Passion for Sports Leads to Attaining Sport Administration Master’s Degree

Shauniece “Shay” Steele is the assistant athletic director at Walnut Hills High School. She’s been a member of the faculty since August 2016 and spent the prior two years as a high school paraprofessional at another Cincinnati Public School.

Shay recently enrolled in the University of Cincinnati’s Master’s in Sport Administration program, where our students combine two of their interests — a passion for sports and a desire to launch (or advance) a career in sport management and administration.

The well-known* master’s degree program can be completed within one year of full-time study or two years, studying part-time. Classes are 100% online, and there is no on-campus attendance requirement.

College-Bound with All Options on the Table

Years before Shay became an assistant athletic director (AD), her career interests weren’t defined. “It never crossed my mind to pursue a job in athletics,” she says. “I just knew I was going to college and that I’d figure things out there.”

Shay ran track in high school, and her success on the field allowed her the opportunity to attend the University of Akron (UA) on a full scholarship. There, she kept busy with her exercise science studies and her performance on the track. “My whole world became athletics and academics, but I often wondered when I’d have time for a social life,” Shay says. In high school, she was a member of various clubs and organizations, which helped Shay have the social life she desired.

In 2013, Shay joined UA’s chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., taking on leadership roles within her chapter and the school’s chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, an organization of historically African American Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities. Shay says that being in the sorority opened her eyes to the full college experience.

Shay graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.), Exercise Science: Strength Conditioning and Coaching.

Springboarding from Coach Intern to Assistant AD

After graduation, Shay moved home to Cincinnati and started coaching and interning at Withrow University High School. She anticipated beginning grad school for higher education, wanting to advocate to college student athletes that there’s more to life than just class and sports. However, her time at Withrow is where she found her passion. “As much I wanted to be seen as that advocate, I knew that, with my background, I could have a bigger impact on the lives of high school students who loved sports, as I do,” Shay says.

The very next year, Shay says everything fell into place for her when she became an assistant athletic director at Walnut Hills High School. Then she met Dr. David Kelley, the Associate Professor of UC Online’s MS Sport Administration program, and Dr. Patty Raube Keller, Ed.D, the Sport Administration Assistant Professor-Educator. “Cincinnati Public Schools have a strong connection with UC,” says Shay, “and I’d been staying in contact with the professors and was learning more about what it’s like to be an AD.”

Shay says that she felt like Dr. Kelley and Dr. Keller recognized her interests and encouraged her career dreams, letting her know UC Online’s master’s degree program would be a great fit for her.

UC’s Reputation for Online Education Excellence

Shay’s a Cincinnati native, born and raised, and had always heard of the University of Cincinnati and its strong reputation. “It seemed like a good fit for so many reasons, including the program’s flexibility — choosing when and where I could study, while balancing my family’s demands. Once I decided to enroll, I felt welcomed from day one,” Shay says.

The MS Sport degree’s curriculum and program faculty keep Shay engaged in the program while she juggles her responsibilities at the high school, working with students in grades 7 through 12, as well as being a single mom of twins.

At UC Online, Shay interacts with a diverse mix of students with differing backgrounds, yet all are focused on sport administration and management. “Some of the students are fresh from undergrad, and some are working professionals who decided to get their master’s degree,” Shay says.

Being surrounded by students’ different perspectives is one thing Shay enjoys about the program. She also finds classroom discussions, such as when they talked about craft a mission statement, engaging and actionable.

Shay looks forward to exploring the program’s full set of courses, including Managerial Strategies in Athletics, Strategic Athletic Marketing and Communications, Sport and the Social Context and Risk Management in Sport.

Flexible and Adaptable During the Pandemic

Working as an assistant AD during the pandemic has had its challenges. “It’s a weird time for all school faculty,” Shay says. “In my area, we’re in limbo as our district makes its decision about when to open up winter sports.”

Shay keeps her focus on what she set out to do when she began her high school AD journey. “I just want to help our kids,” Shay says. “Being able to make an impact on their lives and being there for my student-athletes is my passion.”

As Shay talks about her master’s degree studies, she recognizes the value today and longer term. “What I’m learning in classes can be applied to what I’m doing now as an AD. It will be great to have this accomplishment on my resume, of course, and it supports my desire to run my own athletics department someday.”

Shay enjoys connecting with her students over their shared love of athletics. “You don’t always know what challenges these kids are going through,” she says. “Despite how they might respond some days, they truly want your support. I know my connections with many of my students will carry on long after they graduate.”


Do you have a passion for sports? Would you like to begin or further your career in sport administration and management by attaining your master’s degree? Visit our program information to learn more, and contact us to speak with an Enrollment Services Advisor.

*UC Online’s staff and students value their partnership with the National Federation of State High School Associations, the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, the Ohio Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and the many Cincinnati- and Ohio-area schools and communities they interact with.

birds eye view of students working at a round table with laptops and study materials
Need additional student resources?
Already an online student? UC Online has additional tips and tricks to ensure you are on the path to success. Check out our Student Resources section for what you need to maximize your learning.

Sign up for updates from UC Online