NEC SAAC Alumni Series: Golfer’s Undergraduate Opportunity Sparks Career in Collegiate Athletics
Lauren Chapman’s Northeast Conference career has come full circle with a little help from the NEC Student Academic Advisory Committee (SAAC).
It began as a student-athlete in Hackensack, where she helped Fairleigh Dickinson to four consecutive NEC women’s golf team titles.
During her playing days, Chapman was an instrumental leader off the course. She served as the Vice President of FDU’s SAAC for three years before taking over as the Chair of the NEC SAAC, a position that saw her represent the conference on a national level at NCAA Division I SAAC events.
There’s little doubt that those experiences are helping Chapman in her current role. In the Summer of 2016, she was hired as the Academic Coordinator for Student-Athletes at Bryant University, a position she still holds.
“Lauren was super involved in her time as a student athlete and that was certainly one of the pros of hiring her,” said Bryant Senior Associate Athletic Director and SWA Beth Wandyes. “She has that real sense that people who hadn’t participated in high level college athletics would have, and that helps her have instant credibility with her athletes.”
Wandyes also acknowledged how the student-athletes appreciate Chapman’s work ethic outside of her office as well, where she constantly attends athletic events and serves as an advisor on several international trips.
“I think the biggest importance of SAAC is that it gives student athletes a voice,” Chapman said. “You have [administrators] saying what they think will be better, but at the end of the day they aren’t the ones that are experiencing it.”
During her time as a FDU student-athlete, Chapman helped orchestrate important changes. One signature accomplishment was a successful campaign that granted priority registration to student-athletes when choosing classes.
“Being able to understand the people on campus and what their true experiences are is what’s most important because from there is where you can make changes that make sense and actually matter,” she explained.
Her passion for giving student athletes a voice all started with a program the FDU Athletic Department instituted that paired incoming freshman athletes with senior SAAC members.
“I went to that as a freshman and thought it was the coolest thing ever and I was like, ‘I want to be a mentor some day, this is really cool.’ I didn’t really correlate that with SAAC but obviously ended up finding that out eventually.”
However, it wasn’t until she first attended an NEC SAAC meeting that she fully realized what the committee is all about, and what ultimately led her to down a career path in college athletics.
“No one else really raised their hand so I was like, ‘I’ll go!’ And I think that’s where I was able to see the bigger picture. It’s more than just my sport on my campus. This is happening everywhere (around the league).”
From there, Chapman remained heavily involved with the FDU SAAC throughout her time in college before eventually ascending to the NEC SAAC Chair.
“There’s so much you can learn from being a SAAC rep,” Chapman argued. “Whether you want to stay in college athletics long term or not, you have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and be able to network and meet people from all over the country. [NEC Commissioner] Noreen [Morris] is someone I see and can say hi and reminisce about when I was in college. And those are some of the nice connections and relationships that you can build.”
Following graduation from FDU in 2011, she earned her Master’s Degree in Sport Administration at Belmont University where also taught in the Sport Science Department and served as a compliance intern in the athletic department.
After completing her course work at Belmont in 2013, she accepted a post-graduate intern position within NCAA Governance in Indianapolis.
“The position with the NCAA is really how I ended up to where I am now because that was really seen full circle how college athletics work, and realizing that it’s more than just practicing, going to class, and playing in a tournament,” she said.
FDU head golf coach Rob Warren didn’t seem surprised that Chapman’s leadership abilities have resulted in post-graduate success.
“She was a big part of the program’s success and her gregarious personality carried over off the course as well,” Warren said. “She was always involved around campus and always approachable. I’m proud to call her a true Knight for life.”
Being a Knight for life is a bit complicated now that she works at conference rival Bryant, but, thankfully, the Bulldogs have a women’s golf team so she can still root for her Knights at the NEC Championship.
Written by Tanner Swan (@tannerRswan)