Oak Knoll Hosts 6th Annual Women in Sports Leadership Panel

oak knoll's women in sports leadership panelists 2024

2024 Women in Sports Leadership Panelists and Oak Knoll alumnae, from left: Emma Mueller ’17, Ryan McCarthy ’14, Jennifer (Redmond) Dunn ’04, and Meredith Callahan ’04.

Oak Knoll’s sixth annual Women in Sports Leadership Panel showcased the determination, resilience, and versatility the school’s graduates possess in navigating the transition from high school athletics to college and eventually into their professional lives. The event, conducted on Thursday, April 18, 2024, at the Mother Mary Campion Center for the Performing Arts, marked the official kick-off of Homecoming and Reunion Weekend. It featured past Oak Knoll student-athletes who have achieved success in the fields of technology, nonprofits, and the corporate world after their sports careers.

Each alumna shared her unique story of transition and growth, demonstrating that career trajectories are not always straightforward but can lead to fulfilling one’s passions and purpose.

Meredith Callahan ’04 discussed the economic downturn of 2008, shedding light on how her initial, less glamorous job became a pivotal point for future opportunities. 

“It wasn’t the most glamorous job,” she said, describing her early career as a game of “chutes and ladders,” filled with diverse roles until she found her direction. A four-year Division I lacrosse player with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Yale University, Callahan shared her non-linear path to becoming a Trader at Baker Brothers Investments. She encouraged current students to “Trust your gut and just kind of go with it,” emphasizing the importance of persistence and risk-taking amidst uncertainty.

panelistsRyan McCarthy ’14, who also has a strong athletic background as a four-year Division I field hockey player and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Princeton University, addressed the pressures young people face today. She advised, “Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself. Everything will work out eventually.” This sentiment was echoed throughout the discussions, underscoring the value of patience, self-compassion, and the power of building a network of connections to navigate one’s career.

Emma Mueller ’17, who chose not to pursue sports beyond high school yet always knew that sports and wellness would be integral to her life, discussed the advantages of her athletic background in her current role. Earning her bachelor’s degree in Communications with a focus on Public Relations and Advertising from Villanova University, Mueller is now the Director of Communications and Events at the Boomer Esiason Foundation, dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the cystic fibrosis community. “Being an athlete has assisted me in many areas of my life now,” she affirmed.

The conversation also ventured into the significance of identity beyond athletic achievements.

Jennifer (Redmond) Dunn ’04, the Oak Knoll 2024 Gerald P. Butler Athletic Hall of Fame inductee and a seasoned Division I soccer player with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Virginia and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Boston College, spoke about the importance of holistic personal development.

“You are a whole person,” Dunn emphasized, advocating for attention to personal interests outside of sports during the college transition. “There are many things about you that you need to pay attention to and nurture. I’m certainly an advocate, as you transition into college, to really be paying attention to the things you want to do outside of sports and seeking those things out on your own.” Currently, a mother of four, Assistant Soccer Coach at Oak Knoll, and Vice President of Chatham United Soccer, Dunn’s multifaceted life exemplifies the balance she advises.

To conclude, McCarthy, now the Vice President of Transformation Strategy at Citi Global Wealth, left the students with this advice: “Try out new things. It’s OK to have your identity as an athlete now, but it’s also good to explore other hobbies and passions.” Reflecting on her time at Oak Knoll, including her involvement in the Upper School Scribes Club and her ongoing interest in calligraphy, McCarthy’s experiences underline the value of a well-rounded identity beyond sports.

A big thank you to all of our panelists at this year’s Women in Sports Leadership Panel. Your words of encouragement and wisdom are truly appreciated by the entire Oak Knoll community!