Risa F. Isard

Assistant Professor

Expertise: Sport Management

Educational Leadership


Assistant Professor, Sport Management

Academic Degrees:

Ph.D. Management, University of Massachusetts Amherst

B.A., Social Change at the Intersection of Culture, Gender, and Sport, Duke University, 2012

Areas of Expertise:

Stigma in the workplace
Equity in sport organizations
Intersectional diversity among sport stakeholders
Women’s sport

Current Courses:

Management of Sport Organizations

Introduction to Sport Marketing


Dr. Risa Isard is a sport industry veteran. As a scholar, she uses quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate how stigma influences the experiences of organizational stakeholders. Isard is most interested in exploring how this manifests in women’s sport, given the unique economic, historic, and socio-cultural factors that influence associated organizations. She is driven to produce work that can advance equity for girls and women, LGBTQ+ folks, and people of color, as well as others marginalized in society and sport. Her research has been featured at the international festival SXSW as well as in the New York Times, ESPN, Ebony, CNN, NBC Sports, Vice and elsewhere, including on the popular podcast Takeline. As a thought leader and public scholar, Isard has penned pieces for Sports Business Journal, NBC, Adweek, Global Sport Matters, Quartz, and espnW among other outlets. Her research and public scholarship have inspired industry changes and spurred related partnerships.

Isard’s varied industry experiences inform her research. She is the founder of RISport, where she consults for sport organizations on issues of equity and inclusion. Previously, as the first full-time employee for the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, she launched and oversaw all community-based initiatives; was founding director of the Project Play Summit, which hosted Michelle Obama and Billie Jean King; developed the first online tool to grow access to sport; related evidence-based findings for sports industry leaders; and consulted for international partners. She has also led key community and corporate initiatives national nonprofit KABOOM!, a minor league baseball team, and Brandi Chastain’s nonprofit ReachUp!, as well as holding previous staff roles with Duke Women’s Basketball and the Phoenix Mercury.

Isard received her Ph.D. from the Isenberg School of Management and Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at the University of Massachusetts. Her dissertation was titled Women’s Professional Sport and Stigma. She previously graduated cum laude from Duke University with a specialized degree in “Social Change at the Intersection of Culture, Gender, and Sports,” simultaneously receiving honors for her original research on the pre-history and early years of Title IX (1969-1975).

You can follow Isard on Twitter: @RisaLovesSports.

Peer-Reviewed Publications (Select):

Isard, R. F., Melton, E. N., Delia, E. B. & Nite, C. (Accepted). Between profit and purpose: Employee responses to financial and social logics in women’s sport. Journal of Sport Management.

Isard, R. F., Melton, E. N., & Macaulay, C. D. T. (2023). Women’s sport and everyday resistance. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living.

Katz, M., Melton, E. N., Isard, R. F., & Agha, N. (Accepted). Fan networks in women’s sport: An egocentric analysis of social fans and isofans. Sport Marketing Quarterly.

Melton, E. N., Cunningham, G. B., MacCharles, J., & Isard, R. F. (2023). LGBTQ inclusive fan codes of conduct in US athletic departments: A multilevel analysis. International Journal of Sports Marketing, 24(3), 432-448.

Cunningham, G. B., Isard, R., & Melton, E. N. (2022). Transgender inclusion in sport. Kinesiology Review, 11, 64–70.

Isard, R. F., & Melton, E. N. (2021). Does sport media raise her name? Examining intersectional representation in media narratives. Sport, Business and Management, 12(3), 305–322.

Industry Media & Engagement (Select):

    Isard, R. F., Katz, M., Melton, E. N., Agha, N. (2023). Solving the mystery of the WNBA ‘IsoFan.’ Sports Business Journal. https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/SB-Blogs/OpEds/2023/07/27-isard-katz-melton-agha

    Isard, R. F., & Melton, E. N. (2021). Make this the season we end discriminatory sports coverage. Sports Business Journal. https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/SB-Blogs/COVID19-OpEds/2021/05/24-IsardMelton.aspx

    Isard, R., Davis, A. R., McNutt, M., Kelley, M., Melton, E. N., & Waters-Brown, L. (2022, March 14). Improving equity for women in sports media. SXSW, Austin, Texas, United States. https://schedule.sxsw.com/2022/events/PP117459

    Isard, R. (2021). Discriminatory sports laws hurt trans girls—and cis girls, too. Global Sport Matters. https://globalsportmatters.com/opinion/2021/03/31/discriminatory-sports-laws-hurt-trans-girls-and-cis-girls-too/

    Isard, R. (2020). Employers need to do more than the bare minimum for LGBTQ employees. Adweek. https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/employers-need-to-do-more-than-the-bare-minimum-for-lgbtq-employees/

    Isard, R. (2019). The life-altering moment that turned the father of Title IX into a champion for women. Quartz. https://qz.com/1594098/birch-bayh-showed-that-the-best-allies-listen-to-women-then-act/

    Isard, R. (2018). Beyond a level playing field: A conversation with Olympians Kristine Lilly, Elana Meyers Taylor, and Joe Maloy. Aspen Insight podcast. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/podcasts/beyond-a-level-playing-field/

    Media Mentions (Select):

    Mentioned in New York Times: Friedman, V. (2023). From the Women’s World Cup to Wimbledon, a victory everyone can share. (Link)

    Mentioned in New York Times: Streeter, K. (2023). A growing W.N.B.A. still boxes out some personalities. (Link)

    Quoted in ESPN: Barnes, K. (2022). Jonquel Jones and the untold story of the WNBA’s reigning MVP. (Link)

    Mentioned in Ebony: Blakely, A. S. (2022). The discrepancy and inequity that comes with being a talented Black female athlete. (Link)

    Mentioned on ESPN Around the Horn. (Link)

    Mentioned in NBCSports On Her Turf: Azzi, A. (2021). Don’t be misled by the WNBA’s top 10 jersey list. (Link)

    Quoted in The Atlantic: Flanagan, L. (2017). The field where men still call the shots. (Link)

    Invited Lectures (Select):

    Racial equity research in women’s sport. Medill School of Journalism, University of Maryland.

    Title IX past and present. Sports Innovation Lab.

    Sports as voice and tool for social progress. U.S. Department of State Sports Diplomacy.

    To optimally use and build on the compelling science. Surgeon General’s Innovation Summit.

    I’m an athlete, not a princess: The double bind of women in sports. Women’s Center, Duke University.

    Sports and sexuality: The intersection of sports and sexual identity. Carey Law School, University of Pennsylvania.

    Sports for social change. B’nai B’rith Youth Organization International Convention.

    Featuring Billie Jean King: Building a social movement for access to sport. Aspen Institute Project Play Summit.


    Finalist, Student Research Competition, North American Society for Sport Management

    Winner, Middlesworth Award, Duke University

    Nominated, Highest Departmental Award, Duke University

    Industry Partnerships (Select):


    Sports Innovation Lab

    MirNaHill Foundation

    Academic Service + Leadership in Community (Select):

    Reviewer, Leisure Studies

    Reviewer, Sport in Society

    Reviewer, Journal of Intercollegiate Sport

    Member, The Collective, Wasserman

    Member, North American Society for Sport Management

    Member, Expert Review Panel, Women’s Sports Foundation

    REALITY Sports Fellowship, Schusterman Family Philanthropies

    Previous Industry Roles:

    KaBOOM! | Associate Director, Thought Leadership (and Sports)

    Aspen Institute | Project Director, Sports & Society Program

    Fresno Grizzlies (MiLB) | Community Relations

    Phoenix Mercury | Basketball Communications

    Risa Isard
    Contact Information
    Phone(860) 486-0204
    Mailing AddressU-3093
    Office LocationGentry 217B