August 2021: Joyce Bell Limbrick '99

Joyce Bell Limbrick ’99, Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator at the University of Southern California, uses her problem-solving skills every day. From learning how to become a critical thinker at Laurel to honing issue spotting and analysis skills in law school, Joyce knows how to tackle challenges successfully. For the past 18 months she has focused on the health, safety and wellness of college athletes through the unchartered territory of COVID-19, adapting every aspect of college athletics from the modification of travel protocols and nutrition delivery to pre-game testing and the impacts of decreased ticket sales, while also working closely with the University on policy issues, student conduct and gender equity compliance. Read on to learn about the new landscape of college athletics, Joyce’s service on Laurel’s Alumnae of Color Committee and why her family’s mascot would be the Alpine swift!

What is your favorite Laurel memory? 
I have so many fond memories of Laurel. My earliest memory is painting the sea mural in the Early Childhood Wing (now known as the Pre-Primary). I also remember numerous Song Contests, being part of the musical production of “Annie Get Your Gun,” traveling to see the Mayan ruins, our Eighth Grade trip to Toronto and Junior Ring Chapel. My most impactful memory was planning a party for Mrs. Bartlett, our Third Grade teacher, when she returned from an extended break from the classroom. This party not only started my love for event planning, but also started our class’s reputation for throwing the best classroom parties!
Who influenced you the most during your time at Laurel? 
There were so many amazing teachers who influenced me during my time at Laurel: Mrs. Garfinkel—who was my Kindergarten and Second Grade teacher; Mrs. Esselstyn—who would not let us leave for the day without a proper handshake; Mr. Rosaschi—reminding me to be observant and making me learn the exact map location of world capitals; Mr. Connell—who would not accept any “ums” and introduced me to the world of art history; and Dr. Annable—who made me take the AP English exam, even though I didn’t take AP English. My experiences with these teachers and so many more challenged me to be a more critical and analytical thinker.

What were your interests as a student? Did you play any sports?
I was always an avid reader and I enjoyed math. I fondly remember participating in Math Olympiads in Middle School. I also played volleyball and basketball in Middle and Upper School and had a brief stint in track and field.

What skills, if any, did you learn at Laurel that have helped you navigate your post-Lyman Circle journey?
Laurel reaffirmed my confidence. As a Black female in a male-dominated industry, there are so many times that I am challenged; however, thanks to the various platforms and opportunities at Laurel, I have always felt confident in my voice and seat at the table. 

You studied marketing and accounting at The Ohio State University and then earned your JD from the University of Akron School of Law. What drew you to the practice of law?
I never practiced law. I applied to law school to develop my analytical and critical reasoning skills. I knew that the degree was versatile enough that it would be helpful and marketable for a career path with twists and turns.
As a lawyer, you worked as Assistant Commissioner of Compliance for the Northeast Conference for two years before joining the University of Southern California as the Director of Athletic Compliance. Now you’re the Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator for USC. How would you describe a typical day at work? 
The beauty of my job is that every day brings about new challenges. I serve as general manager for four of our athletic teams—women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, beach volleyball and men’s volleyball. I deal with everything from personnel oversight to athlete issues to competition management. While some of these issues, such as scheduling, are seasonal, other aspects of my job require me to deal with unanticipated issues. As a member of our executive staff, I am instrumental in shaping policy and, in addition, I work closely with the University on policy issues, student conduct and gender equity compliance. I also work closely with our conference office, the Pac-12, to shape sport governance and regulations for all sports.  For the past 18 months, most of my days have been responding to COVID-related issues, primarily uncharted territory that has challenged my problem-solving skills. 
Are there any skills you honed as a lawyer that are particularly beneficial in your current role? Do you have any advice for other alums who are interested in a career pivot?
Issue spotting and analysis are essential to problem solving in my current role. I don’t consider my career path to include a pivot, but I would advise that there are always creative ways to combine your skill sets and interests to be successful.
What are your thoughts on the new NCAA policy permitting student-athletes to make money off their names, images and likenesses?
I am extremely supportive of the changing NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) landscape for student-athletes. The previous model of pseudo-amateurism was extremely fractured and this change is long overdue.

How has COVID-19 affected college athletics? Are there any lasting impacts or changes from this past year that will be retained even as it becomes safe to gather in person? 
COVID-19 has shaped everything that we have done since March 2019! The pandemic forced us to increase the level and frequency of cleaning throughout all of our facilities. We modified how we deliver nutrition to our athletes and changed our travel protocol. We eliminated traditional pre-game handshakes and added testing to the pre-game procedures. Game cancellations and minimum rosters for participation became a new phenomenon. The lack of fans, ticket sales and other revenue sources forced us to reevaluate budget projections and consider additional revenue streams. We evaluated office space usage, flexible scheduling and delivering services virtually. In response to the Great Resignation, we have become more intentional about employee engagement efforts. We continue to be more focused on the health and safety and wellness of the athletes. 
My favorite change from the pandemic is the more casual dress code for administrators. It is a daily reminder to remain focused on the important aspects of life and business attire is not important (at least not in our industry)!
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned on your career journey?
As I was growing up, I expected to pick a career path and stick with it; however, I was not aware that most of the jobs that I have held in college athletics existed when I was in high school or college.

What is your favorite sport to play? To watch? 
I am definitely a retired athlete!  Water polo was a sport that I had minimal exposure to growing up, but it is one of my favorites to watch for its athleticism.

If you could pick a mascot for yourself/your family, what would it be?
Our mascot would be the Alpine swift. The Alpine swift is a bird that spends most of its time in the air. It migrates for about six months straight without stopping and possibly sleeps while flying. It is extremely reflective of my blended family, as we are constantly on the go. In addition to the kids’ activities and work, we usually make plans for some activity or travels, leaving very little idle time. 
Do you have any other hobbies or interests?
I have recently started hiking regularly. I enjoy the opportunity to clear my mind and focus on the surrounding environment. I also enjoy traveling and spending quality time with my family.

You’ve stayed connected to Laurel by serving on the Alumnae of Color Committee, which currently is working on re-focusing its mission and planning for increased alumnae/student mentorship as the School continues to work toward becoming an Anti-Racist institution. Why do you think mentorship, especially of students of color, is so important? Have you had women of color mentors at any time in your life and what did you learn from them?   
Representation is always important and helps to develop a sense of belonging. While I encourage people to have several mentors, some who are a reflection of you and others who are not, it is empowering to be able to share and learn from someone who has walked a similar path of relatable experiences. 
I am excited to be serving on the Alumnae of Color Committee and assisting in shaping Laurel to be a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all students. The diversity of my classmates and peers at Laurel continues to help me navigate varied environments and relate to people from all over the world.

What makes you proud to be a Laurel alum? 
I am proud to be the product of a school that continues to prepare female leaders in so many different industries and disciplines. I continue to be impressed by all that Laurel girls have achieved and the sense of community and support that Laurel girls embody.
Anything else you’d like to add?
A special shout out to the Class of 1999. We are creeping closer to our 25th year reunion and I can’t wait to reconnect!
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