Faculty Friday: Ajhanai Newton

In a special weekly series, the College of Liberal Arts is featuring a faculty member from one of our 13 departments. We asked questions about why they are passionate about the subjects they study and teach, and how they found their path to CSU. See all “Faculty Friday” features here.  

Photo of Ajhanai Newton
CSU alumna Ajhanai Newton (Sociology, '15) returned to CSU to teach in the Master of Sport Management program

Ajhanai Newton

Ajhanai Newton (Sociology, ’15) is an instructor for CSU’s new Master of Sport Management program. Newton is a College of Liberal Arts alum who is currently completing her Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut. She researches topics related to leadership, gender, race, diversity and inclusion, organizational behavior and culture within the realm of higher education and collegiate athletics. As an undergrad, she played for the CSU women’s basketball team.

What inspired your interest in Sport Management?

I did not know sport management existed as a field of study until halfway through my junior year of undergrad. However, I was so thrilled to know that there was a profession and a field focused on studying how sport intersects with marketing, law, sociology and so on. My interest in studying sport increased after completing a course titled, “African-Americans in Sport” while at CSU. This was the first time in my academic journey that I was presented the significance of race in sport, which is now a part of my research agenda.

Woman at podium
Newton speaks at the Black Student Athlete Summit

What is your favorite class to teach and why?

I enjoy teaching Sport Law because our U.S. legal system is messy and students become so interested in making sense of the mess, while still applying relevant course concepts and legal concepts. Sport Law challenges students to think critically and engage in research, as there are an immense amount of cases they can draw upon to articulate their perspectives. I also enjoy teaching Sport Law because every time I teach the course there is a major legal issue occurring in sport. For example, name, image, and likeness in the NCAA is being reimagined and assessed, while we are discussing cases of precedent establishing amateurism as the “law of the land”. Thus, Sport Law always feels relevant which grasps students attention very easily.

What did you want to be when you were little? When did you know you wanted to work in higher education?

Two women in university regalia
Dr. Blanche Hughes, Vice President for Student Affairs, served as mentor for Newton at CSU

As teenager and into my early twenties, I was convinced I would become a lawyer. This is what led me to major in Sociology at CSU, a field of study I absolutely loved and still draw upon as a scholar today. Higher education was presented to me as a rising junior while at CSU. I had mentors like Dr. Bimper and Dr. Hughes who illuminated to me what higher education is and the significance of leading in higher education as a Black woman. I had several members of the CSU community refer to me as Dr. Newton, well before I knew this title and achievement would become a reality. My athletic experience as a CSU student-athlete also pushed me to stay in higher education, as I found value in being holistically developed during my collegiate years and I wanted to do the same for students.

Why did you choose CSU as a student? What brought you back to CSU as an instructor?

I say this with a smile, CSU choose me, haha. I was recruited by CSU for athletic and academic purposes and before being recruited to Fort Collins I never considered living in Colorado. However, once I took my recruiting trip, met my coaches, and saw what CSU had to offer, I was sold. I am returning back to CSU to be a part of the inaugural sport management program and I am returning as an Instructor to challenge and develop students in a manner that resembles my academic experience. As a CSU student, I interacted with faculty in a meaningful manner and this greatly informed my graduate school experiences at The University of Texas at Austin and University of Connecticut. Thus, my positive academic experiences at CSU set high expectations for what I expected UT Austin and UConn faculty to be like. It’s because of these experiences that I return back to CSU hoping to deliver and create an exceptional environment of student learning. 

Woman with basketball
Newton was a CSU student athlete playing for the women's basketball team

What do you envision for the future of Sport Management?

Growth. I know the Sport Management program will continue to recruit exceptional students, as our first cohort is extremely bright and passionate about learning. I believe we are just getting started, literally and figuratively, thus, I envision growth in student enrollment and faculty positions.

Move industries of sport forward

The Master of Sport Management prepares student for leadership in intercollegiate and professional athletics as well as recreational sport. Together, students explore the industries of sport and their own leadership abilities, focusing on values of selfless leadership, inclusive excellence, character and integrity, and globalization.

Spring 2021 applications are due December 15.