Deputy Athletic Director Shannon Strahl has always been passionate about sports.
“Both of my parents played sports, including my mom, who grew up in the '50s and '60s, where sports for women weren’t as robust as they are now or even as they were for boys back then,” Strahl said.
In 1995, she was offered a scholarship to play for Gonzaga University's women’s soccer team. During her undergraduate years, Strahl studied business administration with concentrations in marketing and human resources.
“She was a business major; very, very good student, but she had no intentions of going into college athletics,” said Mike Roth, former GU athletic director.
However, her involvement in the Student Athlete Advisory Committee — a student group that provides student-athlete representation on concerns involving their programs — opened up many opportunities for her future at the university.
After earning her undergraduate degree, she spent a week soaking up the sun before jumping into her master's program.
“Being able to get my graduate degree as well at GU was such a blessing,” Strahl said.
She felt like the mentality was “go off and get your graduate degree at another school, and expose yourself to others,” but her relationships with the faculty and environment made for a pleasant transition into graduate school.
It wasn’t long before Strahl was approached by the staff liaison at the time, asking if she would be interested in working for the Compliance and Academics office.
Strahl took the offer.
This opportunity allowed her to earn credits toward her graduate degree. She said being a graduate intern just provided “a different level of education.” She felt that the flexible schedule and relatability to her master's degree allowed her to better understand her curriculum while still providing enough time for other endeavors.
“If you’re working somewhere, or interning somewhere, you can take that experience and relate it to the course, or you can take what you’re learning in the course and relate it to where you’re working,” Strahl said. “It becomes way more tangible and you’re actually putting it into practice — just a different level of education.”
In 2000, Strahl was hired full time at GU. She said that the advantage of transitioning from being a student-athlete into an intern, then a full-time employee shortly after, was being able to bring that perspective of the student-athletes.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to kind of be that first filter,” Strahl said.
Once more, Strahl wanted to provide a voice for student-athletes and anticipate what they would want from the department.
“The responsibilities that Shannon has taken on over the years continue to expand, and it’s all because of her abilities,” Roth said. “She has shown the ability to handle situations and to make great decisions and to move Gonzaga athletics — and ultimately the University — in an extremely positive way.”
Roth got to know Strahl better when she began working for the athletic department.
“I have always found her extremely competent,” Roth said. “She really fits Gonzaga.”
Today, Strahl is in awe of how much growth the campus has experienced since she played soccer for the team.
“We’re nationally ranked now as an institution and as an athletic program,” Strahl said. “Who would have ever thought a tiny school from Spokane, Washington, would be on the map like that?”
From the academic rigor expected from students in the classroom to the athletic programs that student-athletes partake in, Strahl is excited to be a part of that evolution.
She thinks what continues to make GU special is how the university is still rooted in its values, beliefs and culture, but is able to adapt to the changing environment and the changing needs of the student athletes.
She tries to maintain the institution's mission by always staying grounded in GU's roots, but having an idea of GU's future and what it hopes to be.
Strahl also supervises men’s and women’s soccer, but stating that “we are all engaged with all of our sports teams and student-athletes.”
Roth reassures though that Strahl’s duties stretch far beyond her job description. Strahl’s responsibilities include student resolution, NCAA representation and enforcing COVID-19 protocols, all while staying true to the school’s mission.
“She had her normal job to do, which was 50-60 hours a week, and now we added on another 40 hours a week of COVID," Roth said.
When Strahl wasn’t in the office or attending a meeting, she was covering shifts at Gonzaga’s COVID-19 testing center.
“By the time we got to the end of our competitive season in June, I think Shannon was pretty exhausted,” Roth said. “At the same time, it shows that she didn’t hesitate. She never complained.”
Strahl is passionate about her position, but the journey hasn't come without its challenges.
“The hardest part, from when I first started up to now, is trying to manufacture those opportunities with student-athletes because they don’t happen organically anymore in the job I do," Strahl said.
On Sept. 1, Chris Standiford, who was the deputy athletic director, took over Roth’s position. Strahl took Standiford's position, moving up from being the senior associate athletic director.
She hopes that the transition will not disrupt the efficiency and effectiveness of the department, and that the university continues to capitalize on the passion and talent that it already has on board.