As a 17 year old looking at colleges, the thought of going to an all women's college wasn't even on her radar. But now, Mount Holyoke alum, and current Associate Athletics Director Lori Hendricks credits the school for shaping her into the person she is today.
Hendricks came to visit as a junior in high school, tagging along with her younger sister.
"We had the chance to drive through campus, and it was really beautiful," she said. "I think my first reaction was 'too bad it's an all-girls school'."
But, after reading about the strong, smart women who attend, Hendricks returned for an overnight with the cross country team and immediately connected with the people. She knew it would be a great place for her to learn and make a difference.
While attending Mount Holyoke, Hendricks competed in three sports – cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field. She ran under the current head coach Tina Lee.
During her first year at the College, Hendricks was part of the search committee that hired current Director of Athletics Laurie Priest.
One of Priest's first initiatives in her new role was the creation of a Captains Council. Hendricks was a member of the group from her sophomore year until she graduated 1992. During that time, she was given the opportunity to weigh in on different issues and organize a Women in Sports Day. By her senior year it evolved into a Women in Sports Week.
Lori warms up for her first collegiate track and field meet. (March 1989)
"I just had the chance to manage events, organize events and see how sport played an important role in society," she said.
After graduating from Mount Holyoke, Hendricks earned her track and field coaching certification and spent time working in South Africa, where she taught physical education and conducted after school sports programs.
From there, she went to the Ohio State University to earn her Masters in Sports Management. While working as a graduate assistant alongside a male student, she realized what sets Mount Holyoke apart.
The prominence of women in leadership roles around Mount Holyoke give the students a chance to grow in ways that women attending coed school miss out on. All the clubs are run by women, whereas most other schools have men in those positions.
"It was definitely a benefit that I hadn't realized until I left, but you get accustomed to seeing women leading," said Hendricks. "Our president is a woman, half the faculty members are women, the student leaders are all women, so you get normed."
After Ohio State, Hendricks worked at the NCAA for six years, interning for one and working as a full time employee for five. There, she worked in the Education Services group, overseeing the national CHAMPS/Life Skills program. Under her watch, the program expanded from just over 50 colleges and universities to over 375. She also worked with the Youth Education through Sports program and with Title IX education. While at the NCAA, Hendricks oversaw the national leadership conference for student-athletes, helping to develop the conference curriculum and facilitator training.
Lori is joined by her friends after a cross country meet during her senior season. (October 1991)
She then made her way to the University of Michigan, where she earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education. Hendricks was a graduate associate with the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good, focusing on issues of access to higher education. Also at Michigan, she worked as a liaison between the President's Office and four faculty committees working on Michigan's NCAA certification.
"While at Michigan I was fortunate to receive a grant from the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics to conduct a national study on faculty attitudes on intercollegiate athletics. I also received grant money from the NCAA to pursue research on the student-athlete experience. At Michigan, I was able to examine intercollegiate athletics within the broader context of higher education."
After 15 years, Hendricks made a full circle back to her alma mater, where she now serves as the Associate Athletics Director and works for Priest, the same person she helped hire as an undergraduate.
Today, Hendricks wears many hats within the Mount Holyoke athletic department. Among her many duties, she serves as liaison to the College's Admission Office. In doing so, she focuses on athletics and the recruiting process by working directly with the coaches and making sure the students have the best experience possible.
It was her love for the school and all the opportunities it presents that brought her back.