Kristene Kelly is taking another step upward in her career as a college athletics administrator — this time joining a school affiliated with one of the nation’s top athletic conferences.
The native of Frederiksted, St. Croix, has been named deputy athletics director for internal affairs at Vanderbilt University, an NCAA Division I program in Nashville, Tenn., that is a founding member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
Kelly is one of two new hires announced Monday by Candice Storey Lee, Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs, and the school’s athletics director. Lee, who held the position on an interim basis until May 2020, is the school’s first female athletics director and the first Black woman to head up an SEC athletics department.
“I’m beyond excited to have the opportunity to join the Commodore family in this role under Lee’s leadership,” Kelly said in a prepared release. “I not only grasp how significant Lee’s hire is to the school, the community, the SEC and the nation, but more importantly, the responsibility that comes along with it. I share in that responsibility and her vision for the future of Vanderbilt Athletics.”
There, Kelly will also assume the role as the Commodores’ senior women’s administrator, as well as serve as the athletic department’s liaison with Vanderbilt’s Title IX Office and Office of the Dean of Students. She will also serve on the athletic department’s executive team.
Also joining Vanderbilt’s athletics staff is former Louisiana Tech AD Tommy McClelland, who was named deputy athletics director for external affairs and revenue generation.
“We are fortunate to have Tommy and Kristene join our Vanderbilt team,” Lee said in the prepared release. “Both are highly regarded leaders, have extensive experience in college athletics, track records of proven success, and are relationship builders. Most importantly, they are firmly committed to student-athletes, and are mission-driven and purposeful in their work.”
Kelly joins the Commodores’ athletics staff less than seven months after she had been promoted to executive associate athletics director for varsity sports at Dartmouth College, where she had oversight of the Ivy League school’s 35 NCAA Division I sports.
“I will forever treasure the time I spent at Dartmouth, which is an incredible institution with a rich tradition,” Kelly said. “However, this was an opportunity that, when presented, was not something my family and I could turn down. I hope that Commodore Nation is ready for all of my energy, enthusiasm and competitiveness.”
Kelly had been at Dartmouth since August 2018, when she was named senior associate athletics director for varsity sports. In that role, she oversaw eight varsity sports, and was responsible for the department’s NCAA compliance staff and the varsity athletics communications office.
Before joining the staff at Dartmouth, Kelly was athletics director at Keene (N.H.) State University for two years, overseeing 18 sports for the NCAA Division III Owls.
Prior to that, Kelly was the associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, N.C., supervising the day-to-day operations for the Historically Black College and University’s 14-sport program.
Kelly is a 2000 graduate of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., earning bachelor’s degrees in physical education and communication arts. She began her career in collegiate athletics as an academic counselor and graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee in the 2001-02 school year.
She began working toward her master’s at Tennessee in human performance and sport studies, completing her degree the following year while starting a new job as sports information director at Johnson C. Smith, a post she held for 6½ years. Kelly also earned her doctorate in sport management from the United States Sports Academy in July 2014.