By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - David Mines can thank 4-H and then Perry County Extension Agent, Richard Smith, for helping begin his journey to Auburn.
Mines, a longtime Auburn Athletics senior administrator who was recently named Senior Associate AD, Internal Operations and Inclusion, first visited Auburn as a middle-school 4-H student, traveling 135 miles east from his home in Uniontown.
"Coming from a small community in Perry County was an advantage. People there cared for us and wanted to see us succeed," Mines says. "I'm just really blessed to have grown up at a time when teachers, the churches and the community went out of their way to do for others."
That example of caring for others has inspired Mines ever since.
"A lot of students and student-athletes on campus today come from the same background as I did," Mines says. "First generation, didn't come from a place where you have all the advantages others do, but it doesn't mean you can't be successful.
"I think Auburn is a place where you can come and be successful. When you have people who support you, there's an opportunity to realize your dreams. My position in athletics gives me the chance to help the staff, student-athletes, and fans we serve. I think about my experiences and I'm inspired to make a difference for them," he says.
One of the people who helped Mines at Auburn was an assistant athletics director at the time. Jay Jacobs.
Mines was a student manager for the tennis team. Jacobs offered an internship helping with game management.
"He was an impressive young man, and he's an even more impressive man today," Jacobs says. "He embodies everything Auburn represents."
Mines earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Auburn. In August, he was awarded a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration.
Mines joined the Athletics Department in 2003, working in event operations and compliance.
"He has three degrees from Auburn. David has a great relationship with and is respected by our student-athletes, everyone in the department and our fans," Jacobs says. "In addition to being a deep thinker and compassionate, he gets things done. I just think the world of him."
Those qualities prompted Jacobs to add inclusion to Mines' areas of oversight.
"He's approachable and exercises appropriate discretion. He's going to move us forward in this area, because he's going to demand it of all of us," Jacobs says. "And the main reason is because he knows the Auburn culture, he knows what Auburn represents, and he knows what's right."
For Mines, there are two aspects to his new role: serving student-athletes and leading staff.
"Creating an environment where everyone feels valued and cherished. A culture where all ideas are welcome. And no matter what background a person comes from, they're going to feel safe, and they're going to feel like people have a genuine interest in their well-being," Mines says.
"Staff-wise, it's creating a culture where every employee feels like they are part of the leadership process and their voices are heard," he says. "We want everyone, whether a senior administrator, an employee starting his or her first day, or a student-athlete who has chosen Auburn as the program they want to represent competitively, to feel welcome on this campus and community."
The memory of his arrival at Auburn from Uniontown more than two decades ago motivates Mines.
"When you come here from a small town, the first day on campus, it can be a pretty big, and intimidating place. As a student, I developed friendships with people of all nationalities, races, colors, socioeconomic backgrounds, it really didn't matter. I'd like that experience for all Auburn student-athletes as well. I want them to be well-rounded and able to cope with any situation and feel comfortable interacting with any group," Mines says. "Our greatest opportunity is to make sure the culture this department fosters prepares our student-athletes for the day they graduate into the world community."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer