2013 Hortense K. McClinton Outstanding
Faculty Staff Award
Deborah Stroman ’86 (MA)
Faculty, UNC Department of Exercise and Sport Science
Chapel Hill, N.C.
Every day, Deborah Stroman ’86 (MA) comes up with a new inspirational quote for her voicemail message and email tag.
“Bloom where you are planted.”
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle
She makes time at the beginning of each day to inspire others. And as a professor, an adviser to students and their clubs, and the chair of the Carolina Black Caucus, she knows that many people who need to contact her also need a little inspiration to keep going. Rarely does a day go by when she’s not called upon to help resolve some crisis of one size or another. And she’s got an inspirational quote for that: “Crisis is nature’s way of forcing change, breaking down old structures and shaking loose negative habits so something new and better can take their place.”
Debby was born and raised in Wayne, Pa., a small town outside of Philadelphia. As captain of the women’s basketball team at the University of Virginia, where she was the first black woman to receive a sports scholarship to the school, she learned firsthand about the pressures on student-athletes. She was national coordinator for the NCAA youth program before coming to UNC to earn a master’s degree in sport administration, then started her own sports marketing and event planning business. She added another degree, this time a PhD in business from Cappella University, and enjoyed a 17-year career in financial services. Her life experiences came together in a company she formed to help professional athletes transition into new endeavors upon retiring from pro sports.
About seven years ago, after dropping off a friend’s nephew at a Roy Williams’ basketball camp, she knocked on the doors of some of her former professors. One suggested she return to UNC to teach.
Carolina welcomed her unique combination of skills, inviting her to the department of exercise and sports science as a lecturer and as an academic adviser and internship coordinator. The Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise recruited her to develop a sports entrepreneurship track in the entrepreneurship minor in the College of Arts & Sciences. Her enthusiasm plays well with students, said Mary Napier, executive director of KIPE. “Her energy gets students excited about what she is proposing and with working with her,” Mary said. “Last time she spoke at our welcome event for business students, she left with two pages of names.”
Debby has a reputation as a hard worker always willing to help out. Exercise physiologist Claudio Battaglini teaches seminars for graduate students with her and lauds her relentless drive to prepare students for careers after they graduate. “She is conscientious about preparing students for the job market,” he said. “That is critical, because they are going to be the next generation running the world.” And, he added, “I’ve played basketball with her; I can tell she’s very good.”
UNC encourages faculty to volunteer as advisers to student organizations; Debby is in demand by students and, because of her soft heart, serves as faculty adviser to about five groups. She sacrifices her personal time to meet with students at all hours across campus and on Franklin Street. She wants to make sure all students feel comfortable being at UNC and can make the most of themselves. “My students are very special to me,” she said. Among her recognitions, last semester she received an award for advising excellence from the Class of 1996.
Likewise, Debby works to ensure that all faculty and staff can flourish at UNC. For the past three years, she has chaired the Carolina Black Caucus, encouraging those who work for Carolina to persevere and advocating that their accomplishments be celebrated. She has formed partnerships between the faculty/staff group and minority student organizations to achieve a stronger, unified campus.
Debra Watkins, associate director of the Friday Center, has worked with Debby on Carolina Black Caucus issues. “She encourages people to define themselves, as opposed to being defined by others,” Debra said. “She leads by example. She knows who she is, and she presents herself that way, regardless of the arena.”
In addition to all her involvements, Debby is working on a book, her first: Voices From the Victors: Critical Leadership Lessons From Champion Black Intercollegiate Athletes. “Students know they are not all going to leave here making millions,” she said. “I try to teach them it’s about relationships. If I can be part of the process where they find their joy, that is satisfying.”