CHARLOTTE, NC – The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) is pleased to announce the hirings of Tonia Walker as Senior Associate Commissioner for Strategic Marketing and External Operations and Ja’Shawn Steward-Johnson as Assistant Director for Strategic Communications.
Additionally, current staff member Jana’ Boyd has been promoted to Assistant Director for Creative Services and Digital Content. “We’re excited to welcome Tonia Walker back to the CIAA family,” stated CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams. “Her vast knowledge of the collegiate athletics landscape, familiarity with the conference footprint, and years of senior leadership and oversight will be invaluable. She’ll continue the momentum we’ve established in amplifying our brand and the visibility of our membership as well as identifying opportunities for strategic collaboration with external partners.”
No stranger to the CIAA, Walker previously worked in the conference office for seven years starting in 1993 before moving on to Winston-Salem State University, where she spent 18 years as an athletic administrator that includes nearly 15 as Director of Athletics. Walker was an integral figure in WSSU’s transition from NCAA Division II to Division I (football championship subdivision) status and later reclassification back to Division II. She comes back to the conference office from Bluefield College, where she served as the school’s first full-time female athletic director in 2019 before being elevated to Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics in 2020.
Walker will join the CIAA staff on July 1. Steward-Johnson, who comes to the conference from the University of the Virgin Islands athletic department, begins his position on June 1.“We’re equally as thrilled to have Ja’Shawn joining our communications team,” said Commissioner McWilliams. “He’s also familiar with the conference, which will be invaluable in this transition, and his experience within sports information, digital communications, streaming, and other areas will be a great asset and will continue to move us forward in this space.”
Since June 2021, Steward-Johnson served as UVI’s first Sports Information Director in school history, where oversaw the introduction of a new athletics logo and the launch of a new athletics website and mobile app (Buccaneers Sports Network). He was instrumental in the streaming deal for the inaugural UVI HBCU Basketball Classic and was a key cog in establishing the social media presence for UVI athletics. Prior to that, he spent three years as the Assistant Sports Information Director at Division III Methodist University. In his time there, Steward-Johnson was the secondary contact for 20 intercollegiate sports and was instrumental in revamping the athletic department’s social media.
Steward-Johnson will be the primary media contact for most of the conference’s 14 sponsored sports and championships while managing much of the day-to-day responsibilities within the communications department.
Boyd, who joined the conference staff full-time a year ago, has been an integral part in managing the CIAA’s digital and social media strategy and generating exposure through live and on-demand content. She’ll continue in this role while adding responsibilities that includes serving as primary media contact for select Olympic sports.“
Jana’ has continued to be a valuable asset within our communications and marketing team for the past several years, starting as an intern and then as a graduate assistant,” stated Commissioner McWilliams. “In the 50th anniversary of Title IX, it’s exciting to provide access and opportunity for women and former student-athletes in this conference, such as Jana’. We look forward to her continued growth as she takes on additional responsibilities while continuing to push the conference’s social and digital presence to new heights.”
Walker will provide oversight of the marketing and communications department as well as external relations. She takes over for Ben Baxter, who will step away from his position as of June 3 to pursue another opportunity within the sports and entertainment field.Among his many contributions, Baxter was integral in leading the conference’s esports and gaming initiatives and partnerships, growing the CIAA Sports Network digital platform, and leading the league’s marketing and communications efforts.
He also served as the liaison for the CIAA’s external partners, and alongside Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment, assisted with the conference’s multi-year deal with ESPN for the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and a partnership with HBCUGo.TV to give enhanced visibility for all sports through streaming and other digital content.