Skip to Main Content

Stepping Up and Paving the Way in Athletics and Beyond

Mar 28, 2024 By Queens University Communications

Cherie Swarthout MSTOD ’18, Queens University of Charlotte’s director of athletics, is no stranger to leading the charge. Her background as a student-athlete and coach, as well as her positive spirit, work ethic, and leadership acumen, have aided her along the way.

Swarthout first learned about hard work and overcoming challenges while growing up on her family’s centennial farm in Michigan.

In farming, she said, “You have to work hard. You can’t control the weather. You can’t control the crop prices. The cattle have to be fed. You have to do the best work you can and make the best decisions with what you have at the moment.”

She was recruited by Michigan State University and Illinois State University and chose MSU, where she made her mark as an exceptional forward on the women’s basketball team and received her bachelor’s degree in physical education and health. She went on to get her master’s degree in sports psychology and athletic administration at Illinois State University and, after being offered a job by the same coach who sought after her to play a few years earlier, she coached at ISU for 10 years.

“The demands of being a student-athlete are high,” said Swarthout. “I understand that, and being a college coach, [I understand] the day-to-day challenges, how hard it is.”

In 2006, she came to Queens as the sports information director. For the next 10 years, her duties on staff ebbed and flowed with the growth of the department, and Swarthout gained a breadth of skills in everything from administration and facilities to fundraising and marketing.

All her experiences would position her to shine in the role she holds today on the university’s senior leadership team, where she leads a department of around 120 staff members.

In 2015-2016, Swarthout was acting as interim athletics director while the university held a national search to find a permanent replacement — while she was on the search committee, she wasn’t a candidate. However, she was approached by leadership with the job offer and, in May 2016, she was named athletics director for Queens.

“I tend to see things as opportunities more than anything else. If you can lean in and be present and keep your core values and your feet on the ground, things tend to work themselves out.”

As a woman working in college athletics, Swarthout realizes the importance of having strong role models and being valued by those around you. These are lessons she passes on to her two girls, ages 12 and 16, who look to her as a role model.

“My parents were very, very consistent people and they role modeled just by living their lives. That’s also a big part of how I am there for my kids every day. We talk a lot about self-growth and self-awareness, being kind to everyone, and meeting people where they are. They are learning those pieces like I learned them from my parents.”

She is grateful for those who empowered and set shining examples for her to follow — from her parents to her coaches at MSU and her bosses at ISU, to past Queens President Pamela Davies and former Queens Athletics Director Jeannie King.

Swarthout said, “I’ve been blessed with some really phenomenal role models who paved the way for women, in particular, to find paths to stay in athletics and college athletics.”

Continuing to grow and evolve is what Swarthout thrives on. As she spent more time at Queens, she realized that she was craving professional development, which led her to pursue the Master of Science in Talent and Organizational Development at Queens McColl School of Business. The experience, she said, transformed her leadership approach.

In 2022, when Queens announced its official move to NCAA Division I status in the ASUN Conference, Swarthout was an integral part of the university’s meaningful transition. But she credits all of Queens Athletics’ partners, both on- and off-campus, for their hard work in making it a reality.

After 17 years in Queens Athletics, she said, “Everything we do now is at another level than when we were D2. We continue to build a better infrastructure to be able to support our programs.”

Currently, Swarthout is the only female athletic director in the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN).

“We are an institution that prioritizes identifying high quality and aspiring female coaches for our department,” she explained. “It’s really important to me that folks have an opportunity to step into those roles — and for those that they are coaching to see people doing what they maybe want to do someday.”

She said, “My goal is for everyone to show up as their best self and as their whole self. It’s important to me that, in our department, student-athletes can see themselves in us.”

By Nicole Ward Beckley