Sports Lawyer Embraces Her Passion as Senior Associate AD for Compliance at Colorado State

Dec 6, 2019

If someone had told Shalini Shanker back in high school that she might one day create a very successful career in collegiate athletics, it understandably might have surprised her. Afterall, participating in sports was not her thing in high school.
Her passion for sports took off at the University of Kansas, where she majored as an undergraduate in psychology, and then pursued a Juris Doctor at the KU Law School. Perhaps credit should go to that basketball-crazed atmosphere at KU for serving as a catalyst. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, indeed.
Sixteen years since receiving that JD, she has gone on to become one of the leaders in the compliance profession as the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Compliance at Colorado State University. Last fall, she added the designation of senior woman administrator to her set of responsibilities.
“Shalini has made significant contributions to the success of CSU Athletics during her tenure and continues to be a thought leader on our campus, within the Mountain West Conference and inside the NCAA committee structure,” said Parker. ”
Shanker joined the CSU staff as assistant director of compliance in June 2009. She was promoted in 2012 to associate athletics director for compliance.
A driving force behind the creation of Rambition in the fall of 2013, Shanker has helped mold the group that empowers CSU’s female student-athletes by striving to enhance the experiences they have as both students and athletes, while cultivating a network among one another and women in the community. The overall purpose of the program is to help female student-athletes leave Colorado State University as stronger individuals prepared for the next chapter of their lives.
A 2012 graduate of the NCAA Leadership Institute, Shanker also serves on the NCAA Division I Legislative Committee and the NCAA Division I Softball Committee. She is a past member of the NCAA Interpretations Committee and has served as a National Association for Athletics Compliance (NAAC) ACE Mentor.
Prior to her arrival in Fort Collins, she served as a compliance assistant from 2006-08 at the University of Florida Athletic Association. Prior to that, she worked as a graduate assistant in the compliance office at KU from 2004-06.
Question: What attracted you to pursuing a JD?
Answer: As I was entering my junior year of college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do career wise. I went to the career services fair at my institution and took a career aptitude test. Surprisingly, the test indicated that law would be a good profession for me so I decided to take the LSAT just to see how I would do. I got a pretty good score and decided that that was a good indicator that I should go to law school.
Q: How did the opportunity to pursue a compliance career come about?
A: After my first year of law school, I clerked at a law firm and realized that I did not want to practice law as a career. Everyone says that you should do something you love and when I thought about it, what I really loved was sports. I went through my school’s law alumni directory and found an attorney in the Kansas City area that was practicing sports law. I asked her if she would be willing to meet up. She agreed and during our meeting told me that she had worked at the NCAA for many years. She asked me if I had ever thought about a career in compliance. I told her that I didn’t know what that was, and she encouraged me to speak with the compliance office at the University of Kansas. At that time, the head of the compliance office was an attorney. And when I met with him, he offered me a volunteer position, which I gladly accepted. I immediately fell in love with compliance and I have been doing it ever since.
Q: Who have been some of your compliance mentors been?
A: I haven’t specifically sought out compliance mentors, but rather mentors in general. I have had professors, supervisors, colleagues and friends all serve as a mentor to me. 
Q: What’s the best part of your job at CSU?
A: Our student-athletes. I tell people that the best part of my day, any day, is time spent with student-athletes even if it is only for five minutes. We have a set of guiding principles in our department and our first guiding principle is Student-Athletes First and Foremost. They are my why and they are the reason I love my job.
Q: What is your approach when it comes to managing your team?
A: I don’t believe in a one size fits all model. I oversee the compliance staff in addition to a few head coaches. Each individual is unique. and as a supervisor I have to learn the best method to supervise them. Some like in person, scheduled meetings. Others prefer informal meetings. It’s important to be flexible and be available. I can’t expect everyone else to learn like I do. To get the most out of someone, you need to be able to adapt to the way they best learn. I also think it’s important to put people outside of their comfort zone so they can grow. I am a big proponent of professional development and encourage my team to get involved in other areas as much as possible. Having diverse experiences only makes us better as a department.
Q: What’s the biggest misconception about the NCAA when it comes to the public?
A: That the NCAA makes all the rules. The public doesn’t realize that for the most part, the membership proposes and passes legislation. So many of the rules that people don’t like were created not by the NCAA, but by member institutions.
Q: Tell me about Rambition and why it is so important to you personally?
A: Rambition is a program that I created for our female student-athletes. I felt that it was important to bring our female student-athletes together and help them develop professionally, personally and socially, while also addressing issues that they face both as female student-athletes and as females. We have done events around body image issues and healthy relationships in addition to career events that have brought in high profile women from the community who have shared their experiences. I want our student-athletes to leave CSU with a well-rounded experience and ready to take on the next chapter of their lives and that is really the goal of Rambition.


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