Charles Small, Ed.D., has taken the reins at Valpo as the new director of athletics, succeeding longtime director Mark LaBarbera after a 18-year career. We sat down with the two to discuss their history and passion for the athletic space, the transfer into a new era of athletics, what the future may hold for the longtime Valpo fixture, and what the new director has in store for our university student-athletes. No matter what tomorrow holds, both men are proud of their part in Valpo history and are excited for the future our athletes face on the court and on the field.
What made you dedicate your career to college athletics?
“That just happened by providence. I have an MBA in finance and my original intent was to work in downtown Chicago in the finance area. While I was working on my MBA, I got a job at North Park College, my alma mater, in the finance office, and I enjoyed working at a university. I applied to a job in finance at North Carolina State University, and the director called me and said they thought I’d be a great candidate for an assistant athletic director position.”
What achievement are you most proud of during your time here?
“Moving the University to the Missouri Valley Conference is something I’m very proud of. I think it’s a great place for Valpo, and it identifies us as a national university. I’m proud of the fact that our staff is significantly more diverse than when I got here.”
What makes Valparaiso special?
“There’s something about the Midwest. The physical location is great, it lets you get to a lot of places, but it’s also the people, particularly here in Northwest Indiana; the friendliness, the openness, people tend to be genuine.”
Do you have any plans for retirement?
“My wife and I did some traveling in July. I’m really looking forward to being able to come and watch the games, and be just a regular fan rooting for the teams. Then when the game is done, I just go home.”
What made you interested in pursuing a career at Valpo?
“Valpo is a special place. I love the faith-based mission and the strong core values. To me, that’s great to have as a foundation. To recruit student-athletes in a community that values those virtues is really important. There’s also a legacy of excelling throughout the history of the program, and getting there in the Missouri Valley Conference really attracted me to the position. It’s how I can add value as a leader on campus.”
How was working with Mark during the transition?
“Mark has been awesome. I’m really lucky to have someone who’s been here for 18 years. He cares so much about the University and was willing to help me out. I’m really fortunate to have had him. He was so gracious with his time and willing to help me.”
What takes a student-athlete experience and makes it an extraordinary one?
“A student-athlete should be able to come to Valpo with an individualized plan with what their success looks like, then we should have the support and resources to help them excel in those different arenas: developing spiritually, athletically, academically, they should be able to have an individualized plan that we can support.”
What does your family think about the move to Valpo?
“They’re so excited. They’re already running around with their Valpo t-shirts on. We watch the YouTube clips of the Valpo teams, and they’re already imagining that they’re going to play Valpo sports one day. It’s going to be a great transition for us.”