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  • Michaela Chan

Big Red Welcome to Nicki Moore

Photography by Eldon Lindsey

With the waves of red that fill the stands, Cornell Athletics is in full swing. These first few months of the school year have already been blessed with success: Cornell Field Hockey qualified for the inaugural Ivy League Tournament; Women’s Soccer established the longest home unbeaten streak in their program history; and Cornell students, alumni, family, and friends all gathered together for Cornell Football’s highly anticipated Homecoming game against Colgate after the program’s first 2-0 start to the season since 2016. As the days become chillier and the winter sports teams begin their campaign, we also wrap up Dr. Nicki Moore’s first year at Cornell as Director of Athletics.

Nicki Moore, the Meakem Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education, was announced as the first female athletic director (AD) at Cornell University in January 2023. Previously, she served as the Director of Athletics at Colgate University, and Dr. Moore’s accomplishments included, but are not limited to, Colgate’s teams winning 11 league titles and having some of the highest levels of success.

She expanded a bit on the difficulty of her transition from Colgate to Cornell: “I was there [Colgate] for 4.5 years, so I had time to understand what their needs were and develop a focused plan on where we were going. It was an adjustment coming to Cornell because of the number of teams, student athletes, and how each facility varied in state. In a way, it felt like starting over. It takes time to get to know people and figure out how to help them become the best version of themselves and their programs.”

When Cornell first announced Nicki Moore taking over this position, it was momentous. Moore explained that she does not think about it much now, but she was immensely inspired by the pride and honor created by students and families from her starting this occupation.

“I see an extra spark in some of our women students' eyes when they see a woman in leadership,” Moore illustrated. “I walk by the wall of ADs and see the photos of all the men, and I am grateful to be a part of diversifying leadership.”

“These past 10 months have been exciting—there are invigorating opportunities to work with leaders that are excellent, smart, balanced, passionate, and also eager to support others,” she said. “I have been getting to know the head coaches, and think that there is a great foundation of being positive coaches that focus on the right ways for student athletes to be able to achieve their athletic and academic goals.”

As Moore concludes her first year here, she also reflected on her experiences so far, and the potential possibilities to do more. She noted that “a lot of time this past year was used to test and ponder ideas. I have the opportunity to create a culture that is generative, positive, and attempts to activate the best things that sports can do in people’s lives.”

For Moore, picking her favorite Cornell athletics memory so far was like picking a favorite child: very difficult. Moore recounted Men’s Hockey win in Manchester during the NCAA tournament, and Men’s Lacrosse clinching the Ivy League title. Recently, Cornell’s Field Hockey team beat the ranked #13 school Syracuse, and while Moore was waiting to enter the operating room for her knee surgery, she was constantly watching the game and checking the score. In fact, she mentioned that it was the first thing she asked about when she returned home post-surgery.

It is immensely evident that Moore cares wholeheartedly about the student body and improving Cornell as a whole. “I am looking forward to committing new strategies for connecting more alumni, parents, students, and friends to our [athletic] programs so it is more transformational,” she remarked. “Everyone is a part of a story and getting more people involved, whether it is giving back in donations or showing up to games, will cause them to become more personally invested.”

“The mission at Cornell Athletics is to inspire transformation through athletics—this is intentionally aligned with Cornell Students and Life’s statement. I firmly believe that athletics is done best when it is aligned with everything else.”

She discussed how the athletics program previously was not originally integrated well at this school, so she believes that there needs to be an emphasis on integrating student athletes better at Cornell. “Although they are here for athletics, we have a world-renowned education here and to integrate them with the student body will be for the betterment of our school and students,” stated Moore.

The initiative to help student athletes fit more smoothly with their academics is just a part of Moore’s overarching plan in reshaping the relationship between Cornell Athletics and its surrounding community. “This is the other piece that we have probably spent more time talking about and structuring our planning around. The vision is to ‘equip and launch, help these citizen leaders who win with others and love Cornell.’”

There are four pillars of the vision: winning, wellness, spirit, and leadership. “Winning creates powerful moments that stick in people’s minds. Whether you were there watching and cheering, or a student athlete making a game winning shot, it creates salient moments that connect people to this place that does so much good in the world,” the Director of Athletics explained.

“Wellness includes coaches leading in positive ways. It is where we prioritize physical, mental, and social wellbeing. We also have an eye for sustainability and promoting inclusion.”

Spirit, in Moore’s vision, is owning the way we generate passion, pride, and spirit for Cornell. At games, you may find Touchdown wearing the team’s jersey or our marching band playing songs and anthems to unite and rile up the crowd. She stressed the importance of unity that sports can bring to athletes and beyond.

Moore’s final pillar is leadership. She believes that being a part of a team and one involving themselves in competition can shape personalities and natural leaders. “If you think about the harshest critic of inter-collegiate athletics, it is undeniable what participation in college athletics does for generating and developing leaders. When you look at statistics on CEOs and entrepreneurs, there is a high percentage of those who make it to the top that were previously athletes at some level.”

These four pillars of the vision, combined with Cornell Athletics’ mission, are the building blocks of success for students athletes and Cornellians as a whole.

As someone who aspires to have a career in the sports industry, I was inspired by the words and mentality that Cornell’s first female athletic director said and possessed. A piece of advice Moore gave to anyone considering a career in sports is to just go for it.

“Do something to get started and believe that there is going to be more that opens up for you. Get ready to grind, ask questions, get involved, and do not hesitate to reach out.”

A couple years ago, Moore read a psychology book that suggested reaching out to people who are in positions in which you want to be. “You can ask for a life career interview/meeting with someone to get insight and exposure into that position or organization.” As a result, getting to know the people you want to be exposed to is a piece of advice she still gives to this day.

Even in under a year with the Big Red, Moore has already made several key accomplishments. On the professional side, one of her biggest was getting this AD position at “a place with incredible things happening.” She is proud of who she has hired and the organization she has been restructuring, which includes the recently-announced indoor field house that will be built to honor Peter C. Meinig ’61.

However, Moore’s biggest accomplishment is her family. “My son has grown to be a really cool human being, and I am glad to have played a part in that and see him grow throughout the years,” she explained. “I also have 3 older stepsons and I feel that we have all enjoyed a happy, healthy blended family experience and dynamic. I am extremely proud to have such a supportive family that has been there every step of the way.”

As Moore reflected on her accomplishments and first year at Cornell, she has been filled with contentment, but it is clear that Moore is enthusiastic about the future and betterment of Cornell. Her words are just glimpses of insight into the changes we are making on campus and the nature of how our students should uphold themselves.

Whether you are an athlete, coach, student, family, or friend reading this, you are providing the unity and spirit Dr. Nicki Moore and Cornell University intend to strengthen. Continue to fill up those bleachers, chant in support of your peers, and continue to be the unwavering pillars of pride and encouragement for Cornell and beyond.


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1 comentário

R. V. Wilhelm
R. V. Wilhelm
01 de nov. de 2023

We are SO lucky to have you Nicki in the Cornell family!! The amount of PR, the web stories, the NEW BIG RED THREADS, your visibility on campus, the support for our athletic teams, your connection with our alumni and students is WONDERFUL! We appreciate you more than you know. Best wishes for another year and many more! Gratefully, Ralph Wilhelm ('67)

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