By RICKY LINDSAY, Sports Editor
Matt Beaudry was announced as the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Director of Athletics on Oct. 6. He spent the past seven years at the Big Ten Conference, Tulane University, Michigan State University, and Okemos High School.
Sports Editor, Ricky Lindsay sat down with Beaudry on Oct. 17 for a Q-and-A session.
Q: What made UM-Dearborn an attractable destination?
A: First and foremost, Chancellor Little, Vice Chancellor Henderson and Dr. Ann Lampkin-Williams were extremely supportive during the interview process and really allowed me to open up the vision of the athletic department in accordance with Chancellor Little’s Vision 20-20. When I was on campus, the students, support and unity of the university was really paramount, and that’s what enticed me to come here and be a part of this outstanding team.
Q: You talked about the vision. What is the vision?
A: I think at this point we are trying to identify and assess what that vision looks like. We’ve had great conversations on the future of the athletic program here at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and I think to some degree, it’s our responsibility to draw that map. So our message has been to the staff, the coaches and the student athletes that right now, in the interim, we have primary objectives, and that is to show tremendous commitment and a work ethic, and compete in everything we do and have fun. Over the next months with various constituents, starting with Chancellor Little to Dr. Ann Lampkin Williams, Vice Chancellor Henderson and our entire university staff, is to really draw that onto a piece of paper and find what our map will look like down the road.
Q: How do you feel about the increased ties with the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) campus? Is this something that can only get stronger?
A: Absolutely. I think that is a very intriguing part of the interview process and also taking this position. What an outstanding university to be a part of; the brand, the recognition, the awareness, and the reputation that the University of Michigan, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and the entire Michigan system not only brings within our region, but on a national basis, is really exciting. I look forward to continuing that relationship that was started and also advancing it to where it’s beneficial to both Ann Arbor and Dearborn. And the best part about it is, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Dave Brandon and some of the administrators with my time at the Big Ten Conference, and I look forward to expanding on that here.
Q: What’s the most pressing thing athletically that you believe needs to be addressed in your first couple of months here?
A: I think if I was to identify number one priority would be make sure we’re embracing athletics through the community, and that starts with us. I want to gather support and build a tradition that our university staff and students will be proud of, and that will be a focal point over the next several months and beyond that as well. I believe if we can really extend across campus and create a great relationship with different units and staff members, and create that environment that’s conducive to higher education and success, not only will we see our programs develop, but we’ll see our students develop into great citizens and be prepared for success in the 21st century.
Q: From the look of your biography, you seem well-rounded with budgets. How can this skill be useful to UM-Dearborn?
A: I think financial stability and growth is certainly going to be a focal point in our athletic program, and surrounding our student athletes with resources to be successful, both academically, athletically, and socially. I look at that comprehensive of education experience. Those three areas, with financial support, we can really develop and prepare our students to be successful. My background has been extremely financial based at different institutions and also several organizations and I look forward to continuing that here.
Q: You’ve worked with Big Ten teams and have seen what makes them successful. What can you bring from that aspect to UM-Dearborn?
A: The culture and expectation. I said this to our student athletes, and echoed it to staff and also during the interview process, is I want to create a culture that is a learning community and is allowing us to teach and our students to learn. Number two, is to bring the commitment and energy necessary to be successful, and finally allowing our teams to compete and prepare to achieve success to their optimal level. I’ve really been around great leaders and programs that identified it at the core and what that needs, and it’s personal commitment for a greater purpose. When you serve that, I really believe it allows you to serve the mission and enhance the culture of the university and athletic program.
Q: Since I’ve been here (2011-present), student attendance has been down. What do you think can help boost student attendance?
A: I think it starts with the athletic director. He needs to be available to the students, and specifically, the student government, and build on that relationship and really invest in students and student athletes. We need to identify who we are, and what we represent, and how we can support each other. When we’re able to do that, I think we’ll have a collective mission and that will embrace the student body, attendance and support that all of us are looking for.
Q: The men’s soccer, lacrosse, and softball teams play off campus. What is your stance on getting these teams closer to Dearborn, if not on campus?
A: It’s very exciting right now as we enter into the Victor’s Campaign (Oct. 24), and we’re really going to take a look at the environment that other NAIA institutions have developed, not only in our conference, but across the country. And that will sort of steer the direction of how we approach facilities and future planning for the athletic program. I think having facilities on campus certainly creates a great environment, not only for our student athletes, but our general community to be part of, and that will be something Chancellor Little, Vice Chancellor Henderson, as well as myself, will work together to identify what is right for the University of Michigan-Dearborn. That’s sort of the questions that we need to develop and learn over the next several months. Being Week 1, it’s too early to answer all those questions.
Q: The marketing campaign by the athletic department last year seemed to go over real well with athletes on this campus. Is this something that could be continued to recognize our campus athletes?
A: Promoting our student athletes will be so important, and our programs as well. We need to recognize their achievements, academically, athletically and in the community. They commit a tremendous amount of time and energy into the university, as well as their respective sports. It’s our responsibility to make sure we’re serving them to the highest standard and allowing their accomplishments to be recognized.
Q: You’ve been hired in to lead a department that has seen a sizable amount of change in the past year and a half. Is the change only beginning or has the dust settled?
A: I think it’s exciting for everyone to see the group coming together. I think this is a great opportunity for us to work together and start to identify and plan. Dr. Ann Lampkin-Williams did an outstanding job getting the athletic program to this point, and I’m very proud to be able to follow her leadership. When I got here on Monday, that was one of the very first things I said to our staff, ‘Recognize Dr. Ann Lampkin-Williams over the next several weeks for her leadership and commitment to the athletic program that is allowing us to generate excitement and planning for the future.’ We start to look at that, and the dust has settled. A lot of student athletes, staff (and) coaches have been in and out of my office all week. It’s been great getting to know them. Sitting here, a lot of times I get started on one project that I just got out of a meeting on and I get to have a conversation. It brings me back to the purpose of why we’re here and that’s for the students. That’s so important to me and why I accepted this position, in addition to the outstanding university that is represented here. As a team going forward, I think everyone has a really bright smile and excitement about them.
Q: What was your first week on campus like?
A: It was very full. I got here at 7 a.m. and shortly after that, I met with Vice Chancellor Henderson for several hours. From there, I had additional meetings. And then also, we held an all-staff, head-coaches only, and student-athletes only meetings. And that was a great way for me to introduce myself.
Q: You seem very student-athlete driven. How did they receive you on Monday?
A: I thought they were outstanding. When I was here on campus, that was one of the greatest takeaways from the interview process, was qualified and educated the student body was. They are extremely driven and committed to academics, and that’s so important to me. I believe the other elements, athletics, community, are such an integral part of what we’re trying to develop, and that’s a comprehensive student that’s prepared to lead in the real world. When they leave here, they represent the university very well — (as well as) the community they came from, the community they developed here and the community they may go into.
Q: You’re settling into your first week on campus, but where would you like to see this campus athletically in five years?
A: In five years, I would love to really represent the conference, the university, and the NAIA at a high level, not only competitively, but academically, and see our student athletes achieving success in the community as well. I’d like to see us take incremental steps in a positive direction with the programs we currently have, the future ideas we might have, and also any changes that might occur.