We Are All Marquette: A Q&A with Dr. Adrienne Ridgeway, executive associate athletic director, academic services and student programs

By Melissa Barclay, senior communication specialist in the Office of University Relations

Dr. Adrienne Ridgeway is in her 19th year with Marquette and was promoted to executive associate athletic director for academic services and student programs in July of 2018. In her role, she is responsible for providing the strategic vision for the academic and student programs staff who work with more than 320 student-athletes.

Additionally, Ridgeway was appointed the department’s Athletics Diversity and Inclusion Designee and is responsible for information related to national, conference, and campus level issues of diversity and inclusion, and supports diverse and inclusive practices related to athletics.

Here in a Q&A, Ridgeway discusses everything from her background attending the prestigious Howard University in the nation’s capital, to the many important roles she plays at Marquette.

You have quite an impressive resume. You ran track for four years at Howard University in Washington, D.C. You have a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. You worked as a graduate assistant to the athletics director in the Howard athletics office. What made Marquette University an attractive place for you to put down roots? 

Well, I was born and raised in Milwaukee, so for me the opportunity to be at Marquette and to stay at Marquette is the opportunity for me to be at home. Prior to returning home from D.C. to work for Milwaukee Public Schools, I had not imagined being back in Milwaukee post college, but I am glad that I had the opportunity to come home. By getting the job at Marquette, I have been able to live out my career dreams while being in my home city. Milwaukee at times gets a bad rap and I know there is a lot that needs to be done around poverty and segregation, but it is home. I think the biggest impact that I can have on Milwaukee is to stay and make change where I can through community involvement.

Tell me about the many important roles you serve in here Marquette?  

I have the opportunity to serve in a variety of roles at Marquette within athletics. I am the director of the academic support program for student-athletes. With this, I am responsible for providing the strategic vision for the academic and student-athlete development staff, which works with over 320 student-athletes. I also serve as the primary academic liaison to various academic units on campus. In addition to academic and student-athlete development, I serve as the sport administrator to the Marquette men’s and women’s cross country and track teams. In this role, I support my teams by working to ensure the programs have what they need, run efficiently and solve any problems or issues that might arise. Lastly, I am the department’s Athletics Diversity and Inclusion Designee. In this capacity, I serve as a channel for information related to national, conference and campus level issues of diversity and inclusion and supports diverse and inclusive practices related to athletics within our department.

Since becoming the department’s Athletics Diversity and Inclusion Designee, what have been some of your accomplishments and what are your future goals?

Thanks for asking that question. Here’s a list of some of the goals that have been achieved since accepting the position:

  • Created a Marquette University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan that includes a specific mission, objectives and goals
  • Helped student-athletes in 2020 lead a campus march for racial and social justice to promote the need for social reform around our nation
  • Hosted a 21-day equity challenge for athletics staff member to help our staff build awareness, compassion and understanding of how racism and inequity impacts lives and communities
  • Promoted DEI learning and engagement opportunities for staff and students
  • Hosted civic engagement sessions and voter registration and voting
  • Formed a subcommittee to explore and revamp some of our hiring practices to align with the BIG EAST Conference Be the Change efforts to increase ethnic/racial diversity within our athletics departments as part of the overall conference-wide strategic commitment to hiring more people of color

Two future goals are:

  • Take a group of student-athletes on a civil rights pilgrimage trip so that they can have an immersive experience in which they travel and see the path of the civil rights movement and undergo a deep exploration of issues of social justice
  • Complete our NCAA Division I requirement to conduct a once-in-four-year DEI review

I imagine students inspire you in different ways every day and vice versa. When you look at the student-athletes, what characteristics do you see in them that evoke a since of pride?  

Many of our student athletes have really embraced what it means to Be The Difference, like being a teammate with someone who may be very different than them. In many student-athletes, I see a true willingness to be of service to others and to want a promising future for all, despite socioeconomic or racial differences.

What part of being the Athletics Diversity and Inclusion Designee gives you hope for the future? 

I see this position as very hopeful. I think this position creates the opportunity to make college athletics a place where all participants — spectators, staff, administrators, coaches and student-athletes — feel valued and supported and have equal access to opportunities.