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Breaking barriers beyond Northwestern: Female alumni with careers in sports

From sports media to the front office, here are some Wildcat women you should know.

Journal & Topics

There is no doubt Northwestern sends its alumni off to great places, but it’s even clearer that Northwestern provides the perfect environment for female alums to pursue careers in sports. Its membership in the Big Ten allows women to have opportunities on the court while pursuing a top-tier education — sometimes that means pursuing sportscasting in Medill, communications in Annenberg or business in Kellogg. Former Wildcat athletes and students have pursued a variety of careers in the male-dominated sports industry, whether it be on the court, on the sidelines or behind the scenes. Here are some notable alums every Northwestern fan should know.

@AUProSports

Symone Abbott (‘18)

Athletes Unlimited has given volleyball fans an outlet to stream professional volleyball and follow favorite former college athletes right here in the United States. Luckily for Northwestern fans, former volleyball standout Symone Abbott joined AU pro in its inaugural season of indoor volleyball. AU’s league setup is quite unique by ranking each individual player on their performance as the teams are constantly redrafted. Abbott had a great stint in the American League, finishing the season with 118 kills and 108 digs, ranking 27th overall and 8th out of all the outside hitters at the end of the season.

Game Plan

Emily Ehman (‘20)

Another former volleyballer has continued her career in sports following her graduation from Northwestern. When looking at colleges, Emily Ehman searched for schools that would allow her to pursue an education in journalism, all the while allowing her to extend her volleyball career. After graduating with a B.S. in journalism in 2020, Ehman started Big Ten Volleytalk, an online web show in which she interviewed players, coaches and alumni about their experiences playing in the B1G.

A little later down the road, Ehman found herself reaching out to former teammate Payton Chang, who had recently taken a job working with the Athletes Unlimited league. Soon after, Ehman boarded a flight to Dallas to join AU as a digital host. She is back in Chicago now working for Big Ten Network as an analyst and sideline reporter. She has had opportunities to cover the NCAA Volleyball Tournament, Women’s College World Series and the NBA Combine.

WTA Tennis

Katrina Adams (‘89)

At Northwestern, Adams led the ‘Cats to a Big Ten Championship in 1986, and in 1987, she and her partner Diane Donnelly went on to win the 1987 NCAA Doubles Championship. She graduated as a two-time All-American and went on to pursue a professional career in the WTA. Adams competed on the WTA Tour for 12 years, winning a total of 20 career doubles titles and reaching the quarterfinals or better in doubles at all four Grand Slam events.

After retiring from the court, she became the president and CEO of the United States Tennis Association, becoming the first Black person and former player to hold the position. She also made history as the youngest person to serve as president in the 135-year history of the organization. Additionally, Adams was named to Adweek magazine’s “Most Powerful Women in Sports” list twice, Forbes magazine’s “Most Powerful Women in Sports” list in 2017 and Ebony magazine’s “Power 100” list. Adams has also been a commentator for the Tennis Channel since 2003.

MeghanMcKeown.com

Meghan McKeown (‘14)

The former Northwestern hooper luckily hasn’t strayed too far from Big Ten basketball. After growing up her whole life surrounded by the sport, Meghan McKeown decided to join her father, Joe, in Evanston as a ‘Cat on the women’s basketball team while pursuing a degree in journalism.

After graduating as a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, McKeown moved to Indianapolis to begin covering sports, ranging from the Colts and the Pacers to IndyCar and NASCAR to Big Ten football and basketball. Since then, she has worked as a color commentator for the Chicago Sky and basketball analyst and sideline reporter for both ESPN and Big Ten Network. Her unique experience as a player and as the daughter of one of the winningest coaches in women’s college basketball allows her to share her distinct perspective with viewers around the nation. Additionally, she was named to STAA’s “Top 30 Sportscasters Under 30” in 2018.

Unstoppable Podcasts

Joanne McCallie (‘87)

Longtime women’s college basketball coach Joanne McCallie was a ‘Cat before she was a Tiger, a Black Bear, a Spartan or, most recently, a Blue Devil. McCallie, then named Palombo, played with the Wildcats from 1984 to 1987, ending her career after leading the team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as a senior. After graduating with a degree in political science, McCallie took her first job as an assistant coach at Auburn University. After, she spent eight years at the University of Maine, coaching the team to six straight NCAA Tournament appearances, four North Atlantic Conference/America East Conference Championships and five regular-season conference titles.

She left Maine as the winningest head coach with 167 total wins before heading to East Lansing. At Michigan State, McCallie led the team to 149 wins and five straight NCAA Tournament appearances over the course of her seven-year tenure. McCallie then finished her career at Duke, spending 13 seasons in Durham. She was named ACC Coach of the Year twice, Big Ten Coach of the Year once and America East Coach of the Year three times. In July 2020, McCallie retired from the sport of basketball. Today, she serves as an advocate for mental health and has published a book on her own struggles with bipolar disorder.

Boston Herald

Katie Krall (‘18)

Krall has been engorged by the sport of baseball since the young age of 10. At Northwestern, she began her pursuit in the field, creating the student promotions coordinator position for the school’s baseball team. She spent a summer interning in the Cape Cod Baseball League as an assistant general manager. After graduating in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in history, Krall joined the inaugural class in MLB’s Diversity Fellowship program. Since then, she has served as the baseball operations analyst with the Cincinnati Reds before landing her current job as the development coach with the Boston Red Sox.

NY Daily News

Anucha Browne (‘85)

Browne began her career with the ‘Cats in 1982 and was an immediate star. In her first year, she shot 51% from the field and averaged just over 11 points per game. She continued to get better and better: her scoring average jumped to 20.4 the following year and 21.3 the year after before concluding with 30.5 per game as a senior. Sanders was selected to the All-Big Ten team three times, was named Big Ten Player of the Year twice and holds the all-time program record for scoring. Northwestern Magazine referred to her as “one of the most accomplished athletes in the school’s history.”

After graduating with a degree in communications in 1985, Browne had a brief stint with the United States Women’s National Team. She then took on a career at IBM; her final role was as a program manager in the company’s Worldwide Sports Office, where she oversaw marketing activities for sports-related events such as the Olympic Games in 1996, 1998, and 2000.

In 2000, she was hired by the New York Knicks as a marketing executive. In 2002, she was promoted to senior vice president of marketing and business operations by the franchise, becoming one of the most powerful Black female executives in professional sports. After being fired in 2006, Browne filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against New York Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas, Madison Square Garden and other parties. In 2007, the jury returned a verdict finding both Thomas and Madison Square Garden liable for sexual harassment. This court case called attention to issues many women in front offices face and set a precedent that discriminatory behavior would not be tolerated. Browne was a trailblazer whose bravery opened up paths for thousands of women to follow.