On Feb. 18, Nnenna Akataobi resigned from her post as senior associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator. In addition to serving as an associate athletic director, Akataobi was a Title IX coordinator and played a major role in making Swarthmore’s athletic department so successful both on and off the field.
A lot is still unknown regarding the details of her departure, but it is clear that her absence is a bit hard to come to terms with. Eric Wagner, head coach of the men’s soccer team, said that although he knew she would be moving on to other things soon, the timing of her decision was unexpected.
“Nnenna was extremely good at finding ways to bring the department and the general Garnet Athletics community together towards a common goal,” he said. “She is very competitive, so success on the field/court/pool was important, but the culture of the Garnet Athletics community was foremost in her agenda. She promoted strong values of inclusivity, respect, understanding, and belonging that makes our Garnet Athletics community strong and vibrant.”
Before coming to Swarthmore, Akataobi played Division I basketball for the University of Denver. Afterwards, she moved to Grinnell College where she served as both the coordinator for diversity and achievement in athletics and assistant coordinator for athletic facilities and event management. From her experiences at Grinnell, she brought a unique set of skills to Swarthmore’s athletics department that helped her make lasting changes here.
“We will miss her insight, her unique perspective on interpersonal dynamics, and her unconditional support,” Wagner said. “Nnenna’s passionate support of all our student-athletes, coaches, and teams is what we will miss the most.”
Many athletes at the college have testified that her commitment to making everyone feel included and part of our community will be a huge loss in her departure. Emma Morgan-Bennett ’20 commented on Akataobi’s contribution to the Athletics Department Inclusion and Diversity Initiative.
“She was such a force of nature and a positive contributor,” Morgan-Bennett said. “She spoke truth to power (always with love and humor) in everything she did from her work as an administrator to coaching and mentoring many students in our community.”
The Malcolm Jenkins discussion sponsored by ADI is one example of the type of impact and reach that the athletics department and student athletes have. Over 463 people RSVPed to attend this event, and Nnenna was instrumental in securing the Cooper grant which made the moderated discussion possible. The event is a fitting conclusion to Akataobi’s time at Swarthmore, reminding students of Nnenna’s values and work over the last eight years.
Nnenna also served as a member and chair of several national committees and organizations. She was a part of the Division III Management Council, NCAA Minority Opportunity & Interests Committee, National Association of Collegiate Women’s Athletic Administrators, Minority Opportunities Athletic Association and Black Coaches & Administrators. Nnenna will now focus on her company, 122 Consulting Group, which works with schools and businesses on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion within and beyond higher education.