Hitting the ground running is all a part of the excitement in starting a new role, and Betsy Stephenson would do just that, as her first week on the job would lead into the Florida International University (FIU) appearance in the Camellia Bowl.
Having served six years as the Senior Director of Development for Major Gifts at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Stephenson accepted the role with FIU and brings with her years of experience in intercollegiate athletic programs.
“In the new role at FIU, I will be spearheading the development operation that supports the intercollegiate athletics program,” said Stephenson. “The athletic director, Pete Garcia wants to build out his development team and asked me to head up the program that has been growing over time.”
It was the impressive FIU Panthers win over the University of Miami Hurricanes in November that gave the team its sixth win and the nod for bowl game consideration. Stephenson was in attendance at the game and was impressed by the home-game atmosphere FIU created, full of excitement and energy.
“The FIU football program is on the rise and it is an exciting time to be a part of the Panther teams across the board,” said Stephenson. “I look forward to working with the coaches, the community, the people that support the programs and to welcome those who don’t know they want to support the program yet.”
Stephenson’s family is no stranger to sports, as she is married to Jill Ellis, who was the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and became the first to lead a team to two Women’s World Cup titles.
Stephenson and Ellis moved to Palmetto Bay from Los Angeles in 2014 when Stephenson accepted the role with UM. Their daughter Lily is now a freshman at Palmer Trinity High School.
“Miami is a great city with cultural diversity, green space, outdoor activities, and great weather. We couldn’t be more happy to be here,” said Stephenson. “We are sports people so we like being around professional and college sports and as silly as it sounds, the airport is an asset too.
As head coach of the U.S. team, Jill started flying all over the world, and being able to get to where she needed to go easily was super helpful for the family. Ellis still travels an ambassador for the U.S. Soccer Federation and for speaking engagements through the Washington Speakers Bureau.
“She travels more now than ever and when she isn’t traveling, we love being home, we love living in Palmetto Bay,” said Stephenson.
Stephenson grew up in Kansas and went on to attend the University of Kansas, where she played volleyball.
After graduating from Kansas she became the school’s associate athletic director for four years and then spent ten years as the associate athletic director at UCLA, where she met her wife Ellis. From there, she went on to Emory University where she became the Director of Athletics and Recreation.
“I started in athletic administration and had success raising funds for our sports programs, so when I looked at changing careers and broadening my experience in 2007, it was a natural move to look at fundraising,” said Stephenson.
“Fundraising is very similar to sports in that you need to know who you are recruiting, devise a game plan. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It certainly is a competitive side which I have really enjoyed, so to be able to take the skills I have learned from a professional development standpoint and help a school that is serving the state and providing so much access is very rewarding.”
For Stephenson, it is exciting to see so many student-athletes from the area participate in the quality athletic opportunities that FIU offers. And with over 58,000 students at FIU, Stephenson looks to those alumni as an opportunity of giving back to a school that gave them so much.
“I am excited to join a committed staff that has built the program to this point and will keep moving forward and continues to give the student-athletes a great opportunity and the community something for which it can be proud.”
For more information on the Florida International University sports programs, please visit fiusports.com.