College of Education; University News; Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Clemson alumni serve as role models for next generation on National Girls and Women in Sports Day


February 7 marks the 38th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD). NGWSD began in 1987 as a special day to recognize women’s sports and unite premier organizations and elite female athletes to bring national attention to the promise of girls and women in sports professions.

“This celebration inspires girls and women to play and be active, to realize their full power,” according to NGWSD. “The confidence, strength and character gained through sports participation are the very tools girls and women need to become strong leaders in sports and life.” 

Clemson alumni continue to shine professionally in all aspects of athletics, from the front office to the sidelines, behind the scenes and in front of the camera; at American sports institutions, including NASCAR, the NFL, CBS Sports and many more. Some recent Clemson graduates took the time to share their career experiences and success stories in the hopes that they can inspire the next generation of Clemson women in sports.

Women in sports organizations

Alexia Grevious Henderson ’14

A woman in a white top and royal blue blazer poses in front of a partially blocked sign that says Magic Johnson Enterprises.

Hometown: Fort Mill, South Carolina

Degree: Communication

Employer: Magic Johnson Enterprises

Role: Henderson manages external relationships with the company’s partners, oversees the activation of all contractual partnership obligations, and assists the president on all business development initiatives. Additionally, Henderson leads the strategic advancement of the corporate brand of Earvin “Magic” Johnson through all marketing and communications efforts and previously served as the director of marketing and communications.

On her Clemson Experience: “I knew I needed to take advantage of the jobs and internships available on campus to build my resume and get experience that would make me more marketable for jobs in the sports industry. Clemson provided that for me.”

Her “I’ve made it!” moment: When the Los Angeles Lakers legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Johnson purchased an ownership stake in the NFL’s Washington Commanders, her former employer. “I returned with him for the official announcement, which was extremely surreal,” she says. “Starting with the team as an intern in 2013 and then returning as an executive for one of the newest owners in 2023 was a ‘look at God’ moment!”

Advice for girls and women who aspire to work in sports: Operate in excellence.

“All my career changes and elevation happened because a manager saw that I was overdelivering in my role and recommended me for a new position,” she says. “Even when you know you can do more if you’re asked to get coffee, get the orders right and have them to your bosses early. When people see the effort and work you’re willing to put in, you build trust and give them the confidence to elevate you.”

Lexie Mehallis ’21

A woman wearing a gray T-shirt that says Cincinnati and black jeans holds a digital camera around her neck while standing on a football field.

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Degree: Marketing, minor in brand communications and art

Employer: Team IMPACT, a nonprofit that matches kids with severe illnesses with college sports teams

Role: Digital content producer

On her Clemson Experience: Mehallis says she wouldn’t have started a career in sports without working with Clemson’s creative solutions team during her time as a student.

“Clemson gave me a chance to immediately make an impact with my work. From Day One, I was creating graphics, taking photos and creating posts that I knew would reach thousands of Tiger fans,” she says.

Her “I’ve made it!” moment: Sitting on the sideline when Cincinnati played Alabama in the Cotton Bowl (She previously worked as a creative, taking photos and videos, making graphics, and running team social media accounts for the Cincinnati and Harvard athletics departments).

“In the fourth quarter, when U.C. was not going to come back — sadly, we were down 20 — I had a minute to just sit by the end zone and soak it all in that I was taking photos at a playoff game.”

Advice to girls and women who aspire to work in sports: Have fun! “Make sure you enjoy what you are doing and are proud of your work. You will create your best work when you are truly excited to share your team or company with your fans and community.”

Brantley Barinowski ’20

Hometown: North Augusta, South Carolina
Degree: Marketing, minor in brand communications
Employer: Augusta National Golf Club
Role: Communications coordinator
On her Clemson Experience: Barinowski says her time at Clemson gave her the tools and confidence to excel in the sports world.

“Looking back, every activity or extracurricular I chose to be involved in gave me tangible skills I use every day,” she says. “But most importantly, Clemson, and the people in it, instilled a true attitude of service in me. It’s something unique to our University and something I’m proud to carry with me. A lot of the sports world is about service — serving players, serving fans and serving viewers. I can’t overstate how important that willingness to serve has been in my professional growth.”

Her “I’ve made it!” moment: “I have an ah-ha moment every single time I drive into work. I feel immensely privileged to work for an organization and a brand I’ve respected my entire life. My work is incredibly rewarding, and standing under the Big Oak Tree during Masters week looking out over what all my co-workers have worked all year to make possible is really the best feeling in the world. Masters week is certainly one giant pinch-me moment!”

Advice to girls and women who aspire to work in sports: Just get your foot in the door.

“Find an organization you respect and would like to work for and network until you find an opportunity that fits your skills and interests. Go in willing to work hard and be teachable, and you’ll find success in basically any organization.”

Women in sports management

Emily Yoder-Shrum ’15

A woman in a black top and purple floral-patterned pants and a woman in a top and navy blue blazer together hold an NBA G League championship trophy.

Hometown: Lawrenceville, Georgia

Degree: Political science

Employer: Lakeland Magic, Kennesaw State University, the Orange Bowl Committee and others

Role: Leadership management consultant

On her Clemson Experience: Yoder-Shrum was a Clemson Women’s Diving Team member from 2011-2015 and a three-time ACC conference qualifier.

“My time as a Clemson student-athlete supplied me with valuable skills like time and project management and collaboration,” she says. “But most importantly, it built lasting relationships across campus that I looked to for mentorship, ideas and opportunities through networking. Many that I still cherish to this day!”

Her “I’ve made it!” moment: Helping to orchestrate Capital One’s on-field signage for ESPN’s national broadcast of the Orange Bowl game in 2017, and knowing that “My hard work and effort was showcased live nationwide for college football fans!”

Advice to girls and women who aspire to work in sports: Don’t let a person’s title or experience intimidate you.

“People are just people, and if you’re willing to reach out and ask questions, most are willing to share, mentor or guide,” she says. “Secondly, find your people: those who inspire you, those who champion you and those your life can make a difference in!”

Women in college athletics

Sarah Temple Deffebach M ’21

A woman in gray pants, a green top and a cream-colored cardigan stands on a green and neon yellow court floor inside of the Baylor basketball arena.

Hometown: Fresno, California

Degree: M.S. in athletic leadership

Employer: Department of Athletics at Baylor University

Role: Director of event management and facilities. She oversees the total game operations for women’s soccer and men’s and women’s basketball. She also manages the magnetometer and security program for football and all other Baylor Athletics-hosted events and building and biometric access for the entire department.

On her Clemson Experience: Clemson prepared her for the career she has built by challenging her professionally and personally.

“I had a mentor who threw me in the fire and taught me how to succeed by doing,” she says. “That taught me to be confident in my instincts and proved that I can achieve things I only dreamed of. Clemson also gave me the freedom and autonomy to learn what drives me, and that is serving female student-athletes to compete at the highest level while communities support them.”

Her ”I’ve made it!” moment: When Baylor opened their new basketball arena just last month.

“We spent two years planning for that first game day,” she says. “Standing on the sideline watching the team get introduced in a brand-new arena filled with fans was a very gratifying experience. A moment like that in a new building with a top 10 team is something that people go their entire careers without experiencing, and getting to do so early in my career is really special.”

Advice for girls and women who aspire to work in sports: “Find what sets your soul on fire, and chase after it with all you got, and always speak your mind, even when your voice shakes.”

Khayla Lloyd ’19

A woman in a purple dress, third from left, stands with two male students to her left and one male student to her right who all wear black graduation gowns and navy blue stoles.

Hometown: Columbus, Georgia

Degree: Marketing, minor in sports communication

Employer: Auburn University

Role: Academic counselor for the Auburn football team. Oversees new student orientation and class attendance and serves as an adviser for the Black Student-Athlete Council.

On her Clemson Experience: “Clemson showed me that working in sports was possible,” she says. “The professors who taught my sports communication classes opened the world of sports to me. My marketing internship within the athletic department allowed me to experience firsthand the work ethic required to succeed. It provided pathways for me to build relationships in other units to discover my passion for serving student-athletes.”

Her “I’ve made it!” moment: When she earned the opportunity to serve in her current position working with the football program at a Power Five SEC institution: “I never take it or the guys I get to work with daily for granted.”

Advice to girls and women who aspire to work in sports: Don’t be afraid to take up space. “You belong in sports; your work ethic and authenticity will speak for you before you walk into any room,” she says.”

Kendall Mercer ’19, M ’20

A woman in a yellow dress and white tennis shoes poses with Howard's Rock that sits on a black pedestal

Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

Degree: Elementary education, M.Ed. teaching and learning

Employer: Clemson Football

Role: Player development and event programming, using her background in education to work with players as they transition through college, teaching them life skills alongside their football development.

“I believe in the transformative power of education as well as the lifelong impact the world of athletics offers,” says Mercer. “In this space, I can combine my passions of sports and education and use my gifts to walk alongside our players as they develop into people they are proud to be as they enter the next phase of their lives. Clemson is the place that made me much of the person I am today, so to give back and work with our current Tigers is both a privilege and an honor.”

On her Clemson Experience: A member of the Clemson cheerleading program during her time as a student, Mercer says being a part of an athletics team opened her eyes to the commitment required of student-athletes to stay competitive while maintaining success in the classroom.

Advice to girls and women who aspire to work in sports: “Perspective is everything, and your voice matters; use it!” she says. “Your opinion is valuable and sought after; don’t feel intimidated by what is around you, but be faithful to the purpose within you.”

Women in sports media

Amy McKenna ’20

A woman in black dress pants and an orange tops poses in front of a sign that says ACC Kickoff.

Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

Degree: Communication

Employer: TheROAR, operated by Byrne Media Group

Role: Digital content manager for The ROAR, the flagship radio station for Clemson Athletics. She creates social and web content and is the company’s communication manager.

On her Clemson Experience: McKenna says Clemson prepared her for her career through the relationships she made as a student.

“The sisterhood I experienced through our chapter of the Association for Women in Sports Media and my connections with my friends and future colleagues through Tigervision are irreplaceable staples of my story,” she says. “Because of my experience covering multiple championships and media events, I was immediately ready to jump into my current job roles.”

Her “I’ve made it!” moment: The 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

“I was so proud to walk onto that field as a Tiger, having worked hard to earn the privilege of working such a momentous event at age 21,” she says. “I was so appreciative of my family, friends and mentors who supported me in my journey to that point. It was even better when I got to report after the game that the Tigers took care of the Tide to go 15-0 for the first time ever!” 

Advice to girls and women who aspire to work in sports: “Go for it! If you love it, pursue it. It’s not the easiest industry to work in, but it certainly is the most fun!”

Emily Gallagher ’23

A woman in a black top, black pants and a gray blazer poses in front of a desk that has a CBS Sports sign on its front.

Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina

Degree: Graphic communications, minor in brand communications

Employer: CBS Sports

Role: Junior graphic designer

On her Clemson Experience: Gallagher says networking opportunities, supportive professors and peers, and the opportunity to work with student-athlete development at Clemson grew her appreciation for the sports industry and paved the way for her career.

Her “I’ve made it!” moment: “When I was offered the internship with Clemson Football. That moment solidified my decision to pursue working in athletics because up until then, I had no clue how I would break through into this incredible yet competitive industry.”

Advice to girls and women who aspire to work in sports: Network with industry professionals, find a mentor and “put yourself out there!”

“I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for me reaching out to industry professionals, networking with anyone and everyone in my field of interest on LinkedIn, and applying to almost all the internships I was even the slightest bit interested in,” she says. “Pursue educational opportunities, gain practical experience through internships, and persist in pursuing your goals even if it is just to get your foot in the door.”

Women in professional sports leagues

Alex Weaver ’16

A woman in a black top holds a lanyard and phone, and a yellow and red race car sits in the background behind her.

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Degree: Communication

Employer: NASCAR

Role: The official on-air host and reporter for the league. Weaver hosts live pre- and post-race shows from racetracks around the country 36 weeks of the year and is the source for breaking news during the season and her feature sit-downs with NASCAR’s drivers and personalities.

On her Clemson Experience: Working with Clemson Football during her four years was the best preparation she could have imagined for her current successful career.

“I learned so much about the world of sports at a high level and what it was like to cover athletes and personalities and their stories,” she says. “Coaches and the athletic department allowed me to shadow and study many different roles and responsibilities within the sports world and what options I may have to build a career. I credit those lessons, networking opportunities, internships and mentors as the reason I am in the position I’m in today.”

Her “I’ve made it!” moment: “What makes the journey so worthwhile and enjoyable is to constantly be a student, observing, learning and bettering your craft,” she says. “There is so much more I hope to accomplish and check off my list before it is all said and done. I don’t ever take this life for granted. I cover race cars for a living, and that’s an ‘I’ve made it moment’ in itself!”

Advice to girls and women who aspire to work in sports: “Comparison is the thief of joy. There is only one of you. Be the best you. Work hard, be kind, be humble and constantly show up. If you are the hardest worker in the room and leave no doubt you are professional, opportunities will happen for you.”

Madison Allen ’18

A woman in a black dress and cream blazer holds a hockey stick and sits in front of two white and red Florida Panthers hockey jerseys hanging up on a wall.

Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina

Degree: Marketing, minor in sports communication

Employer: Florida Panthers

Role: Partnerships activation manager

On her Clemson Experience: While at Clemson, she was in the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, which greatly contributed to her professional growth.

“I also worked in the Athletic Department three of my four years there and can’t thank [then-assistant athletic director] Mike Money enough for investing in my growth!”

Her “I’ve made it!” moment: Last year, the Florida Panthers hosted NHL All-Star Weekend, competed for the Stanley Cup, and brought on a new naming rights & jersey patch partner. Reflecting on the past year and all we’ve been able to accomplish was my “I’ve made it” moment.

Advice to girls and women who aspire to work in sports: “You’ll hear it over and over again: Working in sports is a grind and a lot of hours. Your work family truly begins to feel like family, so when searching for a position, seek out great mentors. Also, I still have to remind myself daily that you can only control what you can control — attitude, effort and being a good teammate. Everything else you can work through. As women, we tend to be overthinkers, so that small mantra helps!”

Keri Kernisan ’21

A woman in jeans and a white sleeveless top holds a football inside of a football locker room with a football, teal football jersey and white Miami Dolphins football helmet in the background.

Hometown: Glastonbury, Connecticut

Degree: Marketing, minor in management

Employer: Miami Dolphins

Role: Project management coordinator, a job that has her working closely with all departments across the organization on creative projects ranging from Dolphins social media posts to in-game presentations. During her 2 ½ years with the organization, she has participated in three Dolphins seasons, two Formula One races, two Miami Open tennis tournaments and numerous other events held at Hard Rock Stadium.

On her Clemson Experience: Kernisan says that attending a University with such strong school spirit instilled a passion for sports in her that’s never gone away, and the education foundation she built at Clemson has been instrumental in helping her build the professional skills and knowledge needed for working in the sports marketing world.

Her “I’ve made it!” moment: “It happened during our season opener back in 2021 when I took a quick break to go out and watch kickoff,” she says. “It has been a dream of mine to work in the NFL since I was 8 years old, so experiencing that moment with over 65,000 fans, coaches, players and staff made the dream feel like it had finally come true.”

Advice to girls and women who aspire to work in sports: Take risks and seize on any opportunities that come your way.

“Don’t let outside voices or societal pressure stop you from achieving your goals. Shoot your shot!”

Alice Hewson ’19

A woman wearing a white skirt, a white long-sleeved top layered with a pink polo and a white visor stands on the green of a golf course and holds a golf club.

Hometown: Hoylake, Liverpool

Degree: Accounting

Employer: Ladies European Tour

Role: Professional golfer

On her Clemson Experience: Hewson once held 49 women’s golf records at one time at Clemson and was a four-time All-ACC and one-time All-American. She says Clemson prepared her for life on tour in many ways.

“Having the opportunity to have the best facilities right at my fingertips and learning to grow as a person allowed me to find my feet so much quicker when traveling the world. If I hadn’t come to Clemson, that transition would have taken a lot longer.”

Her “I’ve made it!” moment: “True validation came when I won on tour in my first ever event as a professional. It was a moment I had dreamed of for so many years, and I still don’t think I can fully put into words what it was like. I would love to get back into the winner’s circle again this year!”

Advice to girls and women who aspire to work in sports: “Having a mentor or someone to look up to can completely change a young girl’s path in the sporting world — even just a quick chat about your own experiences can help make the journey easier for them. My favorites to be involved in are junior girls coaching sessions and helping to make golf more accessible for people of all abilities (I’m an ambassador for the European Disabled Golf Association).”