Marie Tuite is a familiar figure at the NCAA Convention from her years as a NCAA staff member, representing the University of Washington and as part of San José State University's official party.
For the first time, she will represent the Spartans as the director of athletics, one of the select few females to lead a NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institution, at the 2018 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis.
Flying in from the West Coast, Tuite (@sjsutuite on Twitter) also is packing her passion for teaching and has that game plan in place for her faculty role in the University of Washington's (UW) Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership master's degree in education program that is entrenched in the convention's programming.
Relying on her vast network of athletics and educational administrators to program guest speakers, she is one of the driving forces for these students to become future leaders in intercollegiate athletics.
"I have the opportunity to work with students who will be our future leaders in administration. Attending the NCAA Convention and interacting with the students is a highlight for me," says Tuite who holds a master's degree in athletic administration from Central Michigan University.
"First to my core, I'm a teacher. I'm an educator and I've taught my whole life. I actually benefit more than perhaps the students do, because I have a theory if you stop learning, you stop leading."
When Tuite joined San José State University in June 2010 originally as a senior associate athletics director and chief operating officer, she was an established faculty member of the UW program. Founded in 2006, the program is grounded in higher education leadership according to executive director Sara Lopez, Ph.D.
"She (Marie) brings such an enthusiasm for the industry and an honesty about her experiences, the ups and downs of her own career, and yet there is this continued enthusiasm about she views this opportunity to work especially on behalf of student-athletes. It comes across so strong," says Dr. Lopez.
"She makes it exciting and gets the students fired up about going into the industry. That's really balanced with this honesty. It's a tough industry and she's very specific about how you make it and here is what you have to be thinking about in terms of your values and what you stand for, how you conduct yourself.
"I feel really lucky we have her as part of the program. It really enriches their experience and there is such a great connection for them to have somebody of her caliber."
"I teach the class with `what is it I know now that I wish I had known then.' It's a unique experience," says Tuite who became San José State's director of athletics in May 2017.
Though there are many master's degree programs in athletics administration, sports administration and sport management throughout the country, the UW program is the only one with recognized scheduled programming each year at the NCAA Convention. The curriculum combines summer on-campus and academic-year remote or off-campus learning to earn a coveted advanced degree either in the administrative or coaching tracts.
At this year's NCAA Convention, it's at least four hours a day of assignments and speakers for four of the convention's five days. Tuite takes a lead role scheduling the likes of NCAA President Mark Emmert and high-profile conference commissioners and athletics directors to address the class on topics that matter for young professionals desiring upward mobility.
Jessica Atthowe and Ben Thienes, two current San José State University athletics department staff members, are products of the UW Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership program. Atthowe is a compliance and student services coordinator; Thienes, the director of football operations.
"When we (our class) went to the NCAA Convention in January 2016 in San Antonio, Marie was the teacher of the week for that course. She worked with Todd Turner who was a previous AD at Washington," recalls Atthowe, who joined the Spartans in September 2016 after serving an internship in athletics compliance at San Diego State.
"What will always stand out for me was how real she was about the business. She didn't sugarcoat how hard it can be and pushed professionalism, networking and leaving a positive mark wherever you go."
Atthowe credits the UW master's program and assimilating Tuite into her network to further her blossoming career in intercollegiate athletics.
"The networking can really make or break you and create those opportunities for you. Fortunately, when I got this job (at San José State), I reached out to Marie, because I knew she was my connection to a potential job opportunity and got some insight from her if I could be a good candidate for the job. She encouraged me to apply."
Even though he already had a master's degree in kinesiology and behavioral studies from Boise State, Thienes enrolled in the program a year before Atthowe when he was a University of Washington football graduate assistant.
"My first encounter with Marie was in the summer of 2014. She was the guest lecturer for one of the weeks of class we had. I remember the feeling I had from the moment she started to speak. I was instantly drawn to her leadership, her energy. She had incredible charisma. The way she carried herself and interacted with others -- she was a dynamic leader," Thienes remembers vividly.
"I wanted to meet her. The second the class was over, I stood up, walked over and said, `Hi, my name is Ben.' I knew instantly I wanted to get in her network and know whom she was. I wanted to work for her, because of the type of leader she was. She was exciting to be around. She was a great teacher.
"I would go back to UW to listen to her lecture for free. If she was speaking at the NCAA convention, I would go to it in a heartbeat, not because she now is my boss, but as a student I would want to hear what she has to say."
Now, the UW program enrolls about 50 students annually. Nearly all of them hope to pursue or continue a career in intercollegiate athletics. If they are like Jessica Atthowe or Ben Thienes, they could end up listing San José State University on their resume.
"I end every class with telling those students they need to be life long supporters of San José State. After we beat Wyoming in football, I heard from so many of the students around the country from sending notes, texts and email messages. It's heartwarming to me and reminds me that athletics is under the umbrella of higher education. Being the athletics director at San José State gives me a larger platform to teach," says Tuite who views hiring the right people as one of her primary responsibilities as athletics director.
"I'm looking for the best and the brightest. Through this program, I have the opportunity to interact with young people that can and will have an impact on our profession. Ben and Jessica are two prime examples. Those two young professionals are so talented in two very different disciplines of athletics. They make San Jose State better and our paths may not have crossed if I wasn't a teacher."
So, if you are a NCAA Convention delegate this week hoping to congratulate Marie Tuite on becoming an athletics director, simply seeking a brief hello, or looking for professional advice, the best way to see her in person may be at the Westin Hotel's Council Room on the first floor either before or after a session of UW's Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership program. It could be a ground floor opportunity to advancing your career in intercollegiate athletics.