Spataro was the first head coach of Menlo’s wrestling team, building the program from the ground up. He wanted to be an effective coach and use that experience to be a good administrator. The graduate kinesiology program changed Spataro’s goals and made him think about approaching athletics more holistically. His advice? Take some time to figure out what you want your life to look like. He says, “Be really specific about what you want your graduate education to look like. Pursue a degree that’s largely impactful and helps you define your career path.”
Dave Biles MA ’99, EdD '07, former physical education teacher at John Swett Elementary School in Martinez, Calif., created an award-winning physical education program that helps students academically and physically. Biles worked in elementary education for 28 years before retiring. Today, Biles works as a college supervisor for student teachers at Saint Mary’s College, teaches activity and education courses at the collegiate level, and is the founder of Integrated Perceptual Motor (IPM), a program designed to improve children’s cognitive function. Biles was the first of seven children to graduate with a college degree and earned his doctorate in education in 2007. Biles, who chose the graduate kinesiology program to learn and grow in physical education, appreciated the practical and real-world applications of the curriculum. His advice? Be a lifelong learner. Biles says, “Every year there is something new coming out and we need to stay abreast of that. It is important to research, read, and question things in order to learn and stay on top of everything.”
Jill Malko MA ’98, senior director of leadership gifts at UC Berkeley, has been a part of a lot of firsts. Malko fell in love with coaching lacrosse and was part of the coaching staff for the first club women’s lacrosse team at Saint Mary’s College. After four years at SMC, Malko started the varsity women’s lacrosse program at UC Berkeley and was at the helm for nine years. Malko enjoyed the flexibility of the graduate kinesiology program and being able to focus on her areas of interest. Malko’s biggest takeaway from the program was developing her philosophy and values. Her advice? Build a network and take advantage of the high-end opportunities in the Bay Area. She says, "Take advantage of the flexibility of the program which allows you to follow your passion. There are not many programs out there that allow you to do that.”
Mark Nagel MA ’97, professor in the Department of Sport & Entertainment Management at the University of South Carolina (USC), has worked in a variety of sport management and teaching positions throughout his career, including as an adjunct professor at Saint Mary’s College since 2001. Since completing the graduate kinesiology program, Nagel earned his doctorate in sport management and has since published extensively, including coauthoring seven sport management books. The graduate kinesiology program helped Nagel better understand different challenges within the industry and the diverse perspectives that many have regarding addressing those issues. His advice? Understand and apply business principles regardless of the position. He says, “Even for people who pursue strength and conditioning, athletic training or some other ‘science-based’ aspect of our industry, as they are promoted they will be asked to balance budgets, hire, train and supervise employees, interface with the media, and generate revenue. The more a student knows about the business of sport the greater their ability to get a job and be promoted.”
Neda Barrie MA ’97, senior vice president at Allison + Partners Global Agency and sport administration/marketing professor at Arizona State University, has spent most of her career working her way to the top of the National Basketball Association (NBA). From director of communication with the Phoenix Mercury to senior community relations manager for the NBA, to becoming the senior executive vice president of business operations at the Golden State Warriors, Barrie has done it all. In her current position, Barrie helps organizations develop their strategic plan, marketing plan, brand positioning and messaging, in addition to digital and social media. The graduate kinesiology program gave her the experience to be successful in her career. Her advice? No shortcuts. Barrie says, “The thing with the NBA is, you work in a bubble, in a high-profile and fast-paced environment where the margin of error is small. One mistake impacts team and players, so the attention to detail is vital.”
Jennifer Smith MA ’96, dance director at Korematsu Middle School in El Cerrito, Calif., has been a part of creating dance programs and curriculum everywhere she’s taught, from middle schools to high schools and colleges, as well as community centers and private studios. In her current position, Smith creates and teaches dance curriculum to five different middle school classes. Before Korematsu, Smith taught undergraduate dance and Pilates classes at Saint Mary’s College and helped create and teach the dance science curriculum. She also helped create the MFA in Dance program at Saint Mary’s and all the processes and procedures that go along with running a graduate program. Smith chose the graduate kinesiology program for its flexibility, as it allowed her to keep her full-time job and gave her the chance to expand her teaching opportunities, including teaching at the collegiate level. Smith appreciated the program’s small class sizes, the ability to interact with her professors, and the breadth of information included in the program. Her advice? Enjoy the experience while you’re in it. Smith says, “You get out of it what you put into it. If there’s something that really interests you, go the extra step.”
Tim Harrison MA ’95, dean of Athletics, Health, and Kinesiology at Ventura College, has a plethora of experience from coach, to athletic director, to now dean. His career highlights consist of his 15-year career at Diablo Valley College and other positions, including head basketball coach for Colorado School of Mines, athletic director at Oxnard College, assistant basketball coach at Saint Mary’s College, and his current role overseeing athletics, kinesiology, health, performing arts, and off-campus programs. Over 10 years, Harrison had an impressive combination of 35 conference championships and four state championships between coaching a variety of sports. Harrison applauds the graduate kinesiology program for preparing him in key areas like writing, researching, and networking along with the flexibility to gain work experience while also obtaining his master’s. His advice? Spend quality time researching. Harrison says, “Be up to date on the latest research, technology, and writing skills in the field.”
Ralph DePew MA ’93, former professor in the Kinesiology, Athletics and Dance Department at Diablo Valley College (DVC), recently retired after spending 34 years in public education in different roles ranging from coaching football, chairing the department, and teaching full-time. While winning championships at DVC, and helping players earn athletic scholarships to four-year institutions, DePew also took the football team to three bowl games and won several coach's awards. DePew chose the graduate kinesiology program for its excellent reputation and rigor and because community college positions often require a master's degree. His advice? Follow your dreams and don’t be discouraged when faced with disappointment or adversity. DePew says, “I really enjoyed the relationships I developed with both faculty and my classmates.”
Suzanne Cordes MA ’93, coach and owner of In Training, started in the health and fitness industry in 1982, in the field of personal training, long before it was trendy. Since receiving her master's degree, Cordes has taken on many roles. Cordes began coaching clients in her 400-square-foot training room built off the side of her home before eventually moving to a larger facility in San Ramon where she now hosts unique group cycling and running programs. Cordes taught at Diablo Valley College part time for over 20 years and was also the coach for the Nike Women's Marathon training program in San Francisco and Danville. Cordes credits the graduate kinesiology program as the foundation of her business success. Her advice? Be passionate about your career choice. She says, "In the health and fitness industry it's about assisting others. Ensure their safety, support their challenges, and celebrate their successes no matter how small."
Lisa Ward ‘86, MA ’90, co-director of education for Maddie's Fund, worked for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District for 30 years. Ward started out as a teacher while simultaneously coaching women’s basketball at Saint Mary's College and spent several years as an assistant principal and principal. One of Ward’s career highlights was building a middle school, where she oversaw everything from the design of the physical structure to establishing a strong community. Ward chose the graduate kinesiology program because she was coaching at SMC at the time, and the program aligned with her health, physical education and recreation major, and sport focus. The graduate kinesiology program was beneficial because it pushed her to become a deep thinker. Her advice? Explore all your options. She says “You have to have your education behind you to do what you need to do, especially if going into academia.”
Bob Ladouceur MA ’89, former high school football coach at De La Salle High School, is famously known for leading the Spartans football team to 12 consecutive undefeated seasons (1992-2003) and setting a national winning streak record for high school football with 151 consecutive wins. At age 24, Ladouceur started teaching religion at De La Salle and became the head coach of the football team, which had never had a winning season. He currently holds the all-time wins record in California high school football and was the subject of the film, When the Game Stands Tall. Ladouceur also coached some successful NFL players, including Maurice Jones-Drew, T.J. Ward, and Jackie Bates. Ladouceur decided to pursue the graduate kinesiology program at Saint Mary’s College so he could coach at the junior college or college football level. His advice? Learn how to learn—it empowers you to move forward and tackle situations along with preparation for the academic world in so many ways. Ladouceur says, “You have to be happy with what you are doing, and make sure that you are doing it for you.”
Berta Tintore ’85, MA ’89, general secretary of the Centenary Tennis Clubs Association, was born in Barcelona with a passion for tennis. She currently runs the International Tennis Club of Spain in addition to being a member of the Council of International Clubs. Tintore was in charge of purchasing sports materials for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona while working closely with leading figures from 28 different sports. As a tennis player herself, Tintore represented Spain on several occasions and was also a student-athlete at Saint Mary’s as an undergraduate. Tintore complimented the program for helping her fully appreciate the different steps required to move a project forward. Her advice? Pursue fieldwork in the areas where you plan to specialize. Tintore says, “I strongly believe that professional expertise requires a strong practical dimension, the combination of theory and practice.”
Tony Dorado MA ’89, national manager for high school basketball at Nike, has been with Nike since 1995 and is in charge of sponsorships relating to high school basketball nationwide. Dorado works with signing and servicing the top high school teams in the country for Nike, in addition to completing sport marketing duties. A Bay Area native, Dorado was also the head basketball coach for Moreau Catholic High School from 1984 to 1991 and La Salle High School from 1991 to 1995. Dorado chose the graduate kinesiology program because he knew that obtaining his master’s was vital to coach at a collegiate level. His advice? Build relationships, especially with professors and classmates. Dorado says, “The best part about the graduate program was the relatable material and information that can actually be used in future jobs, along with the connections that you form.”
Marty Storti '85, MA ’89, senior associate director of Athletics for administration at Saint Mary’s College, has a foundation of work experience that stemmed from coaching and helped him advance to his current position. He currently oversees several athletic department programs, including campus recreation, strength and conditioning, sport medicine, and athletic camps. Storti helps provide the programs’ strategic plan and vision, while being realistic about resources. He knew he needed to continue his education to advance in his career and had a positive impression of the graduate kinesiology program. His advice? Experience different things. Storti says, “Athletics is a very dynamic space and has multiple columns. Experience is the best way to figure out where you fit best.”
Steve Coccimiglio MA ’89, head men’s basketball coach at Diablo Valley College for 28 years, started his successful head-coaching career at DVC and recently became the third coach in state history to win 600 games. Coccimiglio also served on the California Community College Men’s Basketball Coaches Association executive board for 23 years and was inducted into the association's Hall of Fame in March 2017. Before DVC, Coccimiglio was a volunteer assistant men’s basketball coach at Saint Mary’s College from 1986-1989 and a teacher at De La Salle High School. Coccimiglio believes the graduate kinesiology program thoroughly prepared him for his career and recognizes Professors Craig Johnson and Shari Otto as key contributors to his SMC education. Coccimiglio also says the flexibility of the program and the alumni network made the graduate program an easy choice. His advice? Acquire knowledge. He says “In order to succeed in this field, you need to learn how to deal with adversity and failure."
Marco Azurdia MA ’88, executive director at the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), is responsible for overseeing operations of championship events, compliance and eligibility, special programs, fundraising, the day-to-day operations of collegiate athletics, and community athletes for the states of Washington and Oregon. Before that however, Azurdia was the head basketball coach for Napa Valley College and spent 20 years as a coach and administrator at Wenatchee Valley College. Azurdia appreciated the graduate kinesiology program’s flexible schedule, education about college athletics, and the relationships he built with his classmates. His advice? Listen. He says, “Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and observe others.”
Sonny Stupek MA ’87, kinesiology instructor and former softball coach at Shasta College, has had a rich and varied career over the past 31 years. Stupek, a 16-time Golden Valley Conference (GVC) softball Coach of the Year, has over 850 wins and 15 GVC titles, in addition to being named Teacher of the Year in 2017 and inducted into the 2016 California Community College Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Stupek knew he wanted to become a junior college coach and needed a master’s in kinesiology to get there. He chose the graduate kinesiology program for its reputation and history in athletics and academics. The program provided Stupek with a broader worldview on NCAA rules, eligibility, travel, fundraising, and a generally more holistic approach. His advice? Become a lifelong learner. Stupek says, “It’s vital to get more and more information and become a lifelong learner. The ability to go through a program like SMC gives you more exposure and allows you to be more creative.”
Dan McDermott '80, MA ’87, head baseball coach at Academy of Art University, is currently in his third year of coaching at Art U and his 25th season overall as a head coach at the collegiate level. McDermott was previously the head baseball coach at Regis University in Colorado for 13 years and Briar Cliff University in Iowa for nine years. While an undergraduate at Saint Mary’s College, McDermott was also on the baseball team. After graduating, McDermott pursued his master’s in kinesiology at Saint Mary’s and served as an assistant coach for the Gaels’ baseball team. Mcdermott chose the graduate kinesiology program because it offered a goal-oriented approach for teaching methodology and legal topics in sports. McDermott says, “The people made the program. Dr. Craig Johnson, Dr. Shari Otto, and Father McCarren teamed up with Don "Doc" McKillip to build a firm foundation for what continues to be one of the premiere graduate programs in the field.”
Vance Walberg MA ’86, head varsity basketball coach and assistant athletic director at Clovis West High School, is currently in his 39th year of coaching. Walberg is the creator of the “dribble drive offense,” an offense that is currently used worldwide. He has coached 24 years at the high school level, four years at the junior college level, five years at the Division I level, and five years in the NBA. Walberg initially chose the graduate kinesiology program, because a master’s in kinesiology opened the door to coaching at the junior college level. His advice? Get involved with your classmates. He says, “Learn from them and their experiences just as much as you learn from your professors.”
Christopher Sims MA ’80, former manufacturer’s representative and senior business manager for Spalding Sports Worldwide, has worn many different hats. Now retired, Sims was previously a coach and athletic director for Saint Joseph, Alameda, and Campolindo high schools while becoming a professional baseball associate scout for the Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies. Sims was also part owner and sales representative for a privately owned sporting goods company. A member of the graduate kinesiology program’s first class, Sims chose the program to become a teacher and coach. To this day, Sims refers to Saint Mary’s College as family. His advice? Learn from your experiences and always maintain relationships. Sims says “Change will occur. Embrace it, and sometimes it may not seem palatable but unless you are the boss, stay the course.”