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A Conversation with Joyce Wong

A Conversation with Joyce Wong

Dr. Joyce Wong has been director of athletics at Eastern Connecticut State University since 1999, overseeing Division III intercollegiate sport programs such as basketball, soccer, baseball, swimming and track and field. Wong also has 309 career wins coaching Division III women’s basketball. She spent three years at Brooklyn College in the 1970s, then another 21 years at the University of Rochester before taking her position at ECSU.

Wong holds a bachelor’s in health from Bridgewater State College and a master’s in physical education from Indiana University, where she also earned a doctorate in biomechanics.

DI: You spent so much of your career as a coach. What’s challenging for you, as athletic director, to now lead an entire department?

JW: It’s hard getting coaches to see they’re small parts of a big puzzle. And even though the previous athletic director was a woman, there’s still a stereotype, just like at many schools, that this is a man’s position, a power position with someone aggressive and demanding. An Asian female is not what they think of!

DI: Did you play many sports as a child?

JW: Hardly any until high school. I had great rapport with my physical education teacher, who encouraged me to join every team I wanted. I played basketball, tennis and volleyball. Before high school, I already knew I wanted to be a teacher. High school was when I realized I wanted to teach sports.

DI: There were very few Asian-American professional athletes when you attended high school in the 1960s. How did your family react to your enthusiasm for sports?

JW: My parents didn’t understand at all. They saw sports as play, nothing more. My father worked in laundries and restaurants most of his life. My mother stayed at home with nine kids, including me.

DI: With so few Asian-Americans working as university athletic directors, how can opportunities improve for
other Asians?

JW: Asians are growing more high profile in pro sports. Japanese baseball players have been very successful in this country, for instance, and Korean golfers, too. It helps that our faces are out there. Hopefully, more people will realize we are as qualified as anyone else to run athletic programs. I’ve been very fortunate with the opportunities that athletics has afforded me.

DI: What’s your favorite holiday?

JW: Chinese New Year because of our big family get-togethers.

DI: What music do you enjoy?

JW: Country. Especially John Denver and Reba McEntire.

— By Lydia Lum

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