You may have seen them on the sidelines, in the stands, or heading off to meetings; but what does an athletic director really do? This summer, on each Friday, we will take you behind the desk with the heads of the athletic departments from St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference member institutions. This week's interview is with Iowa Wesleyan University Director of Athletics Derek Zander.
An alum of Iowa Wesleyan University, a former member of the Tiger baseball team, Derek Zander is moving into the Athletic Director position this year after serving as the Tigers head coach of the baseball program for the previous five seasons.
You were just named Athletic Director and will be hanging up the jersey as baseball coach. Why did you want to take on the new role?
"Growing up, I always knew I wanted my profession to involve athletics in some form or the
other. When I was hired to lead the baseball program at Iowa Wesleyan in 2012, it was a great opportunity to get my foot in the door. While serving as the baseball coach for the past five years, I also served as the compliance officer for four years and assistant athletic director for one year. During this time I was able to be involved administratively within in the athletic department and that is when I knew I eventually wanted to be an athletic director. When the position became vacant in April, I hoped for an opportunity to become the next athletic director because this is an institution and athletic department that I am extremely passionate about and I wanted to become a bigger part due to the momentum we have built up in the past several years."
Iowa Wesleyan recently announced the strategic vision. Can you talk a little more about the goals set forth by the University?
"Over the past few months, the athletic department at Iowa Wesleyan spent time creating a
document called, "Tiger Athletics- Committing to Excellence". This document contains what
our vision for Tiger Athletics is, and what we expect to accomplish over the next five years.
As the regional comprehensive university of southeast Iowa, it is our job to serve our surrounding communities by offering an engaging student experience through our undergraduate and graduate programs. Because we aim to serve this region, we created our vision based on three main themes. Growth and Competitiveness, Visibility and Loyalty, and Facilities and Equipment. Growth and Competitiveness- we aim to design a student- centered athletic program aimed to enhance personal development and academic success, field competitive teams, and expand athletic offerings. Visibility and Loyalty- Continue our branding efforts to impact our outreach, create awareness and increase the visibility of Tiger Athletics. Facilities and Equipment- Overall upgrade of our athletic venues. As an athletic department, we feel this vision help us continue to enhance the student-athlete experience at Iowa Wesleyan University, and help us continue to grow our community outreach."
How did you end up at Iowa Wesleyan after growing up in Colorado? Why did you decide to attend school there and why have you stayed?
"I originally made the trip out to Iowa on a baseball scholarship to attend Indian Hills Community College. After completing my two years there, I was recruited to play baseball at Iowa Wesleyan. I was attracted to Iowa Wesleyan because of the size of the community, relationship with the head coach, and the relationships I would have with my teammates because several players from Indian Hills transferred with me. I chose to stay at Iowa Wesleyan for several different reasons. The University believed in me and allowed me to begin my coaching career despite my age, and I was able to work my way up from an assistant position to the head coach for the Tiger Baseball team. I have continued to stay at Iowa Wesleyan because I am passionate about the athletic department and the University and am excited to be a part of the direction we are heading."
How is the progress to NCAA Division III going? You were there when it was NAIA and have coached during the transition, how has the process been and how excited will it be once it is over?
"We are continuing the process to NCAA DIII and have just advanced to Year Four of the Provisional Process. It has been a long road up until this point, but we are looking forward to earning full membership. We are excited for our student-athletes to get to experience the opportunity to compete in the conference tournaments, as well as the opportunity to be recognized for certain awards that they currently do not get a chance to receive because of our provisional status. We are definitely looking forward to the day where we receive our NCAA Division III Membership."
What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?
"In my role as interim athletic director, I hope to continue the progress that the athletic department has made over the past several months. We want to advance the department and fulfill our vision by helping our coaches build competitive teams, enhance our sport offerings, continuing to involve ourselves with the local community and getting our brand out to surrounding areas. It is an exciting time to be part of Tiger Athletics, and I am excited to be a part of what we are doing here."