Spry is thrilled to celebrate the many successful women in the sports industry. We are proud to work with many of these men and women and can’t wait to share their stories and successes with you!
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Karrie Dixon. Dixon is currently the Chancellor of Elizabeth City State University.
Below is a summary of our conversation:
Please give me a brief history of your life/career.
“I was born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC and attended Carver High School. After leaving Carver I attended North Carolina State University where I majored in Communications and Public Relations. At that particular time I wanted to go into television so I was able to acquire an internship with a news station in Raleigh, WRAL. After graduation I got a job at the local NBC affiliate back in Winston-Salem as an associate marketing producer. From there, I went on to a marketing firm, also in Winston-Salem, called SMSI. Through that venture, I helped to launch a magazine called Urban Call, which was created to market products specifically towards underrepresented groups.
Building on my interest in the PR space, I decided to go to grad school and enrolled in a Masters program at UNC Greensboro in Speech Communication and Rhetoric. As a graduate student, I had the opportunity to take on a teaching position and it was then that the light bulb went on for me. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, this is where I feel I received my calling. I truly enjoyed the interaction with the students and being able to help students fulfill their promise. My experience in the classroom led me to volunteer for a pilot program working with students who had been placed on academic warning. I was assigned 25 students through the study and 23 of the 25 were able to improve their GPAs and remain enrolled in college. This was extremely rewarding for me and would actually serve as the inspiration for my doctoral program. The topic of my doctoral dissertation actually focused on the academic and social integration on college campuses. Through this work I discovered that there were a number of policies that served as barriers to success in higher education. This realization ignited the desire to shift the focus of my career towards policy matters, specifically how policies are implemented and what the implications are for students and their experience.”
Dixon completed her doctoral studies at NC State, earning a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration. This served as a pivotal point in her career as she would soon transition from the classroom to administration.
“I decided to pursue administration because that’s where policies are typically created”, said Dixon of her shift. Upon completing her doctoral studies, she became an Assistant Vice Provost at NC State, a position which she held for four years, until she was asked to join UNC system office where she served as Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs. “Working with the UNC system and its 17 campuses afforded me the opportunity to learn higher education from a macro level.” After 10 years at the system office, Dixon was asked to become the interim Chancellor at Elizabeth City State, and ultimately Chancellor, where she has just completed her fifth year leading the institution.
As Chancellor, Dixon is heavily involved in a number of significant NCAA issues, including NIL and the transfer portal, both of which she has identified as “game changers” within the landscape of college athletics.
What advice would you offer to aspiring young professionals?
“Show up everyday and be willing to do the work required for whatever task you’re involved with. Show up doing your best and know that what you are doing matters.”
“Don’t ever give up. No just means not now.”
“Don’t burn a bridge before you cross it. In the age of social media, someone is always watching. Opportunities are often gained or lost even when we aren’t aware that we’re being observed.”
“Also, don’t forget the bridge that brought you over (i.e. the people who have supported and loved you over the long term). Other people often see things in you that you don’t see in yourself, especially those who have known you over the course of time. They can pour a lot of strength into you, so value those people and those relationships.”
Who have been your role models/mentors professionally? Personally?
“I’ll start by saying my parents have always been a tremendous source of support for me. I’m grateful that my parents instilled in me the importance of education. They didn’t have the opportunity to go to college straight out of high school, although they both went back and graduated later in life. They always encouraged my sister and I to pursue education so I appreciate that about them.
I also appreciate the fact that I’ve had great mentors and sponsors along the way. I’ve had a host of mentors who have been instrumental in my journey in higher education and my sponsors have been absolutely amazing. Many of them have been in spaces where I wasn’t in the room but they were advocating for me and waving my flag to help shepherd me through this journey.
Finish this sentence. The best part of my job is……
“Giving students the tools to navigate the collegiate experience, especially first-generation students and minority students. ECSU is located in the middle of some of the most economically distressed counties in North Carolina, so we have a responsibility to educate North Carolinians so that they can go back and invest in their community. To that end, I’m proud to say that ECSU was ranked the #1 HBCU for social and economic mobility. To be able to play a role in changing the trajectory of the lives of these students is incredibly rewarding. Our tagline is ‘Come to discover your passions and leave to conquer your dreams’, so when I see our students lean into this and thrive, it keeps me motivated to continue investing in them. On my worst days, when I go out on campus and talk to our students and see the promise they have, it inspires me to keep doing the work.”
What Does Women’s History Month Mean to You?
“Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to highlight and share the stories of women who have made an impact in our communities and celebrate all the trailblazers who have defied the odds and been hidden figures. But one thing I always say to women is, when you’ve broken the glass ceiling, don’t let them put it back together behind you. Keep it shattered because you want other women to be able to walk through there as well. I think as women, we must stay focused on that, and Women’s History month provides a great reminder of our obligation to pass the baton and support each other in the quest for advancement. But of course, the other reason Women’s History Month is particularly important this year is because we’ve just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Title IX. We definitely have a reason to celebrate the legislation that secured women’s opportunity to participate in athletics, as I did in high school.
As a side note, this year our women’s volleyball and women’s basketball teams made history by winning the CIAA championships so we are really excited to celebrate women on our campus this month.”
Dr. Karrie Dixon’s dedication as an educator is evident through the lives of those she has touched. Her deep commitment to her family and her community, and the passion she has for improving the lives of those around her has been the hallmark of her career. Whether in the classroom or the board room, she has been an inspiration to many. For these reasons, Spry is proud to highlight her as part of our Women’s History Month celebration!