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Developing A Culture Post-Pandemic With Winston-Salem State’s Etienne Thomas

Guest Etienne Thomas, Winston-Salem State
18:20 min watch


Winston-Salem State (DII) Director of Athletics Etienne Thomas sits down with ADU’s Tai M. Brown at the 2023 Women Leaders Convention to discuss how she developed a culture at WSSU after arriving as AD at the start of the pandemic. Thomas notes WSSU has a “culture of graduating champions” and credits Head Football Coach Robert Massey with establishing the mantra “Protect the Legacy” that defines the department’s mission across all sports. Thomas also shares her strategies for instilling “intentionality” among her coaches and staff, including the ways she encourages her team to celebrate one another as part of the WSSU “Ramily.”

The conversation is indexed below for efficient viewing (click the time stamp to jump to a specific question/topic).

  • - You're nearly at five years as the AD at Winston-Salem State but you arrived at the start of the pandemic - talk to me about developing a culture while going through that.
  • - After two years of virtual, remote work, what's your process for bringing yourself physically back to leading a department?
  • - Doing activities so that the staff can learn about you through what you like to do - is that something you've always done as a leader? 
  • - How did your team get to know you before you were in the big chair?
  • - How do you make sure your staff embodies that in their own roles?
  • - You hire a new coach or staffer and you want them to understand this aspect of caring for people, of being part of the "Ramily" - how do you onboard that?
  • - How do you handle scenarios where a head coach want to hire a new staffer and you don't feel that automatic fit?