Rice SMGT hires Stephanie Wilka, J.D., to oversee the Hutchinson Leadership Initiative in Sport Analytics

Stephanie Wilka, J.D.

Stephanie Wilka, J.D.

Rice’s Department of Sport Management has added its newest faculty member by hiring Stephanie Wilka, J.D., to serve as the Director of the Hutchinson Leadership Initiative in Sport Analytics and as a Professor in the Practice. Wilka, who earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard University and a Juris Doctorate from Pepperdine University School of Law, has had an extensive career working in sports in various roles for the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the San Diego Padres before coming to Rice.

“My career in baseball began in 2005, and I have enjoyed every moment of it,” Wilka said. “I have held many different roles ranging from the director of a philanthropy effort in the Dominican Republic to scouting coordinator to Associate General Counsel and Baseball Operations Compliance Officer.”

After working for almost two decades in sports, Wilka felt that the time was right in her career to pivot into academia.

“I have loved my career in sports, but I have always wanted to work with students,” Wilka said. “This position at Rice allowed me to shift gears and help share my experience with students as they pursue their own career aspirations in sports.”

In Rice’s Department of Sport Management, Wilka is responsible for overseeing the Hutchinson Leadership Initiative in Sport Analytics where she hopes the initiative will give Rice’s varsity athletic teams the upper hand over their opponents.

“One purpose of the initiative is to provide Rice University’s varsity sports teams with advanced sport analytics tools and resources to gain a competitive advantage,” Wilka said. “Rice Sport Analytics students combine statistical modeling, data management, and information systems to provide usable insights in collaboration with coaching staffs related to topics like player evaluation, player development, advance scouting, and practice structure.”

In addition to her director role, Wilka will also teach the Sport Law (SMGT 364) course every semester. She hopes to challenge and guide students as they find their footing in the sports industry.

“Students can expect me to challenge them to pursue their careers authentically by gaining valuable experience in their areas of interest,” Wilka said. “I think sometimes students follow a path without challenging themselves to explore and inform themselves first. I want all of our students to be well-educated about the career path they choose to pursue.”

With her extensive career in the sports industry, Wilka hopes to pass along lessons that she learned to students, such as establishing professional relationships.

“I am incredibly impressed by the work ethic and ambition of Rice students, and I am most looking forward to helping students chart their career paths,” Wilka said. “My first boss and mentor taught me to ‘design from the ideal’ and pursue that path flexibly and relentlessly. I want to pass that lesson along and provide resources to help students facilitate their pursuit.”

Reed Myers, a senior from Paradise Valley, Arizona, is double-majoring in Sport Management and Psychology.