An Upper Iowa University alumna has been named the University of Iowa women’s volleyball director of operations. Emily Sparks earned her Bachelor of Science degree in exercise studies from UIU in May 2013. She later received a Master of Science degree in sport management from Western Illinois University.
“Emily has been a great Hawkeye staff member inside the athletic department and has a proven track record of success,” said U of I head volleyball coach Bond Shymansky. “I have seen her work diligently with different programs inside the department, and Emily always has a positive impact. Her collegiate volleyball playing experience is invaluable in her capacity as a director of operations.”
A defensive specialist, Sparks was a member of the Peacock volleyball team from 2009-2013. The Iowa City High graduate was a three-time Northern Sun Conference All-Academic Team selection (2010-12), and a Northern Sun Myles Brand All-Academic with Distinction Award recipient (2013).
“UIU holds a very special place in my heart. I wouldn’t trade my experience there for anything,” said Sparks. “Not only did the small class sizes allow me to excel academically, but I was able to take on several leadership roles that helped mold me into the person I am today.
“The opportunity to play volleyball is what initially attracted me to UIU, and I am forever grateful for the experience that it provided me,” she added. “I learned so much from my coaches, teammates and the department as a whole. They will forever be my Peacock family.”
Sparks credits Brandi Rideout, former UIU assistant athletic director for student athlete services, and Karla Gavin, UIU associate professor of exercise and sport studies, for each making a significant impact on her experiences at Upper Iowa.
“Brandi was and continues to be my professional mentor. She guided, challenged, and inspired me to be better every day that I stepped foot in her office,” explained the UIU graduate. “Meanwhile, Karla’s teaching approach used practical, everyday situations that engaged me and ultimately reassured me that a profession in the Athletic field was right for me. And, of course I can’t forget my head coach, Aaron Nelson, He simply believed in me. That’s what it’s all about – the support from UIU is irreplaceable.”
Sparks joins the U of I volleyball staff after two years as a member in the Iowa Athletic Department. She has served as a learning assistant for Academic Services, a sports operations coordinator, and spent time working with the event management team since June of 2014.
(Note: Portions of this article were republished with permission by the University of Iowa Athletic Department.)