Ben Baxter is the Associate Commissioner for Strategic Marketing & External Operations at the Central Intercollegiate Athletics Association (CIAA).
His daily tasks and routine can change by the hour or day, like most of his colleagues in the collegiate athletics community.
“I’m ultimately responsible for making sure information for our conference is being properly reported on our website and other outside media, ensuring we have a daily plan for engagement on our digital platforms. Other key roles include working with our external partners on different conference initiatives, ensuring we have a plan of action on the marketing and communications side for our championships and events, and ensuring my staff has what they need to be successful,” Baxter explained.
“Additionally, the goal of these daily tasks is to promote and enhance the experiences of our student-athletes and member institutions.”
Like many people in the industry, Baxter’s favorite part of working with the CIAA is the people he gets to be around on a daily basis.
“Our conference staff is like one big extended family, and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company,” Baxter said. “Additionally, I love the fact that I can be a part, and tell the story, of one of the most historic conferences and African American establishments in college athletics and, quite frankly, in the country.”
He will get to attend the #CoSIDA22 Convention this summer as a recipient of the Convention Attendance Grant from 2020 after that edition was canceled because of COVID-19.
Baxter was disappointed that the convention could not take place in person in 2020 or 2021, however, believes the pandemic did have some positive impact.
“It was definitely disappointing because there’s nothing that can replace face-to-face human interaction,” Baxter said. “But, at the same time it was a blessing because it allowed us, as a society and an industry, to take a step back and reassess how we present programming and engage with each other.”
With that being said, he did not shy away from his excitement to return to an in-person convention this summer.
“I’m very excited to be attending the 2022 Convention,” he added. “It’ll be an opportunity to reunite with old friends and colleagues while also networking and connecting with new ones. Additionally, I’m excited about the opportunity to learn, grow, and share what I learn with my staff at the CIAA as well as our member institutions.”
With more daily tasks in the industry being done digitally and remotely, there are several changes in collegiate athletic communications that the pandemic has forced members to adapt to. Recent changes and current trends are among things that excite Baxter about this summer’s convention.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to see the current trends within the industry while learning more about emerging trends that could be beneficial soon,” Baxter explained. “Quite frankly, I’m just excited to engage in-person with other industry professionals for the first time in a while.”
Baxter is the only Convention Attendance Grant recipient that comes from a conference office rather than an individual school. He wants to be able to tell the stories of those from conference offices at all levels and be able to provide a unique perspective.
“I want to be able to share our story and provide a different perspective to those in the industry on how to utilize non-traditional methods to achieve success within the collegiate athletic communications space,” Baxter said. “Our approach to engaging with our fans and core audience, while similar in many ways, is unique based on the demographic that we serve.”
Since summer 2020, companies and organizations nationwide have made major pushes for diversity, inclusion, and racial justice as well as moves to improve the treatment of women and minorities in the workplace. Baxter believes CoSIDA has done a great job with being intentional about improving diversity and inclusion in the collegiate athletic communications industry.
“I think the organization, and the industry as well as individuals, must continue being intentional about providing true access and opportunities for women and all underrepresented sectors of people,” Baxter said. “Embrace what makes people and their perspectives different and find a way to utilize it for the good.
“I think being authentic in your approach to create real change can also go a long way in helping make the industry more diverse.”
In addition to continuing diversity and inclusion efforts, Baxter would also like to see more of a work-life balance in the industry.
“I would like to see a more conscious effort made to encourage better work-life balance for those within the industry, particularly at the lower levels,” Baxter explained. “Often, many athletic communications departments are one person shops where the individual in charge holds multiple roles, which can be a daunting task for anyone.”
“I would challenge those in leadership to be more intentional about making their athletic communications departments more robust and diverse across the board to account for the constantly evolving nature of the industry.”
Particularly in smaller school and conference offices, it is becoming increasingly common for fewer employees to take on more tasks in the athletic department, especially as COVID-19 forced several schools to make budget cuts.
Lastly, Baxter offers a few pointers for young professionals and college students seeking careers in collegiate athletic communications.
“I would advise young professionals to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you, be intentional about what you want out of your career, and to just be authentically YOU!”