The Court to the Classroom: Mary McDonald

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A coach — that’s what Mary McDonald dreamed about becoming when she was a little girl. And for about nine years of her career, she made that dream a reality.          “I was a college basketball player, so it made sense to go into coaching collegiate women’s basketball,” said McDonald, the Homer Rice Chair in Sports and Society in the School of History, Technology, and Society (HTS). “What I really loved was to get to see people learn and progress. What I didn’t enjoy was recruiting.” McDonald always felt students should attend a university because it was a good academic fit — not because of athletics. Also, she was a “budding sociologist” who was increasingly interested in the implications sports had on society. “So, I left my position as head coach of the women’s team at Bemidji State University to go to the University of Iowa and earn my Ph.D.,” McDonald added. “Since I grew up in the era right after Title IX was established, I was really interested in how gender impacts sports, so that became my research focus and has been for more than 19 years.” After spending several years teaching in the Sports Studies Program at Miami University in Ohio, McDonald was invited to head Georgia Tech’s new initiative in sports, society, and technology in HTS. She arrived in Atlanta in fall 2013 and has already been successful at creating an academic minor in sports studies for undergraduates. Read on for more about McDonald and her Tech experience.Describe your job.I’m currently teaching an undergraduate course on gender and sports a few times a week. Since the class topic is the focus of my research, it’s an enjoyable one for me to teach. In addition to working with students, conducting my research, and serving on various Institute committees, I spend a lot of time trying to connect people at Tech who are doing sports-related research. I’m trying to put together more panels and lectures that highlight what we’re doing. Tell us more about your research focus.Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that sports are one of the last areas of our society that are segregated by gender? Thinking about the whys of this are what fascinate me and led me to focus on this question of how gender and sports influence each other.What is one of the misconceptions people have about sports?For most universities, college sports aren’t a huge moneymaker. As a matter of fact, only a handful of universities bring in more money than what they spend on their sports programs.Where is your favorite spot on campus?I love to hold meetings at Highland Bakery. It’s a comfortable space with great food.What is the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?Making the transition from coaching to teaching. I didn’t know if people in higher education would take me seriously — but thankfully, they did.Where is your favorite place to eat lunch?Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand, and I usually order something that I can only describe as chili dog-like.  What do you like to do in your spare time?I enjoy traveling. Paris is one of my favorite spots. Eating is also a favorite activity, and I have to say that I love the collard greens around here. Growing up in Ohio, I was deprived. And you can also find me in front of the TV watching Mad Men or Downton Abbey.



  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Amelia Pavlik
  • Created: 02/17/2014
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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