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Prioritizing Authentic Connections With Stony Brook’s Shawn Heilbron

Guest Shawn Heilbron, Stony Brook
15:44 min watch


Stony Brook Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron sits down with ADU’s Steph Garcia Cichosz at the 2023 NACDA Convention to discuss leading through authentic connection with student-athletes, head coaches, staff, alumni and institutional stakeholders. Heilbron shares his strategies for building a culture of trust for the Seawolves, including an “open door” policy for providing and receiving feedback, meaningful dialogue with leadership on the academic side of campus, and a level of responsiveness that prioritizes the student-athlete experience. Heilbron: “People use the term ‘family’ a lot but don’t always embody that in how they lead.”

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

  • - You're going on nearly a decade of being in the chair at Stony Brook - what aspect of being an AD do you excel at and what is still a challenge for you?
  • - You're moving into Year 2 in the CAA; what are some near-term projects you still want to tackle? What are some longer-term endeavors you want Stony Brook to focus on?
  • - How do you prioritize facilities projects?
  • - How do you authentically engage with your student-athletes in order to continue providing the best experience for them? 
  • - How have the Seawolves been engaging with NIL?
  • - How do you engage with student-athlete alumni?
  • - How do you cultivate that energy and excitement while ensuring alignment with the university's institutional mission?
  • - What's the first step to achieving alignment when you get a new president or chancellor in the middle of your own tenure?
  • - What are your strategies for achieving buy-in from your staff, head coaches and student-athletes?
  • - How do you say no when a coach or staff member comes up with a great idea that just doesn't work for the department at that moment?
  • - With all the change going on in the industry right now, what is keeping you up at night?
  • - How do you find moments to refresh and rejuvenate so that you can come in the next day and continue the momentum?