Photo: GSU Athletics

GRAMBLING, La. — This week, Grambling State University welcomed Merlene Aitken-Smith as Senior Associate Athletics Director/Senior Woman Administrator.
Aitken-Smith comes to Grambling State after serving seven years as the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, Student Services/ Senior Woman Administrator, and Title IX Investigator at Clayton State University in Morrow, Ga.

Merlene Aitken-Smith was recently hired as the Senior Associate Athletics Director /Senior Woman Administrator at Grambling State University.

“It’s imperative that every member of the team have a clear vision of how to continue the progress of our outstanding athletics legacy,” said Dr. David Ponton, Athletics Director and Vice President of Student Affairs. “We are excited to welcome Mrs. Aitken-Smith to the team.”

At Grambling State, she will lead the athletics compliance program and supervise the academic services program, which facilitates and supports academic advising and tutorial services for student-athletes. Aitken-Smith will partner with and serve as the primary liaison for the Title IX, Financial Aid, and Registrar’s Offices to ensure compliance and proper certification of student-athlete eligibility consistent with NCAA and SWAC rules and regulations. She will report directly to Grambling State President Rick Gallot and have an indirect reporting line to Ponton.

Additionally, Aitken-Smith will serve as the sport administrator for multiple men’s and women’s teams, along with representing Grambling State for a four-year term as a newly appointed member of the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct.

“I am honored and humbled to accept the Senior Associate Athletics Director/SWA position at Grambling State University,” Aitken-Smith said. “Grambling State has a rich tradition of academic excellence and athletic success. I am proud and excited to be part of this tradition. I want to thank President Rick Gallot and Dr. David Ponton for the opportunity to join the Grambling State family, and I look forward to contributing to the success our student-athletes, coaches, and team members.”

Aitken-Smith’s 20-plus years of compliance and athletics administration experience include previous positions at Georgia Tech, North Carolina A&T, Winston Salem State, University of Kansas, University of Washington, and Michigan State University.

At Clayton State, Aitken-Smith coordinated day-to-day compliance and rules education for all intercollegiate athletics programs. Her primary areas of oversight included the compliance office, academic services/life-skills, women’s basketball, men’s golf, and cheerleading. From May-September 2018, she also served as the Interim Director of Athletics.

Under Aitken-Smith’s leadership, Clayton State student-athletes set records with grade-point averages, and Clayton State earned the Peach Belt Conference President’s Academic Award in May 2019.

In addition to leading students to academic excellence, Aitken-Smith established the Laker Leadership Program, a life-skills program that featured various personal and professional sessions throughout the academic year.

About Merlene Aitken-Smith

Merlene Aitken-Smith served on numerous Institutional, Peach Belt Conference, and NCAA committees. During 2019-2020, she was selected to participate in the prestigious NCAA Pathway Program for aspiring athletic directors and conference commissioners. She has been appointed to serve on the Board for the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association (MOAA) and serves as a member of Women Leaders in College Sports (formerly NACWAA) where she is on the Nominating Committee and the 2018 Atlanta Local Organizing Committee. Aitken-Smith also served as the NCAA Ethnic Minority and Women Internship Grant Chair-2018 and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

A native of Yonkers, NY, Merlene Aitken-Smith earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Brooklyn College and her Juris Doctorate from Massachusetts School of Law.

Courtesy: GSU Athletics


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