An Everyday Journey

Kelly Barsky followed her passions for education, sports and community to the top job in Athletics

When Kelly Barsky was growing up, her house was nearly always busy — with a large extended family, relatives were known to abound. Her mom was a banker and her dad was a high school history teacher, coach and athletic director (spoiler alert).

“The importance of education, the toolkit participation in athletics provides and service to the community was inherent,” she says. “ I always wanted to be an educator. I am passionate about working with students and how to best serve and support their development and individual journey. However, being an athletic director was not originally in my trajectory or career plan.”

Yet here she is, UC Santa Barbara’s new athletic director 15 years after first arriving in Santa Barbara — site unseen — for a role as assistant women’s basketball coach. Now the campus’s first female AD, Barsky marks a historic hire for the university and a still toorare statistic in the NCAA. Nationwide, only 14% of NCAA Division I schools have female athletic directors.


Portrait of Kelly Barsky

“I am honored to step into the Director of Athletics role and to continue serving the Gaucho community, a place that is so special to me and my family,” Barsky says. “To be named the first female AD makes me proud and incredibly hopeful for continued growth and equity. You can really see the fruits of labor being demonstrated around women’s athletics. For the next generation to see women in this position matters. I’m thankful for those before me that have set the stage for opportunities like this to be possible.”

Already, she has guided the Gauchos to a banner year. Heading into the spring, they were leading the race for The Big West’s Commissioner Cup, awarded annually to one institution for achieving the highest degree of athletic success, as studentathletes, teams and UC Santa Barbara Athletics overall have contributed to an impressive (and growing) list of achievements for 2022-2023.

And Barsky’s impact goes beyond Santa Barbara to the national stage, where she serves on the NCAA Division I Council, representing The Big West, and on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee.

From elementary school teacher to collegiate women’s basketball coach to academic affairs, then back to athletics, where a big piece of her heart had always been, she was a standout high school and collegiate basketball player herself in New Hampshire. Winning and records are great outcomes, Barsky says, but what truly fuels her is the journey — her own, and those of the student-athletes and community she works with every day.

“The learning and experience gained from the student athlete journey is everyday,” says Barsky. “It’s being intentional, working hard, making good decisions, doing the right thing, showing up for your teammates, preparing yourself to be the best you can be and going after the things that are important to you. It’s also about the connection and bond with your team and community, and the shared experiences you will hold onto, which include both successes and struggles that occur along the way.”

“We are all connected; we are Gauchos. It is a great privilege to serve and support student athletes, our campus and community.”

Kelly Barsky with student athletes

Athletics Highlights

  • Men’s basketball and men’s tennis were The Big West Champions.
  • Men’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s cross country, women’s basketball and men’s swimming were The Big West and MPSF Runner-Ups with highly competitive spring sports still in season.
  • Five student-athletes earned All-America honors, with the potential for more in the coming weeks.
  • 95 student-athletes received Scholar- Athlete recognition through the winter seasons; all programs earned a team GPA above a 3.0.
  • UC Santa Barbara Athletics set a Give Day fundraising record, leading all university departments with $561,269 dollars raised through 653 donations.

Spring / Summer 2023


closeup of a researcher holding a beaker

Research Highlights Spring/Summer 2023

A controlled burn at Sedgwick Reserve

Taming Fire

Researcher with silicon wafer

Breaking Through