Parnell takes over as director of athletics

If someone had tried to tell the young Kristin Parnell that she would end up as an athletic director after college, she would have never believed it.

The Hingham native grew up around sports; she played lacrosse and soccer in high school, and was even a cheerleader for a season. Once she left for American International College, however, she decided she wanted a career in business, but she always made sure she had time for collegiate soccer.

After college, Parnell got a job working in accounting for a Boston-based company, taking a break from athletics.

“I then got a job closer to home in Hingham, so I was able to work out my hours to coach soccer at my old high school. That introduced me to the world of sports administration,” Parnell said.

Parnell spoke to others in the industry, who encouraged her to go back to school to earn a master’s in sports administration. She commuted to Springfield College, and began coaching women’s soccer at Emerson part-time in 1997 during her second semester.

“After I completed my masters, I came in as the assistant director of athletics at Emerson and women’s soccer coach,” Parnell said. “It was definitely a calculated career change.”

After serving as assistant director of athletics for six years and as senior woman administrator (the highest ranking female administrator within a collegiate athletics program), Parnell was appointed director of athletics. The previous director, Rudy Keeling, left to become commissioner of the Eastern College Athletic Conference.

Parnell, who took over as director of athletics last month, is the first woman in Emerson history to hold the position. She will continue to serve as an assistant commissioner with the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC).

While working as assistant director of athletics, Parnell also completed a master’s in management and Organizational communication at Emerson, which helped her gain a broader knowledge of the college’s faculty and administration.

“Being an alumni here at Emerson, I’m part of the community,” Parnell said. “It helped me get a better sense of how things work around here.”

As for being the first female to hold her position, Parnell said she doesn’t let it affect her work.

“With my appointment, our conference, the GNAC, has the most female athletic directors in Division III. The GNAC announced this a few weeks ago,” Parnell said. “I feel like I have a really good network and some great mentors that are assisting me on any questions I might have. As for our department specifically, creating some equity in here could be a good thing.”

In the the future, Parnell hopes to continue to promote athletics at Emerson, and to encourage students and organizations to use the new facilities in Piano Row.

She has put plans in motion for a dodgeball tournament, basketball tournament, co-ed outdoor soccer league and staff volleyball game.

She wants to maintain two to three intramural leagues each semester.

“It’s a good time to take over,” Parnell said. “We’ve done so much with the facilities. I’m eager to see how our programs continue to grow.”