Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs can sum up Meredith Jenkins and what she brings to the Auburn Athletics Department in a sentence or two.
“Meredith is one of those leaders every AD needs,” Jacobs said. “She’s highly intelligent, she’s tough and she cares about the wellbeing of our student-athletes more than anything else.”
Jenkins, who has risen high through the ranks at Auburn Athletics in a successful career spanning 21 years, currently serves as Executive Associate AD and Senior Woman Administrator.
Jacobs often calls on Jenkins when something important needs to be done...and done right.
“If you need something done, done quickly and done correctly, Meredith is the one you call,” Jacobs said.
Jenkins grew up in Melbourne Beach, Fla., where she excelled in the classroom, on the soccer field and on the track.
Her fiery competitive spirit revealed itself early in her life, but especially in high school. Jenkins earned All-State soccer honors as a sweeper and center forward, helping lead Melbourne to a state championship. She also ran track, finishing third in the half mile at the state track meet.
Ironically, perhaps, there weren’t as many scholarship opportunities for women to play college sports in those days. Especially soccer. So Jenkins, who now plays a key role in making sure Auburn Athletics keeps its men’s and women’s sports in balance while overseeing Title IX and Gender Equity, did the next best thing.
She went to Florida State University and got involved in the Sports Information office as a student and graduate assistant. Jenkins earned both her undergraduate (1992) and Master’s degree (1994) from Florida State University.
Her path led to Auburn thanks to a friendship with Kris Grunwald, one of her Graduate Assistant classmates at FSU who also worked in the Athletics Department as a graduate assistant in volleyball. Grunwald had been hired as an assistant volleyball coach at Auburn.
When the rookie coach heard Auburn Sports Information was hiring someone to work with women’s basketball and volleyball, Grunwald talked to the coach about his friend from Florida State. The coach then talked to the head Sports Information Director, and Jenkins was brought in for an interview.
“Fortunately I got an interview and landed the position,” Jenkins said. “That’s what I always try to tell our student-athletes. You never know who is going to help you.”
Jenkins joined the Auburn Athletics Department in 1994 and has served as Senior Woman Administrator since 2006. She began her tenure as an Assistant Media Relations Director in 1994 and has seen her responsibilities and duties steadily increase.
In her current role, Jenkins oversees a team providing oversight for 18 of Auburn’s 21 sports. She serves as member of the Executive Leadership Team in Athletics. Jenkins also oversees Sports Medicine, Recruiting, Nutrition, Dining, Title IX and Gender Equity initiatives.
She has also served as the administration’s liaison for several construction projects including the South Donahue Residence Hall, The Wellness Kitchen, conversion of the Watson Fieldhouse to a strength and conditioning facility and planning for a new Sports Medicine Facility. Jenkins negotiated and planned a joint venture with the City of Auburn for the construction of a tennis facility which includes 12 outdoor and six indoor courts for the varsity teams and 16 clay courts for the City.
In 2009, Jenkins co-founded WINGS: Women Inspiring and Nurturing Greatness in Student-Athletes. The organization provides mentoring to female student-athletes and has raised more than $1 million in support of Women’s Athletics.
It’s one of the most satisfying parts of her job.
“Our WINGS members have helped so many student-athletes with different opportunities from job shadowing, internships and even providing contacts for full-time positions,” Jenkins said. “I want all of our student-athletes to have the same opportunity as I have experienced- to find a career that you are passionate about and is fulfilling to you.”
Jenkins was honored in 2014 as the recipient of the Pam Sheffield Award, presented annually to an Auburn woman who “best embodies selfless service and a commitment to Auburn University and the Auburn Family.” In 2010, she received the Auburn University Women of Distinction Staff Award.
A 2014 graduate of the NCAA Pathway Program, Jenkins served as a member of the NCAA Soccer Committee from 2009-12, including two terms as Chair in 2011 and 2012.
Jenkins spent the first 11 years of her career at Auburn in Media Relations. She oversaw the Media Relations Department and served as the primary contact for football for six years from 1999-2004. She remains the only female to ever serve in that role in the Southeastern Conference.
Jenkins is married to Russell Jenkins, a sixth-grade teacher in Auburn. They have two children, Alex (12), and Aiden (8).
She says Auburn is the ideal place to raise a family and work in a demanding career. The hours are long, but the reward of seeing wide-eyed freshmen student-athletes grow into confident young men and women ready to take on life’s challenges is worth it.
“I love the family feel and the way we support each other in the Athletic Department,” Jenkins said. “It is a great community to work and live in.”
Her favorite Auburn tradition? That’s an easy one. Jenkins loves to win. And she enjoys watching her student-athletes and the Auburn family roll the trees at Toomer’s Corner almost as much.
“I have some great memories of rolling the trees after wins,” Jenkins said. “We have had some great moments with different programs celebrating championships and a lot of big wins. It’s awesome to see the culmination of their hard work and get to experience that celebration with our student-athletes and coaches.”