Dr. Valinda Littlefield Makes an Impact for Athletics Outside the Arena
March is Women’s History month and while there are many female coaches and student-athletes who have made an impact for the University of South Carolina, there are also those who serve off-the-field/court functions that make an impact as well, including Dr. Valinda Littlefield, who has been the Gamecocks’ Faculty Athletics Representative for the last seven years.
“The best part is the people that I’ve met in Athletics,” Dr. Littlefield said. “It has been an absolute joy to work with Athletics. They’re responsive. They’re above board, and they want to make sure things are done right. That’s something I asked before I took on the position. I didn’t want to walk in to be an F.A.R. for a shady athletics department, and they’re excellent here. The students come first. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of it.”
Each SEC university has an F.A.R., and they serve as the liaison between the athletics department and the larger university.
“If there are any issues or concerns, then the Faculty Athletics Rep is the person who is called,” Dr. Littlefield explained. “For example, with NCAA rules, someone from Athletics can’t call a professor about a grade or about a student missing class. So, if there is a grade discrepancy, they call me, and I contact the professor. The biggest challenge is balancing your time. You have to be responsive.
“My role is mostly about student concerns. I meet with the provost once per semester as well to talk about how things are going and if there are any concerns. I also have an open door with the president of the University so if I see something, I can call at any time and say, we need to talk about this.”
Dr. Littlefield currently teaches American history – 1865 to present, African American history, and southern women’s history. She has worked in education for 23 years and noted that being a Faculty Athletics Representative wasn’t something she had ever thought about until she was approached by former F.A.R., Dr. Zach Kelehear.
“I’d like to see the University copy some of the things that Athletics does well.”
“It wasn’t something that I had set out wanting to do,” Dr. Littlefield said. “The previous F.A.R., told me he was leaving and encouraged to me to apply. I looked at it, and thought, this looks interesting. Part of it was because I’d be working directly with students, in this case, student-athletes. I’m always interested in mentoring or working with students or being a voice for students. It was also something new, so I thought it would be a learning experience, let’s go for it!”
Former Gamecock Sheila Foster & Dr. Littlefield
Having worked with the student-athletes for the last seven years, Dr. Littlefield has found the position personally rewarding.
“The learning curve was steep,” Dr. Littlefield said. “So many things I’ve learned about what the Athletics Department does are things I’d love to see the larger University do. Athletics mentors their students much better than the larger University does. It’s more like a family, and I’m sure that’s due to size. I think if you had smaller pockets, then you could do it just as well as Athletics. I’d like to see the University copy some of the things that Athletics does well.
“I also look at exit interviews. I think colleges should do exit interviews with their seniors. Then you find out problems that you may not have ever thought about. Athletics does that really well, and they make changes when they need to make changes.”
Dr. Littlefield already enjoyed sports before she became the F.A.R. but being involved with the student-athletes made her more of a fan. Having enjoyed her role, she recently decided to step down as F.A.R. to allow new ideas and opportunities to be explored.
“One of my F.A.R. colleagues has been doing it for 27 years, and I think that’s a little long,” Dr. Littlefield said. “I don’t think that’s healthy. I always want to make room for someone else to get an opportunity.”