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Rooted in Faith and Sports, Jaunelle White Has Found Her Perfect Home at Point University

Working her way up through college sports administration, the newly appointed athletic director at the small Christian university has seen her full dreams align.
JANUELLE WHITE-100 influential

Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are putting the spotlight on the diverse journeys of Black women across sports—from the veteran athletes, to up-and-coming stars, coaches, executives and more—in the series, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.

There was a time when Jaunelle White thought she would have to choose between a professional or personal dream. Now, as the newly appointed athletic director at Point University, it is clear that she can have both. When she accepted the position last year, White recognized that everything in her life was in alignment, as she says. And having the support of her family and mentors, and being grounded in her faith, have catapulted her to this celebratory moment. The road was unconventional, but the destination wasn’t any less sweet.

One might say the Lawrence, Kans., native was predisposed to sports. Her mother played volleyball at Tuskegee Institute and had a career in coaching. Her father is four-time All-American track and field star Theo Hamilton, whose name is etched in history in the Hall of Fame at the University of Kansas, where he later served as a track and field coach. “He was just shy of making the Olympics,” White says.

When White attended Auburn University, she chose not to follow in her father’s footsteps. “I knew I wasn’t going to run track.” Instead, she followed in her mother’s footsteps.

Although recruited in both volleyball and basketball, White ultimately chose volleyball and had one of the most successful careers in the sport’s history at Auburn. She finished her collegiate career as a four-time All-SEC honoree, and a two-time AVCA All-District first-team award winner. She was also named the 1997 SEC Freshman of the Year and still holds three Auburn career records in total kills (1,848), total blocks (571), and blocks average (1.31).

White planned to have a career as a corporate boss at a Fortune 500 company. She majored in business management, and maximizing her full scholarship, used her five years of eligibility to graduate on time and then take graduate courses. By the time White finished, she had only two more semesters to earn her master’s degree.

Her career recalibrated when she met two compliance officers from Auburn who told her that she should consider athletics and that they had a graduate position in compliance. Initially, White wasn’t keen on the idea of pursuing a job in the sports field. And she also knew that she didn’t want to be a coach. But the compliance position fell outside of the traditional coaching route. This would be an entryway into administration. They told her, “We’ll pay for your last year of school. You’ll help us out, and you’ll learn the ropes.” To White, it was a no-brainer.

Academics and compliance are the foundation of any athletic department, White says. “When you hear about people getting in trouble, it’s because they’ve broken a rule or they’re not eligible.”

During a sports compliance conference, White had a chance encounter with someone from LSU. She followed up, and a position became available at the university. “I ended up getting a promotion, a title change. I got a lot more duties outside of compliance,” she says of her first full-time position.

At Alabama State, White served as associate AD and was promoted to senior AD within a year. “I wanted to be that voice for the female athletes at the institution,” she says of her role as a senior woman administrator.

White recognizes that sports provide more than just an outlet for students. It’s about health, wellness, teamwork, responsibility and time management. These are also transferable skills that employers find attractive, White explains. She tells her students that recruiters want to talk to them because athletes know how to fight through adversity, how to build a team, and how to network and communicate.

White’s career path has had its share of detours. She has four children ranging in age from 5 to 14. More than once, she has stepped off the career ladder, but she was always eager to step back on and continue toward her goals.

She spent three years at Texas Southern University, where she helped run the compliance office and fix problems in the athletic department. And while she was working at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, White had an epiphany: She knew she wanted to run her own athletic department.

The position at Point University, a small Christian college in West Point, Ga., made her dreams a reality. No other position more fully aligned with her, personally and professionally. White, who grew up Baptist, attended church several times a week. Now she is at a university where it’s commonplace to open and close a meeting with prayer.

At Point, White is responsible for 19 sports programs and 75 coaches and support staff. Fundraising, engaging with the community and soliciting support are all a part of the job as AD. “We’re building student-athletes holistically, is what I like to say,” White says, adding that it’s important to remember that her students are athletes, but they are people first. “Yes, I want them to graduate, but I also want them to become the best version of themselves,” she says, echoing the latter goal for her coaching staff.

White also wants the same for other women in the workplace. She wants them to know that they can manage a career and family, though it may not be easy. “You can be married and you can have a family,” she says. “Within that, if I can do it with four kids, so can you.”

In their 15-year marriage, she and her husband have had to write their own love story. It’s a narrative that involves them sometimes working in different cities, so they can both pursue their professional goals. “I want him to do well and he wants me to do well,” she says while recalling the sacrifice each has to make for wedded bliss.

In addition to having support from her extended family, White credits a strong professional network for her success.

“Get to know people who look like you and people that don't look like you because you never know who’s going to need to diversify, different sectors, different areas,” White tells her mentees.

She has knocked on many doors throughout her career. “I'm like, ‘Hey, I want to get to where you are. Do you have some time to talk to me?’” She reminds young people to be proactive, and others will be more likely to help push you along. “Every once in a while, someone will recognize your talent without you having to say something.”

Empower Onyx/Sports Illustrated present Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports

Bryna Jean-Marie is a contributor for Empower Onyx, a diverse multi-channel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sports for Black women and girls.