by CARMEN SIERING
Though she’s earned several degrees herself, when you visit Mattie White’s office, there’s only one credential on display—her grandmother’s 1939 high school diploma. “Being an African American woman at that time, that was a huge feat,” White says. “She and my mom instilled in me the importance of getting an education.”
White, 40, is the deputy director of Indiana University Athletics and the athletic department’s senior woman administrator, an NCAA designation created to promote meaningful representation of women in the leadership and management of college sports.
Growing up in Cambridge, Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, White says she didn’t have any context for what getting an education meant until she attended a summer leadership program.
“That was the first time I set foot on a college campus. That was the first time I thought, ‘This could happen. I could be here,’” White says.
White earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio University, worked at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and came to IU in 2005. She’s earned a second master’s and an educational specialist degree while at IU, where she now oversees academic services, sports medicine and nutrition, athletic performance, the Center for Elite Athletic Development, and the Excellence Academy. Over the summer, White was one of eight IU Hoosiers named to the Big Ten Conference Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition.
In a year with so many dark moments, White says seeing Kamala Harris come out on stage the night Joe Biden made his presidential acceptance speech was a bright light. “I liken it to when I first stepped foot on that college campus,” she says. “I don’t know that people really understand what it’s like to live in a world where you don’t see people who look like you in certain spaces, in certain roles. She has created a new course for so many individuals in our country.”
Education continues to take center stage for White. “I want to achieve education at the highest level,” she says. “For me, that’s the Ph.D.” She is currently pursuing a doctorate in the IU School of Public Health, specializing in health behavior.
In the future, White hopes to be a leader in higher education. “College changed my life,” she says. “I want to stay in this environment and provide the same opportunities for other students.”