McGarry Receives Highest Honor in Academic Field of Sport Management

Jennie McGarry
Professor Jennifer McGarry received the North American Society for Sport Management’s highest honor this past summer: the Earle F. Zeigler Lecture Award. (Courtesy of U.S. Dept. of State in cooperation with the University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace, & Society. Photographer: Jaron Johns)

This past summer, the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) formally recognized Neag School Professor Jennifer McGarry as the 2019 recipient of its most prestigious honor: the Earle F. Zeigler Lecture Award. The Zeigler Award, the highest distinction one can earn in the academic field of sport management, acknowledges significant contributions to the field in terms of scholarship, research, leadership, and peer recognition.

McGarry, who accepted the award during the NASSM conference in May, says she appreciates how the award recognition will give her a platform to share her voice and inspire others in the field.

In addition to heading the Department of Educational Leadership since 2014 and serving as executive director of Husky Sport for the past 16 years, McGarry has worked to help strengthen the sport management program since joining the Neag School in 2002. Collaborating with fellow educational leadership faculty, she has specifically worked to embed within the sport management curriculum a focus on equity. This focus, McGarry says, challenges students to think critically about the world of sport — and its influence on and connection with larger societal issues, such as diversity, stereotypes, and activism — from a variety of perspectives.

Integrating an emphasis of equity into the program, says McGarry, ultimately means striving to engage students in making the world a better, more equitable place. These ideals, she adds, are “reflected in who we hire and how we teach our courses. It’s what we talk about, how we engage, and how we’re preparing our students for the real world.”

According to colleagues and former students alike, McGarry has also served as a positive role model, skilled in establishing solid relationships and inspiring others as an effective leader.

“As a leader, Jennie demonstrates courage … the courage to be vulnerable, to acknowledge when she is struggling to have the ‘answer,’ or to find the best way to address the problem,” says Laura Burton, professor of sport management and head of the Department of Educational Leadership while McGarry heads into a yearlong sabbatical. “She truly cares about each of her students as individuals and advocates for them in ways you would imagine advocating for members of your family or close friends.”

“As a leader, Jennie demonstrates courage … the courage to be vulnerable, to acknowledge when she is struggling to have the ‘answer,’ or to find the best way to address the problem.”

— Professor Laura Burton

“She has challenged me academically, intellectually, and has provided an exemplary model of what effective research in action looks like,” says doctoral student Michael Mallery. “Dr. McGarry’s life and career inspire me to become more, research more, and never forget to pay it forward through the actions of my work. Many scholars never get the privilege to meet someone of the caliber of Dr. McGarry, let alone learn from someone like her. This is a privilege and honor I do not take for granted.”

Originally housed in UConn’s Department of Kinesiology, the sport management program moved to the Department of Educational Leadership in 2012. The move, McGarry says, has proven to be positive for faculty, including herself, and the program as a whole, as it is strategically aligned with educational leadership programs focused on equity and leadership. Moving forward, McGarry says she hopes to continue broadening her students’ perspectives while expanding and improving the program with new faculty talent and increased internship opportunities for students.

“This has been a year of ups and downs for sure. The Zeigler was a definite up,” McGarry says. “Having my longtime colleague Joey Cooper take a new position was a down. However, things are looking up again as we just began a new academic year with great new undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. students as well as welcoming an amazing group of new faculty to the sport management programs this past week. I am excited about where we are and where we are going. It’s a great time to be part of the sport management program at UConn.”

Learn more about the sport management program at