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Penn State Shenango Athletic Director Lands On Forbes’ ’30 Under 30′ List

Penn State Shenango Athletic Director Amanda Howett landed on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list last week.

As one of the 30 honorees in the sports division of the recognition, Howett appeared thanks to her rapid expansion of the Commonwealth Campus’s athletic program. Howett was also joined by Oakland Raiders defensive lineman and former Nittany Lions star Carl Nassib thanks to his recent advocacy efforts for the LGBTQ+ community.

Howett joined Shenango as its athletic director in January 2021. At that time, the small campus had just two sports programs. Since her hire, she has launched a women’s basketball team and co-ed golf program. Additionally, she has initiated fundraising for a baseball team’s inception in 2024.

Originally hailing from Saegertown, Pa., Howett attended Slippery Rock for her undergraduate degree and West Virginia for graduate school, though she considers herself a Penn State fan for life. Growing up, she played every sport her mom could sign her up for, and in high school, she shifted her focus to softball until she sustained an injury.

During her time at Slippery Rock, Howett completed an internship with the assistant athletic director at Allegheny College thaat served as a catalyst for her passion for college athletics and the sports industry.

During the pandemic, Howett was working toward her doctorate degree when her professor sent her the job posting for Shenango’s athletic director position, though she initially didn’t think she had a shot. But, her best friend encouraged her to apply, and her passion for college athletics was exactly what the program needed to grow and develop.

As mentioned previously, Shenango only had established men’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams. Prior to her hire, though, a large gift from the alumni society was received to fund the women’s basketball program.

Howett learned that there was a lot of community support to expand opportunities for athletes. Ultimately, she wants Shenango to be on a similar level as other established and successful PSUAC schools like Penn State Beaver and DuBois.

She released a survey to students and administrators, and golf and baseball were the two main sports students were interested in. So, she ran with the idea.

Luckily, Shenango Valley has a deep-rooted history with golf, as the Commonwealth Campus had a team in the early 2000s, and there are six golf courses within 10 miles of campus. Her research proved that it made sense financially and logistically to bring golf to Penn State Shenango.

Both the PSUAC and USCAA hold championships for baseball and golf, and Howett was seeking a sport that wouldn’t overload campus in the fall, so baseball was another realistic choice.

“You can’t just think of the first year of a program, you have to think, ‘How can we sustain this over time?’ After finances come facilities,” Howett said. “Since we don’t have facilities here on campus, we have to consider what the community has to offer and how we would be able to create a partnership with them. After those two pieces, there’s a lot of other research. For myself, that has consisted of looking at local high schools and their successes, speaking with our conference commissioners and athletic directors, and looking at the growth and projections for athletes and sports.”

Women’s basketball is the only new sport currently competing. The team won its first game, and a player received Player of the Week by the PSUAC. Going forward, co-ed golf will begin competing next fall and baseball in spring 2024.

Howett also established a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee that hopes to give Shenango’s student-athletes a voice.

“Representatives from each team were chosen because of their proven leadership,” Howett said. “Student-athletes hold a unique place on every campus, and Shenango is no different. Nobody else experiences what they do on campus, and as an administrator, I want to make sure each team has the opportunity to voice an opinion, offer up a suggestion, or discuss issues they may be having on or off the court.”

Howett’s biggest goal right now is to establish stability and a solid foundation in order to expand successfully. While she of course wants her teams to be PSUAC and USCAA national champions, she knows other things need to be addressed first.

As the only full-time employee in the office, Howett also hopes to expand Shenango’s staff, be it, full-time assistant directors or coaches. One of her greatest successes was establishing a full-time athletic trainer and working toward remodeling the campus’s training services.

Howett believes that being such a young athletic director was a reason she was nominated for Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list.

“I get asked a lot how I got this job at my age,” Howett said. “My answer is always because of the opportunities and experiences I was able to take advantage of, as well as my love and passion for creating opportunities for student-athletes on campus.”

“I believe the Forbes’ judges selected me from the nominees because so much has happened here at Shenango in the 11 months that I have been a part of campus,” Howett continued. “Of course, I can’t take the credit for all of that because I have an amazing team here at Shenango who are just as passionate. I think anyone in my current position would have been nominated because once you bring in the director of a department, stability and vision are created which has allowed for us to add these opportunities.”

Howett found out she was nominated in October, though ultimately forgot about it. But, when she woke up to a congratulatory email, she immediately started crying and smiling, as it had been a goal of hers to get on the list since she started working in sports.

As for advice, Howett encourages people interested in sports to go out there and gain experience.

“Whether your degree is in sport management, business, communications, etc., you won’t get a job without experience and connections,” Howett said. “Take the internship, take the risk, and take advantage of even the smallest opportunity. The sports industry has a lot of different opportunities, and you’ll never know what you like or what you’re good at if you don’t try. You never know who you will meet or who you will impress and that lands you a network of connections that can help you get to the next step.”

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About the Author

Colleen Nersten

Colleen is a senior biology major from York, Pa and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She overuses the ~tilde~ and aspires to be no other than the great Guy Fieri. You can find Colleen filling up her gas tank at Rutter’s, the ~superior~ Pennsylvania gas station. Please direct any questions or concerns to [email protected] For the hijinks, always.

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