If it weren't for the help of athletic scholarships, Amy Gaston doesn't know how she would have attended college. Gaston, a graduate of Baylor School of Education's (SOE) MSEd Sport Management Program, turned a passion for high school volleyball into a road toward higher education and a career as the assistant director of marketing and promotions for the University of North Texas Athletics Department.
Gaston played college athletics for Wayland Baptist University before transferring to Tarleton State University. Her time spent living, playing and learning as a collegiate athlete taught Gaston the power of opportunity in sports and the importance of good athletic programs.
"College athletics are what made me who I am today," Gaston said. "I love the competition. I love the teamwork. I love the camaraderie. I love the fight that has to come from those things. I just want to provide that same opportunity for the next generation."
Gaston joined the SOE family in 2016 after teaching English in South Korea for a year post-undergrad and then coaching high school sports for several years in the United States. Within the SOE sport management program, Gaston worked in a graduate assistantship with Dr. Jeffery Petersen, SOE associate professor and director of the Sport Management Graduate Program.
Petersen said, "Amy came in as a high school teacher and coach, so she was very engaged in the high school environment — but probably not so much in the management environment of sports, so she grew tremendously in our program."
Gaston's time at Baylor also brought accolades and her selection to participate in several exclusive professional industry conferences. In August 2017, she received a general scholarship to attend the national 2017 Women Leaders in College Sports convention alongside over 900 women (and a few men). Women Leaders in College Sports is an organization that supports and connects women working in collegiate sports and beyond.
"The sport industry is a heavily male-dominated industry, but that's slowly changing," Gaston said. "It was really inspiring to sit in a room with women who are a part of the movement for women to be in college sports administration."
The experience will propel her as she becomes part of that movement by working in college sports, Gaston said. Attending the convention both empowered and challenged her.
Gaston said, "My biggest takeaway was the importance of the work we're doing and the importance of continuing to talk about diversity, equality and opportunities for women in these positions."
In October 2017, Gaston attended the prestigious 2017 Collegiate Athletics Leadership Symposium after being selected as one of 12 interns to work the invitation-only networking event that hosted top national athletic directors.
"It was really cool, but it was also a startling reality to walk into a room of 135 administrators and only 12 were women," Gaston said. "It just reminded me and fortified for me that I want to be a part of the change to bring greater diversity into college athletic leadership. There are some really talented women that someday will change the landscape of college athletics, and I'm really excited about that."
Gaston also served as organization chair for the Baylor Sport Management Program's first experience of hosting an academic conference — the 2018 Applied Sport Management Association (ASMA) conference. Gaston helped write Baylor's bid for the event, and she pitched Baylor's location at the 2017 AMSA conference.
The sport management program requires six fieldwork credits through an internship, practicum or thesis. Gaston used the credit opportunity to work with Baylor Bear Foundation Senior Associate AD for External Relations, Doug McNamee. She helped McNamee oversee Baylor athletics' communication, marketing, ticketing, fan engagement and more.
"I can't find enough good adjectives to describe how pleased I was with Amy's service to our organization," McNamee said. "She has a really impressive maturity for someone in grad school, and that's largely because of her experiences. There was no situation I felt she was unprepared to handle."
Gaston grew up in Dalhart, Texas, with her parents and two younger brothers. Her post-graduate work experience includes time as an admissions recruiter at Wayland Baptist University, a volleyball and track & field coach at Randall High School in Amarillo, Texas, and head volleyball coach at Northwest High School in Justin, Texas.
"Our world of college sports is changing," Gaston said, "but I want to make sure at the very core that those experiences still exist for student athletes."