To learn more about Savage and his vision for the department, watch the following video and read the Q&A with Cal's new Director of Student-Affairs below.
When did you start your student-services career?
I started my student-services role at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business as a career coach for three and a half years. From there, I followed a life-long dream to live in Northern California. I became a career coach at the University of California working with undergrads in the Haas School of Business. It was an exciting change in populations from MBA students to undergraduate business candidates. I spent nearly six years working with employers on their strategy to access undergraduate talent and on programming and counseling to prepare the 750 Haas undergrads for annual recruitment.
What was it about this position that got you excited to transition to Intercollegiate Athletics?
The biggest thing was the challenge of meeting the student services needs of the unique and gifted population of student-athletes - whose majors are more diverse and whose life experiences are impacted by the complexity of what amounts to two full-time jobs in terms of their academics and athletics responsibilities.
What excites you about working for the University of California?
The culture. Having attended the University of Michigan, a large academic public university about the same size as the University of California, I am loyal to the culture and appreciate it. When I was attending graduate school, I made a decision to pursue counseling through a psychology program and I had to select a population to train. When I did my first internship at Loyola University in Chicago, part of my responsibilities was to work with the basketball program. That was my first experience with student-athletes. What I realized is that across cultures and across age groups, students were more likely to ask for help when it came to their career then they were for personal issues. One of the additional challenges of this job was to look out for the development of our students professionally and personally throughout their college experience. Those two things have come together in this position for me. I was a gymnast for 10 years and had to redirect my Olympic dream when I grew above 6ft in 11th grade and no longer fit the equipment. I intend to provide expertise to student-athletes who will in some way be challenged to manage that experience. Having been there helps me to be more sensitive, more approachable and more individually understanding of the transition personally and professionally. There is, of course, a bright side of most challenges as in sport. There are myriad life skills and attributes that will pay off in the professional world for those that are transitioning out of an athletic career that I am excited about helping illuminate - to provide opportunities for Cal athletes to first understand their strengths and then market themselves in the real world.
What are the challenges of a student-athlete here at the University of California and how do you plan to assist with these challenges?
There is certainly a great expectation of a student-athlete here at the University of California. This population is originating from a lot of different places into one brand called Cal. What that means for student-athletes is there are additional challenges down that road. It starts with their strict schedules. Their lifestyle often looks more like what a college graduate might experience in terms of rigor, time management, responsibility and communication with strong professional skills that translate well. I think the first thing is recognizing and being sensitive to their daily experience as a young adult. Because of demands, it does not give them easy access to the rest of the international and multicultural community here in the same way that it does for a student that doesn't have these responsibilities. Part of my charge is to connect them or be the liaison to facilitate access to the kinds of experiences that are important for them that they don't have the time to sort out on their own so that it rounds out their college investment. My goal is satisfaction when they leave here. I want them to look back and say this was a balanced and enriching experience. I want them to be confident to position those things for their own personal life and their professional growth going forward.
How does the opening of the new Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance help with your goals and objectives?
Clearly there is higher visibility in terms of generating interest from alumni, the Cal community, the Bay area, and from sports fans in general. It also instills an additional sense of pride. Think about the visual cues that you get from your facilities that remind you that you are supported, that you are comfortable and that you feel at home. We are really building a new home for them here. That is uniquely challenging because we are spread throughout the campus, but the idea is to integrate this new facility into that sense of home and give them confidence that they have the best professionals available to support their athletic success, academic standards and personal development.
What are your main goals in your first year as you transition into this position?
I think it is really important to go back to the core principles of the student affairs division of athletics which are personal development, career preparation and community outreach. These three prongs are designed to give them a balanced experience. For each individual, investment in any one area may be more important than in others so we provide all three in order to express a range which is parallel to the types of experiences that are going to help mature them into confident and productive adults and more prepared to go out into the real world and carry the pride of Cal with them throughout the rest of their lives.
When you first started in this field, is this where you wanted/expected to be?
Not exactly. Peter Ueberroth was an early influence on my career. He wrote a wonderful book after the 1984 Olympics on how a successful baseball commissioner was the first person to organize a profitable Olympic games. Marketing was my first love and his integrated marketing approach through sponsorship is the event standard today. The complexity of integrating corporate goals with goals at sporting events is unique and after working for years in marketing, some of the psychological concepts are similar in that you are serving people while influencing decisions. What better place to do that than in an academic institution like the University of California where you are working with the finest and brightest talent and you are meeting them at a time when they are leaving home and you have the added responsibility of helping them transition into the responsibilities of adulthood. I feel that is ultimately my calling, what I am good at.
What excites you about this new role?
Change always excites me. One of the hallmarks of what I bring from my experience at the Haas School of Business is innovation. I am always seeking improvement. As generations change, as the profile of our students entering college changes, as the economy changes, and as social trends change, I really get excited about finding new ways and more efficient ways to deliver service and empower students to be prepared for success in their lives. Most of what I impart is confidence. The ability to instill confidence is not always tangible. It is at the center of a person's buy-in and ultimately their feeling of success in the world. It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of empowering people to move forward in their lives.