Kirkendall joins as Director of Football Operations; Russell becomes Director of Player Development

NASHVILLE (VUAD) -- Jake Kirkendall and Dr. Christiana (Christy) Russell have been named to key administrative positions with Derek Mason’s Vanderbilt football program.

Kirkendall will serve as Director of Football Operations, helping oversee the daily management of the Commodore program. Russell will serve as Director of Player Development, which directs student-athletes' off-the-field endeavors such as academics, community outreach and career development.

Mason expects Kirkendall and Russell to make a difference with the Vanderbilt program.

"I am excited to welcome Jake and Christy to the Commodore staff," Mason said. "They are both positive professionals who are ideally qualified for their roles and bring a tremendous amount of knowledge, ability and experience to the office. We have strengthened our program with these key additions."

Kirkendall will help oversee and direct the daily management of the Vanderbilt football effort, working to build cohesiveness and unity among all aspects of the program: student-athletes, coaches, strength and conditioning, sports medicine, personnel and recruiting, video, equipment, player development, academics, compliance, facilities and athletics administration.

As Director of Player Development, Russell will serve as a mentor to Commodore student-athletes, developing curriculum to achieve personal growth in their academic endeavors, community outreach, compliance and career development.

The relationship between Mason and Kirkendall dates back more than a decade when Mason served as an offensive assistant at Ohio University.

"I've known Jake for many years and followed his career closely. He is extremely bright, has handled the director of football operations position previously, and has worked effectively with head coaches and athletic directors in the role," Mason said. "Jake also fully understands what we need with this program. I'm extremely confident in Jake's ability to get us from where we are to where we want to be."

Kirkendall, who has spent a decade in collegiate football operations, also is responsible for the Commodores' team travel and logistics, and coordination of game-day operations.

Kirkendall comes to Vanderbilt from the University of Tennessee where he served as Director of Football Operations during the 2017 season. His duties in Knoxville ranged from organizing all areas of team travel to serving as a liaison between the football program and various areas within the Tennessee Athletic Department and campus. He was promoted to the Tennessee Director of Football Operations post one year after joining the Volunteer program in an associate director of operations role.

A native of Lucas, Ohio, Kirkendall earned invaluable experience during an eight-year stint as Director of Football Operations at Eastern Michigan University. He was the point of contact between the EMU football program and athletic administrators, compliance, academic services, financial aid, student housing and dining, admissions, equipment, sports information, athletic training, conditioning, ticket office, facilities, purchasing, EMU President's Office, Mid-American Conference officials and NFL scouts.

Kirkendall started his collegiate career in 2007, serving one year as Director of Football Operations/Video Coordinator at Dartmouth University.

Kirkendall is a graduate of Ohio University. He earned an undergraduate degree in Sports Management in 2007. Jake and his wife, the former Marissa Beltowski, were married in October 2017.

Russell, who completed a doctorate in Human Development and Family Science from Ohio State University joins the Commodore football staff after serving three years on the Director of Vanderbilt University's Office of Transition Programs.

"Dr. Russell brings an exciting new dimension to our football program," Mason said. "Christiana knows academia and has worked successfully on the Vanderbilt campus helping new students adjust to college life. "She truly understands the issues facing student-athletes today and how young people can find themselves struggling to transition. Her experience, wisdom and knowledge of the Vanderbilt community gives our program a dimension that has been missing."

Russell's player development position has four goals - to create a student-athlete valued experience, increase student-athlete community involvement, prepare student-athletes for life after college encourage and continued involvement from alumni.

Russell comes to the position after a successful tenure in the Vanderbilt Office of Transition Programs. The on-campus initiative, under the Dean of Students' umbrella, focused on creating opportunities to make the university more inclusive for transfer students and more equitable for first-generation students, which included several student-athletes.

Russell started her employment at Vanderbilt University in the summer of 2013 when she was named Director of Student Health & Wellness, which was renamed the Office of Student Care & Community Support. In that role for two years, Russell coordinated wellness programming and various levels of support to reduce health and behavior risks within the student population.

Russell came to West End after serving three years as Outreach Coordinator for K-12 Initiatives & Community Engagement in the Office of University Outreach & Community Engagement at Auburn University. As outreach coordinator, Russell helped develop the university's Outreach College Prep Initiative (CPI) which was aimed at immersing students into the college campus and increasing resources for students entering Auburn from rural, low-income school systems.

She also served as a post-doctoral research fellow and grant writer at Auburn in 2008-09, and as a lecturer at Ohio State University Department of Human Development & Family Science from 2004-08.

Russell earned a B.A. in psychology from Ohio State in 1995. She also finished a B.S. in criminal justice from Georgia State University in 1998 before returning to Columbus to complete a Master of Social Work at Ohio State in 2002. She was awarded a doctorate from Ohio State in 2006.

Russell and her husband, Eric, are the parents of two daughters, Heaven, a sophomore at Vanderbilt, and Faith, a rising sixth grader.

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