New Equestrian Division Chair Named at William Woods University

A woman who has worked in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar for the past four years has returned to the United States to chair the equestrian studies division at William Woods University.


The new chair, Claudia Starr, was director of the Al Shaqab EquineClaudia Starr Centre in Doha, Qatar, the premier international horse breeding, training, competition and education center for Qatar Foundations “Education City,” a global higher education initiative. There she directed the operations of an equestrian facility with more than 500 horses and 225 employees.


Before that, Starr was executive director of the Professional Accreditation Council of Equine Professionals in Brooksville, Fla. She also has worked at equestrian centers across the country, has served as community relations director at Churchill Downs and public relations director for the Breeders Cup and was one of America’s first licensed female thoroughbred jockeys.


She has experience in higher education, too. In 1971, she implemented the first equine educational science program at Clatsop Community College in Oregon, writing and teaching her own curriculum.


Starr earned her bachelor of science and master of science degrees from the University of Louisville. She is a member of the United States Equestrian Federation, the United States Hunter Jumper Association and National Riding for the Handicapped.  


She said she was attracted to William Woods University by its reputation and the success of its alumni.


“Every time I turn around in this industry, I am running across William Woods alums,” Starr said.


Drawn by the university’s highly regarded name within the industry, Starr has not been disappointed by what she has seen since her arrival.


“I am extremely impressed with the strength of the faculty I have had the opportunity to work with. There is strength in each seat, and an enormous amount of expertise and professionalism throughout the program,” Starr said.


Dr. Sherry McCarthy, vice president and dean of academic affairs at William Woods, said she believes Starr will make a strong addition to the faculty.


“She has global perspective, having worked internationally, and also has expertise in all disciplines of riding,” said McCarthy.


McCarthy also mentioned Starr’s experience in management, not only of horses and facilities, but of people. This knowledge makes her a valuable resource for students pursuing a degree in equine administration.


In the future, McCarthy says she will be looking for Starr to develop the equestrian program in specific areas, such as therapeutic riding and horse reproduction, to expand the curriculum.


As for Starr, who is certified with the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, she would like to make ethics a greater focus in the coming years. She said she is very keen on the newest ethical directions for the program, and hopes that William Woods can have a positive influence on the entire horse industry, as well as the business world as a whole.


William Woods University, in 1972, was the first school in the country to offer a bachelor’s degree in equestrian science. A degree in equine administration was added in 1992.


The university has a reputation for providing one of the finest equestrian studies programs in the country—filling a national, regional and local demand for graduates holding a four-year equestrian science degree.


This demand is heightened by a thriving equine industry that contributes about $112 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product each year.


The university’s equestrian facilities encompass a city block, with 150 large box stalls in four stables, two heated indoor arenas, a lighted outdoor ring and a 40-acre cross-country riding course.


The equestrian studies program is the most popular at William Woods, with more than 200 students majoring in equestrian science or equine administration. The placement rate for WWU equestrian graduates is nearly 100 percent.


Breeds represented in the William Woods stable include American Saddlebreds, Appaloosas, Arabians, Morgans, National Show Horses, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Friesians and Warmbloods. The university provides instruction in saddle seat, hunt seat, dressage and western.